Written by: April Prescott from Shady Ape
One of the main pillars of a mindfulness practice is the ability to take the perspective of another. This practice starts with also being able to see that within me, I can often have many “voices” - versions of myself who show up at certain times or in different environments. In one situation, I may appear confident and cool, while in another, nervous and afraid. How is it that one person can be so many people?
Through the practice of observation, one can develop the ability to see these versions of ourselves and we can then determine if this is truly who we want to be, or how we want to show up, at that moment. Many of the versions who come to the surface live in the past. Think about the last time you felt uncomfortable. Maybe your gut was telling you one thing, but you were doing another. That intuition is linked to these versions who bring with them the knowledge gained from experience. They also bring with them old patterns that may longer offer a good solution or path for the present moment.
When we can see these patterns in ourselves, we can more easily understand that the same goes for everyone else. Other people go through life as well, with past versions showing up, asking to be seen, heard and valued. So when a person acts “out of character” it could just be another version who is doing the best they can with the information they have at hand, which may just be linked to the past more than in the present.
Think of it as looking through a camera lens. When you set up a shot, you first see it with your own, naked vision. (Even THAT looks different to each person.) Then when we shift to looking through our lens, it takes on new characteristics. Maybe you are using a zoom lens and the world is now much closer. Adding a wide-angle allows you to see more, bringing more light.
Mindfulness is like adding a different lens to alter your field of vision. Reflecting on what you see can be seen as editing, where you apply skills to change yet again what you see. So from the initial naked sight to the final product, your perspective has changed.
Being able to take the perspective of another is empathy. Mindfulness is a tool to return us back to our hardwiring that has us needing to be empathetic to survive. Sometimes, this world can pull us away from who we truly are. By shifting our perspective, both of our own thoughts and of others, we can get back to those basic roots of humanity.