rhino painter

What is getting in the way of seeing things clearly?

I love this cartoon and how it perfectly illustrates how our perception colors, or in this case, blocks how we see the world.

If we perceive something, we are “seeing” it using our five senses. Perceiving can also mean to understand a concept in our mind. Perceiving is the act of awareness. To perceive means only that we recognize or notice something.

Perception, on the other hand, is our judgment about a thing. We can perceive one hundred dollars in our bank account, but our perception about this fact may be that we have too much or too little money. Perception is based on our prior experience. Perception is clouded by what we feel and think about other similar situations in the past. Perception is distorted by our beliefs, ideologies, and expectations. Perception is not fact but our interpretation and belief about that fact.

How we perceive can be off like when I struggled with my eyesight or when my father was experiencing cancer. How we perceive is influenced by the ability of our senses to work properly. If our senses are working well, we perceive correctly. On the other hand, I would argue that our perception is almost always off because our perception is always clouded by our own unique interpretation. Just like the rhino’s horn showing up in everything he looks at, we all have beliefs, world views, and expectations that show up in all that we experience. Our perception colors our world – sometimes for good, sometimes not.


Most of the time our perception is colored by self-protection. We see the world through a lens that allows us to self-preserve, to survive, to maintain our life as we know it. Even if something is bad for us, if our ego thinks we need it to survive, thinks this perception is who we are or who we need to be, our ego will hold on to it, justify it, and interpret everything to allow us to continue as we are.  

Accepting Others’ Perceptions

We do not accept other perceptions often because these are often seen as a threat to us and our way of life. We can’t be open to another worldview because that would mean we can not righteously hold on to our uncompromising beliefs. But there are different world views. There are millions of worldviews based on where we are born, what we learned, what we experience, and what we are driven to do. Rigidly denying that others have a different perception and holding on to the false belief that our perception means fact, causes many of our disagreements and challenges.

What is Reality

Much of the conflict in the world today is a clash of perception. We all look at the same situation, but our perception of that situation varies. To help clear this conflict, we first need to stop clinging to the false belief that ours is the only and true perspective. It is not. It can not be, because we are each constantly judging life by the “horn” only we can see and that we take as a normal part of life. Second, we need to be open to growing. We usually cling to our beliefs to protect ourselves; it feels safe. In actuality, holding on to previous beliefs keeps us stuck. Everything in life changes, transforms and grows. Why should we be any different? Finally, question everything. Question every belief, every “fact,” every perspective. Release the assumption that we mere humans can know the ineffable. Things that were a fact yesterday are not today. Uncover your beliefs and release the ones which are not making your life and the lives of those around you better.

Change Perception, Change Your Life

When I experience pain, it is usually caused by my expecting to experience something different from reality. When I can release my expectations and release my clouded perception of how things are or should be, I begin to experience a more free, amazing, beautiful life.

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