“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Wayne Dyer, 1940 – 2015
I saw Wayne Dyer speak two years ago on the UT campus here in Austin. I found him to be funny, vibrant, and spot-on with his quips about life. He was both articulate and impatient as he urged us to get on with it and stop complaining.
What I like about Wayne Dyer’s quote — “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” — is that it speaks a basic truth. One very similar to author Anais Nin’s quote that I see daily on social media: “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.”
It’s true, isn’t it?
The way we see and interpret life depends upon our unique perspective, combined with our attitude and our past experiences. When we look at something or someone, we view them and the situation from one place — our personal life.
As a former teacher of literature and writing, I tried to explain this to my students. For example, if a person is dealing with addiction, our interpretation of them and their situation will be biased by our own beliefs about and experiences with addiction. We can’t truly know their individual pain, only a reflection of it, a reflection clouded by who we are.
Over the years I’ve discovered that we are adept at this — clouding our vision and getting in the way. We mostly see ourselves, or a reflection of ourselves. We rarely see things as they truly are.
Rather than seeing and empathizing with a true and clear heart, we are quick to internalize the experience and say to ourselves (or worse to speak it out loud), “If it were me I would (wouldn’t) do x, y, or z.”
It’s not a horribly bad thing that we see and experience the world from a narrow point of view. It’s really all we have; consider it your launching pad, a built-in home base. However, I do believe (and of course, this belief is rooted in my unique experience) that if we stay planted and never leave that home base, we’ll miss out on a rich and varied life.
That day in 2013 at Bass Concert Hall, my daughter and I sat among 2,000 participants and listened to Wayne Dyer’s 90 minute presentation. During that short time I learned that if I can change the way I view my world, I can create a world in which I want to live.
I realized that as long as I believe my isolation to be true, I will feel isolated. As long as I believe the world to be difficult, I will struggle. As long as I perceive danger around me, I will live in fear…..and so on, and so on.
In honor of Wayne Dyer’s life, I want to share my new prayer, a mantra of sorts: Grant me the grace to see things as they are, not as I am.
When I ask for this kind of guidance, my focus shifts and amazing things happen!
Suddenly it’s easier to remain neutral and experience moments of true contentment. I realize that most situations in life don’t warrant a response (certainly not one from me); and I can hear, truly hear, that silence is golden. Instead of pushing headlong into a dialogue about the state of our world, I can rest and enjoy that which is our world.
All this brings me great relief, especially as I share my thoughts with you. At first I felt a great burden about what I might say, but now I understand that in my commitment to help better our world, my place in it is of little significance.
The ability to see things as they are might, in fact, be enough.
Doyle, Sady. “Before Lena Dunham, there Anais Nin, patron saint of social media.” The Guardian. 7 April, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/apr/07/anais-nin-author-social-media August 31, 2015.
Moyer, Justin, Wm. “Wayne Dyer, best-selling self-help guru and friend of Oprah, dead at 75.” The Washington Post. August 31, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/08/31/wayne-dyer-best-selling-self-help-guru-and-friend-of-oprah-dead-at-75/ August 31, 2015.
Photo by Lynda Jones, France, 2010.