I have been thinking lately about the concept of reperceiving. Reperceiving is a way of enlarging the field of awareness, such that one no longer focuses obsessively or exclusively on a personal or subjective sense of an experience, set of circumstances, et cetera.
When we repercieve, it becomes possible to perceive more of the situation – other perspectives or possibilities, which in turn foster humility and other forms of gentleness as we respond to the situation.
Here is how Shauna Shapiro, a mindfulness teacher whose work is clear and helpful puts it in “Mindfulness-based stress reduction effects on moral reasoning and decision making” (co-written wth Hooria Jazaieri and Philippe R. Goldin):
. . . our ethical decision making process, when personal is typically driven by emotional intuitions, however, these can be modified and brought into more conscious awareness and reflection, by taking a more objective approach to the situation. One of the central features of mindfulness practice, is this capacity to shift perspective from subject to object, whereby experience becomes less personal and subjective, allowing the practitioner to see with greater clarity and objectivity. This shift in perspective has been termed reperceiving.
I actually wonder if reperceiving is a misnomer. My sense is that perception is initially sound, but then egoic mind patterns enter and “reperceive” the situation through their own distorted and distorting lens, begetting confusion and discord to varying degrees.
On that view, the second – or repeated – perception (the reperception) is the ego’s and is unhelpfully complex, self-serving, dramatic, et cetera.
In that sense, mindfulness-based practices allow for a spaciousness in which one’s ego-based patterning is slower and less tenacious, which means that the original clear seeing – which is our natural state, our natural seeing – retains its fundamental clarity and efficacy.
The basic idea is to redirect our attention in a way that broadens awareness. Mindfulness practices help by emphasizing non-resistance. We simply notice what is – we give attention to it – without instantly moving to change, amend, alter or improve it. We just let the experience be what it is. When we do this in an gently sustainable intentional way, awareness expands – spaciousness arises – and there is more clarity, compassion, patience, interest and so forth.
As Shapiro et al note, this has nontrivial social and cultural ramifications.
There is ample empirical evidence that mindfulness increases compassion and empathy. It has been suggested that through helping one dis-identify with a subjective, ego-centered perspective, mindfulness helps practitioners to see another’s perspective and to cultivate greater empathy and compassion.
As I alluded to here, one way to understand the final lessons of A Course in Miracles may be as encouraging us to develop a mindfulness practice. “Greater empathy and compassion” are equivalent to bringing forth more love. Reperceiving – however one defines it (though tracking Shapiro is probably the better part of wisdom 🙂 ) – simply direct us to notice how noticing expands to become more effective and inclusive, which is to say, more loving.