Why do we need to learn “how to see”?
The very first thing a baby learns is how to see. They come into the world programmed to be able to suck but not see. Scientists say that the first thing a baby looks for is faces, and learns to recognise their mother because she is close, and is the one with food to suck. By the time a baby is a few weeks old they can notice and see everything. The rest of our lives we learn how to understand what we are seeing.
One thing we need to realize is that our brain “filters” out a lot of information when we “see”. It does this by comparing the data that comes into our eyes with its memories, to decide what we should notice and pay attention to. “That is a table; I don’t have to notice it.” “That is a cat walking on the table; I better get Oscar off.”
This automatic filtering has pluses and minuses. It save us a lot of time but it also can make us miss really important things because we think we already know enough about them and ignore them. That’s one reason why “familiarity breeds contempt.” We know our wife / husband’s face so well we may miss what’s going on.
What is the first thing to learn if you want to improve your “seeing”?
The buddhists know that we need to learn how to see. They use the terms “awareness” and “mindfulness” to represent a heightened ability to “see.” They recommend practicing awareness as the first step of bringing awareness to each act. Here is a quote from Osho, one of the greatest Buddhist teachers:
“Walking on the road, walk fully alert; eating, eat with awareness. Whatsoever you are doing, don’t let the past and the future interfere. Be in the present. That’s what awareness is all about.”
Mindfulness is appreciating the context and value of what you become aware of.