There are many ways to describe this experience of life we’re having. But whether the experience feels rich and full—or hollow—depends on our perspectives. And our perspectives depend not just on what we say we believe, but on where we focus our awareness.
Opening your awareness of the world around you deepens your experience, and allows you to see things from a new perspective.
When I was in early grade school, something happened one day that I couldn’t let go of. I can’t remember now what it was—probably someone said something that hurt my feelings or I had been embarrassed in some way.
When I came home, I went out back and sat on the center of the metal teeter-totter to think about it. I knew that it was taking up too much of my attention, but I kept going over it in my head. So I imagined looking down on myself from above. I “saw” myself on the seat of the teeter-totter in the middle of the back yard. From that perspective, I looked so much smaller, and the world seemed so much bigger. What I was worried about was tiny when compared to the vastness of the world; I let it go.
That experience helped me learn that I could manage my own anxiety. By shifting my awareness, I could change my perspective and how I experienced events. I was, and am, deeply sensitive. Learning how to discern what really mattered to me and what was trivial allowed me to stay true to myself in many ways.
I believe that we are—and everything is—connected. We can’t always detect these connections directly, but when we are open and aware, we find meaning in them. And when we sense, or feel, or intuit, some meaning in an experience, or in multiple random experiences, it deepens our experience of life.
If you pay attention to your inner voice and your life experiences, you can see meaningful connections in outwardly unrelated events.
One of my favorite experiences of synchronicity happened in Paris. I went to the Louvre early one day in October. On my way to see the Mona Lisa, I walked down a great hall filled with paintings. Although I was trying to hurry to see the Mona Lisa before the Louvre filled with people, my gaze was drawn to Domenico Ghirlandaio’s 1490 Portrait of an Old Man and a Boy, and I stopped.
Portrait of an Old Man
and a Boy
by Domenico Ghirlandaio
I didn’t understand why, but I had the strong feeling that I needed to pay attention to it. I looked at the painting for a while. The old man in the painting had a condition known as rhinophyma, causing his nose to appear large, bulbous, and ruddy. His image, and the kindness in his eyes, stood out to me.
After I left the Louvre, I walked to the Gibert Jeune bookstore. When I left the store, I found a 2 Euro coin on the street. I picked it up and put it in my pocket.
I continued down Place Saint-Michel and passed an old man standing by an iron fence playing La Vie en Rose on the accordion. He seemed like a figure from the past. Passersby had tossed coins into a bowl beside his beat-up instrument case. Like the old man in Ghirlandaio’s painting, he had rhinophyma. For a moment, I felt like I was looking at the same man in the painting. It gave me the sensation that we are eternal, and our souls repeat lives like patterns over and over again.
But more profoundly, I realized why I had found the 2 Euro coin: I felt that it was meant for the old musician, and I, as part of the flow, was meant to bring it to him, the way a wave tosses a shell on the beach. It felt both profound and natural. And it connected a series of random events—looking at a painting, finding a coin, and seeing a street musician, in a way that felt meaningful to me.
So I turned around, went back to the old man, and put the coin in the bowl. He smiled and said “Merci, mademoiselle,” and kept playing. I walked away knowing I had experienced something special. The deep connection of these outwardly unrelated events was simply kindness: the kindness that spoke to me from the old man’s eyes in the painting, and the kindness of dropping the 2 Euro coin in the musician’s bowl.
Our experiences are full of meaning; they are made of meaning. We just have to open our awareness to see it.
When you open your awareness, what do you see?
How does your perspective change?