“Look at other people and ask yourself if you are really seeing them or just your thoughts about them.” – Jon Kabot Zinn
One of the first books I came across in my own spiritual and personal journey of discovery was Jon Kabot Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are. It is a great little book on mindfulness, with short chapters and entry level practices.
25 year ago, when I was in High School, I once had a girl friend say to me “you don’t see me, you see your idea of me.” Looking back, it was probably something she read in Cosmo that week, but to me, as an already introspective, insecure, 17 year old, it was a bit of mind bender.
Whether she understood the more metaphysical aspects of how that was phrased or not what she was really saying is “I don’t think you see me through all your own bull shit.” My own fears, goals, insecurities, and teenage needs were impacting the level of connection she felt from me.
To be honest, at 17 I think most of us are overly caught up in the development of who we are becoming, and that is a natural part of our development – but yeah it does impact the people around us negatively sometimes.
It wasn’t till I committed to a meditation practice years later that I began to realize that I can see someone for who they are, underneath the language of my thoughts about them and my agendas of how they might fit into my life.
It takes constant practice. We are taught and develop in our society in such a way that our own self interest and self understanding comes first. It is why we are all so inspired by stories where someone gave up everything for others, and why stories of personal success at the expense of others have traditionally ended with some great tragedy. (though that might be changing…)
Odds are the next person you talk to is infinitely more amazing and interesting than you allow yourself to believe.
Let them be more than the role you have assigned them in the act of your life. Let the edges of what you do not know about them come in a bit. Ask them a question, and then listen.