Once I was taking a morning walk through a familiar neighborhood, beside a familiar golf course, along a familiar coastline, past familiar trees and flowers, to a familiar cliff overlooking the ocean.
My Body was giving me perceptions of sights, sounds, smells and feelings while my Mind was registering patterns and making interpretations. "That's a street, that's a path, that's a tree, that's grass, that's a cloud, that's the ocean...." said my Body. "Ho hum, here's the same old walk again," said my Mind."Borrring!"
Then my Spirit interrupted. "Wait a minute! Look again. That leaf wasn't there yesterday. Those clouds and those waves are not the same ones, either. And did you ever notice that particular ridge outlined in that particular way by the sun? Look again. Today is different."
Suddenly I realized, in a very real and physical way, that my Spirit was right. It was not only a different day, it was, by any meaningful definition of reality, a whole new world. It only seemed the same because I was looking at it through old eyes.
One very useful characteristic of human beings is our ability to recognize patterns, and to apply pattern recognition to our environment in thousands of practical ways.
In the natural environment we can learn weather patterns that will help us to prepare for planting or hunting or sheltering, animal and plant patterns that will assist in our food gathering and production, rock and land and water and star patterns that will help us on our journeys. I have used such patterns on numerous occasions throughout my life for such things as finding my way through the Sahara Desert, navigating across stretches of open ocean, and getting in and out of wilderness areas on Kauai.
In an urban environment we can learn street and traffic patterns to help us go where we want to go, building and address patterns to help us find what we want to find, and people patterns that will help us to define who is doing what and why. In my travels around the world I have encountered people wearing many different kinds of costumes whom I was still able to acknowledge as policemen because of pattern recognition. And this same abiity has enabled me to drive a car in various countries, even when it was necessary to vary the pattern for driving on the left or the right.
We can recognize a forest, regardless of the types of trees that are in it. We can recognize dogs and cats, regardless of the specific breeds. We are really, really good at recognizing patterns.
However, there is a serious potential problem with pattern recognition. The problem occurs when we stop looking at the world as it is, and begin looking at the patterns instead. When we stop looking at people, and look only at patterns of people, we can fall easily into the traps of racism, prejudice, bias and bigotry. When we stop looking at our environment and look only at patterns that we superimpose on the environment, the we lose touch with the power and healing and adventure and awesome variety that actually exists there. And when we stop looking at ourselves, and look only at some perceived pattern of ourselves, we tend to identify with the pattern and become afraid of change.
Perhaps this is the key to the age-old idea that most people are asleep and that a true perception of reality requires that they wake up somehow. If so, then they aren't really asleep at all. They are just looking at the world through old patterns, through old eyes. The solution, then, is not to wake up; it is to look differently.
Not everyone wants to do that, but if you do, here is a suggestion. In some classes I do an exercise which consists of having people look at a familiar environment and find something new in it. To begin with, "look" with any of your senses for something you never noticed before, or use a sense that you've never used in a particular way for a particular thing in that environment. As a variation, when you enter a new environment, purposely look up, down, and in the corners for details that you might normally gloss over. With a lot of practice, you'll be able to sense your world differently more often. And if you forget, as I still do from time to time, trust that Spirit will remind you.
Finally, if you are truly interested in learning how to see differently, it's a good idea to study just enough science and metaphysics to understand that the Universe is changing constantly, even while it keeps repeating patterns. Which means that the patterns are always changing, too. There is power in that knowledge, and if you love life enough you can find it by putting your old eyes aside and using new ones.
Yesterday was, and never will be again. Tomorrow isn't, and can't be reached. Today neither was nor will be. Today is different.