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Seeing Beyond the Pockets

If a pickpocket meets a Holy Person, they will see only their pockets. —Hari Dass

How we see what we see is dictated for the most part by the stories from our past that we carry in our minds. We may see the very same mountain as the person standing next to us, but what aspect of it our eyes fall upon, what it means to us, how we feel about it, what it inspires us to say or do—all of that is subjective, determined by our thoughts, words and deeds, and the experiences we’ve had, in the past. What we see looks and feels real to us, and as far as our minds are concerned, it is real. But it’s never the whole story.

That’s not a problem, of course; it’s just the nature of being human. But like Hari Dass’s pickpocket, it does limit our perception, and it can lead us to miss parts of what’s going on around us that might serve us to be aware of. Take that pickpocket, for example. If they want to be good at their job, seeing the Holy Person’s pockets is essential. But what if they saw not only the pockets, but the whole person—or as my teacher Sharon Gannon likes to say, the (w)holiness of the person? Who knows what that might do for the pickpocket? Who knows what that pickpocket might choose to do in that moment when they see a Holy Person with pockets? Even if they pick the pockets this time, what about next time? Seeing beyond our stories enables us to see much more of what’s actually there and gives us choice as to how we want to engage with the world and our lives.

It’s virtually impossible to see beyond our stories without some kind of practice. Meditation, yoga, and similar practices are particularly good training programs for expanding perception. The universe is vast; the Earth is vast; our lives are vast; our work is vast; our families are vast; a single relationship with one other person is vast; even just the view outside our kitchen window is vast—Why look only through narrow eyes?

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