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    Something to Think About: True seeing

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Dr. Amit Sood says, "See others as they wish to be seen."

Dear friend,

I hardly see others these days, let alone see their true self. This is partly because of my weak attention. Research shows that presently an average person can maintain sustained attention for only about eight seconds (compared to nine seconds for the goldfish). Our ability to alternate attention (as in multitasking) has replaced our sustained attention.

Weakened attention, by default, becomes superficial and wandering. A brain with weakened attention usually becomes busy in its own monologue. It has limited dispensable attention and patience to truly notice others. As a result it sees others not as they are but as it has already decided it will see them. That decision depends on the brain’s current preferences.

My preferences depend on who I think I am. That’s important because I am likely to become a near-identical twin of whoever I think I am. If I think I am a bundle of desires, I will look at others as objects to fulfill my desires. If I think I am a blob of kindness, I will look at others with intentional kindness.

My untrained automatic version marinates in wants. Every waking moment, my sensory receptors crave stimulation, carrying to my mind a message of pleasure and gratification. That’s the animal within me, my limited self.

But I have within me a different, more intentional version. It still has wants, but mostly healthy and disciplined wants. Its conscious moments are crowded by the desire to be kind. Its wants support kindness. Guided by these wants, I see others within their circles of love. I see them as they wish to be seen. I see the good in them. I then start living in a different, kinder world.

I hope we all will live in a kinder inner world, so we can create a kinder outer world. We can, if we look at ourselves not as a bundle of desires but as a being of kindness.

May you treat yourself with kindness; may you help others treat themselves with kindness.

Take care.

Read previous blog posts and follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.