• Alexa de los Reyes

What are you looking at vs. what do you see?

My older son is starting driver's education classes, and recently a memory of the driver's license episode of the Brady Bunch popped into my mind. In the episode, Marcia Brady is taking her driving test and gets so nervous she forgets how to even start the ignition. Then she recalls her father's advice for calming one's nerves before giving a presentation: "Picture the audience in their underwear!" She turns to her straight-laced middle-aged driving instructor, imagines him in his skivvies, laughs, and quickly becomes relaxed enough to start the car and proceed with the test.

While I don't like that Mr. Brady's advice seems to use humiliation as a way of boosting one's mood, I agree with the premise: we can change our perception, and therefore our experience, with our intention.

When I have to deal with someone overbearing or offensive, for example, I often imagine them as a child. This conjures up compassion and noticeably changes the dynamic between us -- partly because the energy I bring to the interaction is softer and theirs responds in kind (on an unconscious level). It makes trips to the local UPS store much more pleasant!

I have other "lenses" I consciously use at different times. If I decide that I'm going to enjoy an interaction no matter what (that can be a choice!), I use "rose-colored glasses" and choose to see the best in a person or situation. "Compassion" lenses are essential when I'm working as a healer and when being present in relationships. "Critical" and discerning lenses are needed more and more, and they tend to work best with a coating of humility.

As an experiment for today, why not choose to look at a person or situation through a particular lens? At work, school, the supermarket, the subway ... what if you saw everyone as a child? If you recognized their innocence and common humanity; became a loving witness to their pain, struggles, goals, and achievements. You might be surprised by how profoundly it can change your outlook and experience. You can always try the "underwear" lens, but positive results are not guaranteed.

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