We can think of experience as consisting of two components. On the one hand, there is ‘the What’ - the actual substance of our experience, the raw data that we are aware of, observing, or noticing. On the other hand, is ‘the Interpretation’ - our assessment of that raw data, the meaning we make from our observations, the conclusions we draw from them. Together, the two combine to form our experience of life - our reality.
Implied by these two components is a third aspect of the equation that is easy to overlook: ‘the Context’ - that which does the interpreting, the lens or prism through which our perceptions and interpretations are made, our belief systems which apply meaning to what we perceive, the structure of our minds that makes sense of our realities. This third factor defines and influences the other two, and therefore, our experience itself.
It is clear to see how our ‘Context’ determines our ‘Interpretations’. By definition, it is what ascribes meaning to the raw data. The ‘What’ that we are experiencing is simply what it is. However, it is our ‘Context’ that will lead us to interpret and experience that ‘What’ as something good, bad or other. This alone demonstrates the powerful affect our ‘Context’ has on our experience.
The impact of this is magnified when we recognize that our ‘Interpretations’ directly influence the ‘What’ that we experience. As a result of a negative interpretation, we might experience anxiety, stress or other unpleasant physiological symptoms and emotions. With a positive interpretation, we might experience ease, gratitude, joy, or other pleasant sensations. In addition, the choices that we make, the things that we say, and the actions that we take are all based on our ‘Interpretations’ and will affect the “What’ that we will experience.
Going further still, our ‘Context’ will also directly affect ‘The What’ that we experience, although not as obviously. Our experience of the Universe is largely influenced by what we expect to see. Consider this: would you ever find Waldo if you didn’t have the idea you were supposed to look for him? And even if you did see him, would you care? Similarly, our belief systems lead us to look for, find, and focus on some data points while filtering out others.
The implications of this touch every aspect of our reality. Our ‘Context’ is what limits what we believe is possible for our lives. It is our ‘Context’ that separates and divides us through race, gender, religion, ideology etc. Our entire society is constructed and reinforced by our collective ‘Context.’ If we want to experience personal transformation and systemic societal change, this is the area we have to address. By exploring, questioning and reconsidering our ‘Context,’ we can drastically improve the overall quality of our experience.
We can do this by rethinking the meaning we hold for anything, anyone, or any situation. By asking ourselves: ‘What is this beyond what I think it is?’ we can begin to see the world with a fresh perspective. This enables us to explore new potentials and discover new solutions for our lives that never seemed possible within our old ‘Context.’ We can rediscover the way we live.
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”