It was perhaps the first time ever that I did my Friday morning walk on the school trail without my phone. I forgot it at home when I went for drop off, considered going back to retrieve it, and then thought… perhaps this will be an interesting experiment!
On a typical walk in the trails, I walk, pause, observe, take photos, walk some more, pause, and so on. It often ends up that it can take me almost forty five minutes to an hour to walk a mile or so. However, today’s walk was different, not just for the pace, but for the nature of the pauses and what I felt during those pauses.
Walking phoneless felt less like I was gathering, and more like I was simply observing. The lower angle of the Sun in the same hour as compared to last week. The hearing of leaves rustling and the raised white tail of deer bounding away as they sighted me. The almost complete coverage of the pond surface with green algae and slivers of rising sun reflecting in the blue patches. The wooden sign that said that the pond is a ‘scientific observation facility’ and hence ‘no swimming, fishing, skating’ and such. And so much more different views and perceptions on a trail that I have walked at least a few dozen times over the last year.
The experience made me ask. Why does perception matter anyway? How does it change over time? How we change it when necessary? What is its origin, and what is its connection to our spiritual journey?
It is perhaps no coincidence that I have pulled my weather-worn “Upanishads” book off of the shelf this week, and have stumbled upon a chapter describing the ‘five layers of existence’ within us. Perception is one of the layers — it is the fourth layer, sitting between the third layer, which is the mind, and the highest layer, which is bliss.
One may infer that in order for us to travel from the mind towards the highest layer of bliss, one has to walk through through the layer of perception. How do we best accomplish this? Are we aware of the quality of our perception in our daily life? One way to evaluate our quality of perception can be to observe our reactions to what is fed to our mind, voluntarily and involuntarily. Another way is to examine our fears, particularly those we had in the past, and what were the outcomes of those fears in our life?
We can further ask – to what extent did the perceptions of the possible outcomes of our (worst) fears keep us from experiencing bliss? What have we learnt from those self-limiting perceptions of self? What have we learnt from past perceptions and then adjusted our awareness, in order to get closer to and remain in bliss more consistently?
Some say that ‘perception is reality’. I would tweak that and say that ‘perception is the doorway to reality’. What is reality? According to the Upanishad, reality is the awareness that we are ‘well made’, perfect beings in the eyes of the divine. Our destiny on the path is bliss, except that we tend to get ‘stuck’ in the perceptions fueled by our mind, which is fueled by our senses, and so on.
Towards the end of the walk — a walk that was uncluttered by my desire to take a bunch of photos and share the best of them with all of you — I realized that there was a unique clarity born from this new experience for me. By removing the tasks of fiddling with the phone-camera’s filters of framing, perspective, lighting, focusing and such, a different kind of perception of the trail was revealed.
The ‘full-frame’ of nature, as designed, as intended to be perceived by us by the grand designer, was unfolded. I believe I had a sighting, for perhaps the first time during a walk, the doorway to bliss. Perhaps the door has always been there and I have been busy fiddling with trinkets? Perhaps next time, I will walk through the doorway of bliss, and even stay for a while.
Now where’s that phone? I need to write down my perceptions of today’s walk before I forget. I guess it will have to wait till at least my return home. Maybe I’ll just take the blog-post photo in the backyard and share that with all of you.
P.S. Join us for our weekly gathering and twitter chat with the #SpiritChat community, Sunday Sep 18 at 9amET / 1pmGMT. We will discuss the perceptions of our weekly walks, and I welcome you all to join in. Namaste. – AjmaniK
Ref. ‘Five layers of being,’ Taittiriya Upanishad, Chapter 2