My current favorite running route is this: two miles of sweet downhill on a gravel road, followed by four miles of rolling hills on dirt and stone doubletrack, then one grueling mile of singletrack switchbacks straight up the side of the mountain, and finally half a mile of level gravel road back to the car.
Seven-and-a-half total miles of trail running bliss.
The entire course takes place in a wooded setting within state game lands, so there is no traffic to contend with, I hear birds calling during the entire run, and the scenery is distractingly beautiful.
My hubby Bill and I did it yesterday on a morning so humid, it was like we were running through the clouds. We were dripping within 10 minutes of our first step.
It takes us a little under an hour and a half to complete the run, but it seems like no more than 15 minutes to me.
My perception of time during this run is most certainly warped.
I watched a TED talk given by neuroscientist Donald Hoffman the other day. He asked the question “Do we see reality as it is?”
The answer, according to Hoffman, was most emphatically “No“.
Magicians depend on this fact.
We construct reality in our minds based on our previous experiences.
Is the woman in the box actually sawed in half? Of course not, but that’s exactly what our mind tells us has happened.
We see a woman whose top half is apparently severed from her bottom half. We can see an empty space where her waist should be.
Logically, we know that can’t be the fact, but the signals our eyes are sending to our brains, based on our knowledge of human anatomy informs us we are seeing a woman lying in a box in two separate pieces.
When you look at the picture of the cube above, your brain tells you it is three-dimensional. It can’t be three dimensional, however, because your screen is flat.
You have seen cubes before, so the picture of the cube that is made by thousands (millions?) of pixels on your screen to represent a three-dimensional cube is interpreted by your brain as an actual three-dimensional cube.
Our brains can be fooled.
Most of the time, our brain’s interpretation of the pictures it receives from our eyes serves us well. Sometimes though, that process can go haywire.
Hoffman uses the example of a diminutive insect called the Australian Jewel Beetle to illustrate.
Male jewel beetles are colorful, iridescent, and ostensibly quite alluring, for a bug.
Female jewel beetles are “dimpled, glossy, and brown“.
Apparently, beer brewers in Australia were packaging their products in bottles that were also “dimpled, glossy, and brown“.
If these bottles were discarded in the outback by careless drinkers, they were quickly enveloped by hoards of amorous male Jewel Beetles.
The male Jewel Beetles preferred the large, stationary “dimpled, glossy, and brown” objects to real, live female beetles.
The species was in danger of extinction until brewers changed the color and shape of their bottles.
We are not much different from Jewel Beetles. Neither of us sees reality as it is.
Both humans and beetles have survived because we developed tricks and hacks to help us interpret reality quickly.
Those hacks are beneficial when, say, we need to decide to flee a charging rhinoceros, or bypass a venomous snake, or not make eye contact with someone trying to sell you something as you walk in a mall.
They are less beneficial when you look inside.
Self-reflection is a good thing, but only if you are willing to see what is really there.
Self-awareness helps us process our thoughts and recognize change. It can help us live with more intention.
We often go through a period of self-reflection at the end of a calendar year or as we approach milestones like birthdays.
We look at our lives, maybe note changes we would like to make and list some resolutions which we break, on average, within three weeks.
We select a word to focus on for the year but by March, many of us would hard-pressed to name that word without first searching our memory banks.
Authentic reflection is hard.
We sometimes get so caught up in doing something, anything, we minimize the need to slow down and examine the reasons for our actions and evaluate the outcomes our actions have produced.
Looking inside takes patience, stillness, and awareness.
Only by an honest look inward can we know our true values and core beliefs.
Only by a sincere understanding of our core beliefs can we make decisions that produce the best outcomes.
We must be willing to see what is truly in our hearts, rather than just a glossy mental photograph.
We must practice integrity.
We must be prepared to dislike some of the things we see and to celebrate others.
We must be willing to be vulnerable.
The heart’s real intentions are like deep water; but a person with discernment draws them out. Proverbs 20:5 (CJB)