“Change your perception – think positive,” urge many self-help books.
It’s good to think positive, but the best positive thinking comes by changing not just perception, how we see, but also perspective, from where we see.
Suppose we stand at the foot of a skyscraper – we would naturally feel dwarfed. But if we fly in a plane above the skyscraper, it will seem small. The building remains the same, but our perception of it has changed. And, this is important, our perception has changed not because we did some mental adjustment but because we changed our perspective. Attempting to change our perception without changing our perspective is often an exercise in imagination. As long as we are at the foot of the skyscraper, we can’t see it as small.
The Bhagavad-gita begins by changing our perspective. How? By changing our position, by lifting us in our self-understanding above the things and events around us. The Gita (02.13) explains that we are at our core indestructible souls, spiritual beings who are different from and above everything material. The material bodies with which we usually misidentify ourselves are our temporary coverings.
When we are flying in a plane, the disturbances on the ground below don’t disturb us because we know that we are above them. While a plane may still be threatened by anti-aircraft missiles shot from the ground, the soul is under no such threat because it can’t be destroyed by anything material. No external change, however threatening, can harm our essence. We can experientially realize this by practicing yoga, especially bhakti-yoga.
Whenever we feel ourselves becoming overwhelmed by problems and their negativity, we can remind ourselves of our indestructibility. The resulting change of perspective will fill us with a profound calm and confidence that will empower us to think positively and live positively.