How to Be More Aware of Your Perception of Reality
We visited Italy again last month and I can't tell you how much of an eye-opening and soul-enriching experience it is being immersed in a different culture and a beautiful foreign language. Honestly, the food and wine alone were sort of a spiritual experience! We did several things in two weeks:
And we capped off the trip by exploring the island city of Oritigia next to Siracusa in East Sicily. Wow, was it two weeks or two months?
While I originally thought I'd do something a bit different and take my laptop along to get a bit of work done, it quickly became clear that the beauty of Italy just outside my door simply wasn't going to allow that to happen. Mini lesson here: be honest with yourself about how you work while traveling!
My overall takeaway from the trip was a deep understanding that there is SO much waiting to be discovered just beyond our individual, narrow perception of reality. Although there are plenty of similarities between Italian life and American life, there were plenty of customs and cultural norms that felt foreign and fascinating to me.
Everything from the commerce to the food to the cars over there left me comparing and contrasting their culture with ours. With every new observation, I could feel my perspective and my perception of the world expanding. Things that I have subconsciously accepted about our culture as "the way things are" suddenly had a new context--a new foil character highlighting benefits or drawbacks of my accepted reality. That's one of the things I love most about traveling outside of the U.S.
So the realization that was pointed out to me this time was a reminder that applies not just to travel but also about life: We don't know what we don't know. What I mean by that is, sometimes we're only privy to a small piece of a gigantic puzzle with no earthly idea that an entire puzzle lies just beyond our gaze. It's just our perception of reality. It's the sum of what we've experienced and seen, not necessarily ALL there is to be experienced and seen. But we forget that in just about every aspect of our lives: our culture, our thought processes, our relationships. We can only see a handful of pieces to an infinitely large puzzle.
So, how does this realization make for a brighter life? For starters, it helps us consider the bigger picture in all things. It helps us leave room for uncertainty, new perspectives, and perhaps most importantly, empathy.
Sometimes it's easy to judge a situation or a person, thinking we know the full story. By acknowledging that our perception of reality is limited to what we can see and experience ourselves, we can be more generous in our assumptions about what lies beyond the boundaries of our perceptions. We can zoom the lens out. We can begin to imagine all the tiny moments that have made a person who they are and that have led them to make certain decisions.
This awareness of a reality that lies beyond what we can see has the potential to help us understand each other better, to approach relationships with less criticism and more compassion. This is why I believe travel is such a beautiful teacher. It reminds us just how big the world is. There are over 7.8 billion people in this world and each of them has a different interpretation of what is happening, how things work, and what is important.
So, my biggest takeaway from two weeks in another country is this: Consider the bigger picture. zoom out the lens. Remember there is always more waiting on the other side of what you perceive. Allow yourself to imagine what lies beyond the boundaries of what you can see, touch and experience.
Or, better yet, go find out.
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