In school while studying physics I learnt about optical illusions, which trick us into perceiving something differently than it actually exists. These illusions show us one thing in a picture, while someone else may see something entirely different in the same picture. There are many instances where we can see certain things, but on closer inspection realize that it was not really what we saw. In actuality what seems real is not what it is. It is the mind’s greatest ‘deception’.
Here are some common examples of optical illusions we encounter in our lives:
On a hot summer day if you are in a sandy desert area, you can see the reflection of light on the sand making it look like water from a distance. But, if you come closer it’s not water.
Drop a coin in a glass of water. It will look shallow whereas in reality it is not.
Put a spoon in a transparent glass. From the side it seems bent, but it is not so actually.
There is saying in the old Indian Scriptures: Life is like an illusion – Jagat mithya (Jagat means the world; mithya means unreal)
This is the reality of life.
We see so many things. They look different from a distance, but when we go closer they are poles apart. The human mind is always judging and evaluating, putting meaning to different people, events and objects. We always judge and put meaning according to our intellect which is the reasoning ability built on our past experiences we had, our belief system and knowledge we acquire.
The basic reason for judging others is to protect our interests and compare ourselves to others. You must have experienced many times in your life that when you see people irately you judge and evaluate them which becomes an unconscious habit. For example, many times for no rhyme or reason, we don’t like someone; the way people walk, talk and behave. Sometimes when we meet people and make an opinion, they turn out to be entirely different in reality than what we had thought of them earlier.
I have one such story to share with you:
In September 2008 I was flying from Mumbai to New York for my trainings, and we were served food and drinks almost as soon as we took off. I was constantly observing one lady flight attendant lady, Erica (name changed), who caught my attention as she was looking much stressed out and angry.
As I watched her interact with passengers, my judgmental mind got into action. I did not like the way she was talking, her behaviour and even her hairstyle. I thought maybe this woman was going through hard times in her life. And my monkey mind went on and on and on. Normally, I don’t judge people but this time I could not stop myself.
I went to sleep for a while, but in the middle of the night, I got up several times to go the toilet as I had some discomfort in my stomach. I asked for a flight attendant and was immediately attended to by Erica who came up to me, gave me a big smile and said, “How can I help you? It seems that you are not feeling well.” I said, “Yes, I have some stomach upset and it would be great if you can give me some lemon tea. With great care and affection she served me my tea and I got into a conversation with her. She noticed Laughter Yoga written on my T-shirt and got curious about it. When I explained what Laughter Yoga is, she was excited and wanted to know more about it. After having tea I felt a little better and went to sleep again. A couple of hours later she came back to enquire if I was feeling okay. She brought me another glass of warm water and some orange juice. I was really touched by her tender, loving care which she extended throughout the flight.
After a while I started worrying about the forecast of a cyclonic storm in New York the next day when I had to fly to Canada from for the teachers’ training. That would mean all flights might be delayed or cancelled and eventually there was a risk for me of not reaching in time for the training.
I enquired from Erica about the storm who called up the pilot and after having confirmed the news advised me to fly to Canada immediately after landing in New York and not the next day as scheduled. She also gave me the telephone numbers of Air Canada so that I could change my flight. She gave me complete instructions how and where to go for the custom clearance. I was totally impressed by her attitude and started feeling guilty about my first opinion about her. I acted on her advice and took the flight to Toronto. I thought of her and a silent gratitude for how she looked after me despite my judgement about her.
Life is really different than what it appears. I remembered a seminar I attended for a landmark forum where our facilitator Mr. Rao had said, “Life has no meaning at all. We put meaning to life, and depending upon the meaning we put, our mind starts reacting and our body starts having feelings.”
This is not the first time I was judging people; I did it all my life. But, earlier, I used to react for a long time, for no reason. Now, I’m more aware of this phenomenon and getting better and better every time. Mother Theresa said a beautiful thing about judging people – when you are judging people, it is not possible to love them.
Thank you Erica, you have enlightened me a little more and made me a bit wiser
Love and Laughter,