One way to diminish our suffering is to become conscious of when our eyes go looking for something that upsets us. Another way is to be watchful of what our imagination is up to.
Just as sponges can soak up dirty water as easily as clean water, our eyes can also take in impressions from the world around us that leak misery into our soul. We like to think we use our visual faculty in pursuit of pleasure, but we also use it to entertain old hurts, grievances, and longings. Our eyes go looking for pleasure and stimulation—but also needlessly for ways to suffer.
Groucho Marx famously asked, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” The drollery is delightful, yet our eyes are suspect nonetheless. Our eyes, along with our imagination, quite readily go searching for things to worry and brood about. Through our eyes and imagination, we can be tempted to look for sights or impressions that stir up within us negative emotions relating to deprivation, refusal, helplessness, rejection, and unworthiness.
The writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes.” He meant, of course, that we’re emotionally blocked from seeing objectively. [Read more…]