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  • Writer's pictureNancy Willbern, PhD

Bird's Eye View: Part Two

You can't solve a problem on the

same level of consciousness that created the problem.


...I can rise above the battleground in my mind...

Here I find peace. Here I find safety.

Here I see innocence and there is

no need to judge.

A Course in Miracles


Caroline Myss, spiritual teacher and modern-day mystic shares a story from her own life in which she had a direct experience with the peace-inducing effects of a shift in perspective.  A good friend of hers, who lived in New York City had invited her to come for a visit.  The date was planned for the middle of August.  When Caroline stepped out of the cab, she was met with Manhattan-summer-air.  It was thick.  It was hot and stale with the scent of garbage on the street, fumes from passing cars, scorched pretzels roasting on concession carts.  It wasn’t just the suffocating air and the amalgamation of city aromas that flooded Caroline’s senses, however.  Walking up to her friend’s high-rise condo building, her ears were assaulted with taxi-driver-horns, angry pedestrians shouting their way through the maddening crowd and the incessant noise from the kinetic traffic snaking passed her cab.  In that short distance from the taxi to the condo building’s front door, Caroline was bombarded with a cacophony of sensual stimuli that jangled through every cell. 

         Upon entering the lobby, Caroline walked to the elevator and pushed the button to the top floor.  Her friend met her at the apartment door, offered her a glass of iced tea and then escorted her out to the balcony high above the frenetic city streets.  Up there, the air was clean and open and amazingly quiet.  As the sun began to set, a gentle breeze brought a growing relief from the summer heat.  City lights emerged in the dusky darkness beneath her.  Sipping her tea on the top of the world, Caroline sank into the stillness.

         As she and her friend recalled stories from the past and caught up on recent news, another part of Caroline was silently taking notes about her experience.  This part of her was so surprised at the distinct contrast between her experience on the sidewalk and her experience from the balcony.  This part recognized a rarely acknowledged irony.  Although the two levels – the sidewalk and the balcony – brought with them qualitatively different experiences, they occurred at the very same address.  This insightful recognition came as a gift to Caroline’s understanding of different levels of consciousness.  She now frequently uses her insight from the condo as the perfect metaphor for how our experience can be greatly altered by simply a move from one level of awareness to a higher, more inclusive one.  What a gift to the rest of us!

         Down on the street-level at this address, life is experienced as difficult, clumsy, loud, up-close-and-personal.  For example, from the ground level, you are limited to what your senses can take in.  If you hadn’t ever been there before, all you could know of the area is what you could see, hear, or smell.  If you couldn’t see Central Park  or the Hudson River from your place on the sidewalk, you wouldn’t know they were there, but from up high all you would have to do is look out in every direction.  From that vantage point, you could see that the city is not just a collection of high-rise buildings and impatient taxi drivers but  includes its own form of natural beauty.  From up there, you could easily see how to get to the shopping district, for example or to Times Square or to the theater several blocks away.  And, you would be seeing all of these things in relation to everything else.  You wouldn’t have to physically walk or drive to them.   The location of things and their proximity to all the other things would be instantly recognized.  That higher perspective changes our physical experience in terms of space, but it also changes our relation to time.  From down below, a wholistic perspective is impossible.  But from up high looking down on the city, each separate structure or space shows up in relation to all the others.  Connections and patterns get revealed.

Even though we are just one person, we are multi-dimensional creatures – meaning  we can experience life from different levels of awareness.  As we shift our perspective from the immediate to a more expansive and inclusive vantage point, a whole new set of vistas gets exposed.

In the next posts to come, I’ll bring this down from Myss’ metaphorical insight into the practical - where we actually live and breathe.




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