Let’s start with first things first. In a very simple fashion this is how perception works: Perception establishes the meaning about an event or object when we make initial contact. We are essentially processing our information. At this stage all of our senses are engaged. Note: Click here if you’d like the podcast episode by the same name.
Sensation describes what occurs when a person’s senses are initially exposed some sort of external stimulus. The sensory receptors are engaged by cues through sight, sound, smell, taste and texture. For example, my favorite Second Cup Kiosk engages all my senses as I walk up to it. I hear the sounds, and smell the aroma of the grinding of fresh coffee. I like to listen to the background music as I stand patiently waiting to experience the taste of my favorite strong heart attack like coffee.
However, we also gather information for processing. Attention occurs when we linger and engage our mental processing, such as “oh my gosh that stone has ENERGY!!” Selective perception is when I pay attention to messages that are consistent with my attitudes, beliefs and needs. When I see something that is inconsistent with these factors, my attention is lost somewhere else. i.e. Oh look shiney pretty!!
Interpretation occurs when I assign a meaning to whatever has stimulated my senses. Comprehension is aided by expectations and familiarity. Unconsciously, or consciously, we scan our memory to retrieve previous experiences with objects, or a similar object. We interpret knowledge of something based on what we are generally more familiar with.
This is the end result, or the conclusion, of our perception process – retention. Some objects or events go into short-term and/or long-term memory. If it is a really good experience, or a very marked experience, we store it in long-term memory. Like that one time, during a death ceremony Now that we have the basics, let’s get a wee bit deeper… just for funzies!! If, for just one moment, we suspend our disbelief, we would change our perception to encompass that, we too, are being perceived. To the very fact that to touch, is also being touched. To see ourselves, is being seen.
All things are interconnected/interrelated. All things are alive. We live in a world that too lives with us. If, for just one moment, we suspend our limited perceptions, we would realize our world, indeed our very universe, perceives itself, thro ugh us. When we shift from a singular perception up to the next, being perceived at the same time, we keep our ability to retain our singular perception, and we gain a much wider view of what we’re experiencing.
I read a short story once (I promise you only once) about a traveler who comes across two stonecutters. “He asks the first, “What are you doing?” and receives the reply, “Squaring the stone.” He then walks over to the second stonecutter and asks, “What are you doing?” and receives the reply, “I am building a cathedral.” In other words, both men are performing the same task, but one of them is aware that he has the choice to be part of a greater dream.”
Shamanism is an intersubjective rather than an intrasubjective experience. The focus is feeling connection with the collective – not an individual journey. The medicine people say it takes heart. Shamans begin with the collective, and through the collective heal the personal. In the West, our approach is healing yourself first and then you can heal the others. Shamanism focuses on giving back to the community and to the collective. How we perceive the world around us, could be, indicative of intersubjective process as opposed to, or instead of, intrasubjective.
Are we perceiving something for our personal benefit, or to bring back to the community for the benefit of the whole? I am not convinced there is a cut and dry answer to this, rather it could be action specific. Our very languages; the English language, serves to separate us from the very nature that gives us life. Imagine our very language works against our familial and reciprocal, relationship with the energy force that is our very reason for existing. Our language is a poor, albeit fairly singular, expression of the mystical nature of the world around us. We often have experiences which we are unable to articulate verbally. Fortunately, we can drum, dance, sing, meditate… any number of ways of expressing the unexpressable.
Understanding our senses, and in turn, our perceptions, we gain a deeper insight into our very selves, our very universe.