Hiding in Plain Sight

Where is it? Where is that bag of scrumptious, light brown sugar I purchased the other day? I scanned each area of the pantry, then checked kitchen cupboards. I know I bought it. I remember placing it into the grocery cart. Did it get left on the checkout belt? Did it make it home and then get put in the wrong place? Where is it? Hmm... Mark helped put away the groceries that day... 

I slowed down my efforts and carefully searched every shelf in the pantry. I even touched items as I went along, to ensure that my pace was unhurried and that my eyes focused upon each and every item before moving onto the next.

Nope, not there. Went back to the cupboards. Not there. Went back to the pantry for a third time. Not there.

Argh. Fine, I’ll use the dark brown sugar. I completed my recipe, baked the cookies, and then enjoyed one while it was still warm. Good, but not quite the flavor I was going for. Light brown sugar would have been perfect.

I went back to the pantry an hour or so later and lo and behold, there, in plain sight, was the bag of light brown sugar! I think I even touched it while I was carrying out my mindful (ha!) search. When searching, however, I didn't see it as a bag of sugar: I saw it as a bag of granola! It was sitting in the spot we normally keep granola. My mind perceived the item as granola, and so my eyes saw the item as granola.

I’ve had this experience before, that of believing something is missing, not being able to find it, and then later, when I’m not looking for it, it shows up. Classic. You know why it's classic? Because the situation exemplifies a basic tenet of our perceived reality: it is impossible to see something you believe is not there.

As you may know, the standard proclamation, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” is backwards. Perception works the other way around: we see it when we believe it. Beliefs act as a filter, and structure, for our perceptions; we interpret data to fit the shape of the structure.

I love when I am reminded of this, as I was by the sugar incident, because then I automatically begin to consider, what other beliefs am I holding that are preventing me from seeing things (conditions, people, situations) that I want to see?

I happen to be reading a book right now that unwittingly offers a great illustration of belief directing perception. The author describes how doctors in the 1940s misdiagnosed cases of chemical toxicity as cases of polio: patients experiencing paralysis were deemed to have polio when, in many cases [as was determined later], the paralysis stemmed from chemical toxicity. Two significant prevailing beliefs at the time were: “polio paralyzes” and “DDT is safe.” If doctors believed DDT was safe, it’s easy to understand how they could not see DDT poisoning, and instead saw polio.

We subconsciously make our observations fit into our beliefs.

Another example comes from an experience I had this summer. A friend made a comment revealing her beliefs about a certain topic, and I was surprised to learn that her views differed from mine on this subject. I realized in that moment that I had been lazy about my beliefs on this matter. That is, I hadn’t truly researched the topic. I had adopted widely held beliefs, and all of the data I had heard or read up until that point matched these beliefs. Of course the data matched! Because that’s the way observation works: our perceptual filters match data to the belief.

Since that episode, I have turned over a new leaf. Well, it’s an old leaf insomuch as personal growth and expansion have been part of my m.o. for a long time. The new part, though, is an increased level of diligence and intention around beliefs. Beliefs are the structure that give form to creative (as in from Creator) energy. As a creative being, I want to be ever-mindful of my beliefs, and, where possible, design them intentionally. The alternative is to let them be formed by the prevailing winds, i.e., by what other people think. That seems like a waste of creative power.

One last thought, here: data itself is inherently neutral. We use our perception to make data mean something. What are you making current events mean? How are you perceiving data and information about microbes, people, and the earth? If you have felt shaky about what to believe, I support you in peeling back other people's opinions, and building your beliefs from a grounding point of neutrality.

This can be challenging, I know. My best efforts to be neutral in my search for the sugar were not enough to overcome the belief that the sugar was missing. The belief was so powerful that the sugar had no choice but to hide in plain sight. More accurately, the sugar remained its neutral self, while my perceptual filters did all the disguise work.

Is there something you want that may be hiding in plain sight?

Is there a belief you hold that may be steering your vision away from the very thing you want?

I invite you to join me in turning over a new (or trusty old!) leaf and to question your beliefs and assumptions, question your interpretation of data, and to set a clear intention to use your creative power to see through a cleansed lens of perception! May it be uplifting and life-affirming!

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.
—William Blake

Here is the uncropped photo of the one above. Serendipitously, my daughter, Josephine, took this photo the same day that I was drafting this article. I love how the quartz crystal, through which we see the sun, serves as a metaphor for beliefs.

And, here's another one, perhaps even better demonstrating how beliefs twist and skew that which is.  🧡


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