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  • Writer's picturejon walker


Optical illusions are a cool way to see how our built-in wiring can change how we perceive the world. Like how your brain is insisting there are no circles in this Coffer Illusion by Anthony Norcia. That’s probably a function of how our visual cortex is trained to see rectilinear shapes more than curves. (The circles are part of the top and bottom of each rectangle.)

But it is a little more sobering to realize our brain can change our perceptions in all kinds of other ways. Like how we perceive another human being based on their external appearance, or how we are primed to be frustrated by a co-worker or relative with whom we have, shall we say, a history.

This is where meditation can be so helpful. When we get quiet and see how our mind works in the meditative space, we get better at seeing how our built-in mental habits can lead us to jump to conclusions that add to our troubles. It is almost like we can slow down time—take a pause—so that when our conditioned reactivity arises, we can notice that and make wiser choices. And it still counts if we end up noticing well after we’ve already been reactive. We can start to see that reactivity sooner and sooner after it occurs, and then maybe while the reactivity is actually occurring, and then, over time, we can catch it before we follow the same old pattern. But we often need to see it in the quietude of meditation first. so we know what to look for. Just like once you see the circles, you can make them appear whenever you want.

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