Shift: Seeing with New Eyes
In the despair work of the previous lesson we are encouraged to look
full-face at what is happening to our world, and that means dropping
our defenses against our own feelings of
dread, anger, guilt, and
As you allow these emotions to surface, do you perceive
their distinctive character, that the dread we experience
is not the same as fear of our own individual death,
and that the anger is on behalf of others as well as
Do you find that the sense of guilt is not personal blame
so much as collective accountability as a society and as
Do you discover underneath all these responses a depthless
well of sorrow for the suffering and losses inflicted on
our brother-sister beings and those who will come after
with" is the literal meaning of compassion.
This in itself is a remarkable discovery, for it flies in the face
of what the Industrial Growth Society has conditioned us to believe
about ourselves. It doesn't match with the assumption that we are separate,
independent beings, whose happiness must often be secured at the expense
of others. On the contrary, it reveals that, in the depths of our psyches,
we suffer with them. That "suffering with," we now recall,
is the literal meaning of compassion. Far from being a sign of personal
craziness, it is the noblest of capacities in most spiritual traditions.
is from our inter-connectedness that feelings of pain for
the world arise.
Now we can realize from actual experience that it is from our inter-connectedness
that feelings of pain for the world arise. The very distress that,
when we hid it, seemed to separate us from other people, now uncovers
the connective tissue bonding us. This realization, whether it comes
in a flash of insight or as a gradual dawning, is a turning point in
our perceptions--or, more precisely, in the way we interpret our perceptions.
We shift to a new way of seeing ourselves and a new way of understanding
Nature of the shift
Many metaphors come to mind for describing this shift.
Here are a few metaphors. See which one resonates with
you and then keep it in mind as you work with this lesson
on seeing with new eyes:
- It is like a turning of the tide, or the pause between
breathing in and breathing out. As we allow the world's
pain to flow in, it rearranges our internal structures.
Then, on the outflow, our gifts of response release
back into the world.
- It is like a fulcrum, letting us shift the weight of
our despair, turn it and raise it into new understandings.
- It is like a hinge. This hinge can swing us from pain
to power because it is anchored in their common source:
our inter-existence within the web of life.
- This shift is a gateway. The approach to many an ancient
temple is guarded by ferocious figures. In facing them
down, in moving through our dreads and griefs, we gain
entry to the truth that awaits us. We discover our mutual
belonging, our "deep ecology," and the promise
that it holds for us. Now we can see in our anguish for
the world the good news of a larger consciousness at
work; it is the universe knowing itself through us.
This shift in perception is an inner revolution which religious traditions
call metanoia—turning around. In Mahayana Buddhism,
it is termed parinamana, turning over, and described as filled
with jubilation and dedication to the welfare of all. We "turn
around" or "turn over" into wider awareness of who and
what we are—as jewels in the Net of Indra.