What Does It Mean?
What does it mean? Or really what does it mean to me? I have been asking myself that question a lot lately. What I have found is that I have attached a meaning to everything- of course we all have, but those meanings become so ingrained that it stops me from actually having any new ideas, interpretations, or experiences that could lead me in a new direction. I am so quick to judge and decide based on my past definitions that my future is almost certainly predictable.
How can I experience anything new if I already “know”?
What’s the point of even leaving my house? If I go to that party, with those people who I’ve already decided think this way or that, the experience is already laid out for me. Why read that book, after all the cover image has already been interpreted by my meanings of the images and words, so every word I read is colored by those meanings, so am I really getting anything new?
Is it possible to experience the world without attaching my past meanings to everything? Which meanings are good to keep and which should I get rid of? Where did all these meanings come from?
It’s not new to many of you that most of the “meanings (insert beliefs, Buddhas – wink wink) have been with us since early childhood- even before we could speak we attached meanings to things. My friend Gabby gave a great example the other day while we dissected the “meanings” in our lives.
Imagine as a baby your on a walk- you’re hanging in your stroller, gumming that weird squishy thing that big being with the boobs you love to snuggle, who’s always with you and you like her smell gave you, when suddenly you feel this odd sensation – and it doesn’t feel good. You look up at the boob being and she looks scared and you feel scared (you don’t know it’s fear – but you know you don’t like it) Suddenly, another big being in a bright red shirt rushes past you, bumping into your favorite being and she recoils in fear. BOOM – your brain has just created a meaning – that big man looking beings in red shirts are scary! You decide to chock that one away in your subconscious cause you think you’re probably gonna need that information and you know what – you won’t even realize it, but for the rest of your life you’re probably going to take issues with men in red shirts.
I know, it sounds crazy, you’re probably saying it’s not that simple- but you know what – it is. Even for those of us who have decided we are “aware” have hidden meanings for everything – some not even so hidden.
I am surprised myself at how lazy my brain has actually become. Its so much easier to just go back into the computer – pull out the file that says “red shirt bad” than to pause and take a moment to not react with my first impression, my first response to the image, the color, the smell, the word.
I decided recently to play a game with my brain. I decided that instead of the same old same old response to the “meanings” I’ve already wired in my brain, I would take a moment to see if there might be a new meaning that might feel better, create a new idea or new understanding. What if I take a moment to try and process more than just the 2000 bits of information my brain is actually perceiving (which is based on my already ingrained “meanings”)
WOW! I have started to see and hear and feel so much more. My interactions with others have become so much more “meaningful”! I’ve also spent less time feeling confused, angry, hurt and more time enjoying all the offerings of the world around me. In short life is way more fun and interesting.
This is more than just listening to others, this is more than just listening to yourself. We often do that, but then fall right back on our tried and true meanings because they have proven safe for us, they have gotten us this far. This is about breaking down every meaning of everything you’ve ever thought you knew – even the sacred cows – the ones you’ve vowed you’d never discard.
Some call it peeling the onion, some call it the layers of the lotus flower. I call it killing my Buddhas. Whatever you call it- enjoy it. Its probably the most freeing exercise I’ve done in all my years of “searching” for the answers. It’s also the most simple, and sometimes the most simplest things lead us to the greatest answers.
Thank you to: Luc Galoppin for the image which is from his blog at www.reply-mc.com. In which he discusses the work of Chris Argyris and Peter Senge – both have great books and articles on organizational psychology.