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Mindful : October 2018
always blames someone else. Or an insecure per- son who talks too much and too fast so that every- one he meets thinks, Wow...this dude is trying to prove something. When’s he going to be quiet? Blind spots are not the things we already know about ourselves that we are working on, like being more patient with our children or more confident in social situations. Blind spots are not abstract ideas. They are ingrained beliefs and attendant emotions that drive us to play out patterns we don’t see, all to avoid the obvious that is right in front of us. Who hasn’t failed at something or been shocked by some- one’s behavior and asked themselves, How did I not see this coming? What you see...and what you get It was the revelation of my own blind spots that led me to explore and write about them. I’ve been studying the human condition like a sci- entist, albeit imprecisely, for two decades. I’ve taught meditation and emotional intelligence not only in prisons, but in a variety of places including veterans’ hospitals, the Google cam- pus, United Nations agencies, and on the front lines of conflict in the Middle East. I’ve come to realize that cinderblock prison walls, Silicon Valley corporate walls, and the walls of refu- gees’ tents have a lot in common. They all hold passionate, vulnerable human beings who want to have their basic needs met, to be loved and accepted by their families and communities, and to share their gifts with the world. They also hold people who are trying to get ahead even when that means trying (at times desperately) to portray and defend a false image of themselves— an image they are blind to—in order to not be attacked, blamed, or judged. I’ve discovered that each of us has at least a few wacky and creative ways of going about getting these needs met. There is nothing wrong with such strategies per se. But the related behaviors can be created and maintained by blind spots. Blind spots that are obvious to others while we, oblivious, coast through life never find- ing what we’re looking for and leaving a wake of unmet needs behind us. Nobody is exempt. What if seeing our blind spots could radically transform the way we live, work, and perceive reality? Have you ever looked at an optical illusion and been startled or scared to discover what your brain does to make sense of what → Illuminating Biases Gaining awareness of our patterned shortcuts and biases helps us illuminate the places where we go blind. Let’s work with that now. Recall a decision you are making or have just made, or an opinion you hold, and ask yourself: 1 As I reflect upon this decision or opinion, am I accounting for what I don’t know? 2 Is there a story I’m trying to cre- ate to make this decision or belief feel right and true? 3 If I move beyond my surface ideas and biases and through to what I most deeply know to be true, what do I realize? This third question is important because it speaks to the intuition and know- ing that emerge when we see past and through our ideas and biases, and it sur- faces what is currently hidden to us. We can use all these questions to open to a larger realm of possibility while perhaps finding a more balanced, spontaneous, and creative answer. However, we need to be at least a little comfy with ambigu- ity and uncertainty, and let go of trying to be an expert who has everything right. Easier said than done—I get it! Just think of an opinion that you don’t want to let go of. It is so true and right, it makes you feel safe, and it makes your world feel organized. What if you loosened up on that one too? What would happen? PRACTICE 74 mindful October 2018