Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Their Labor Was to Look

And the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished. ~1 Nephi 17:41, The Book of Mormon

This verse came into my awareness several days ago, and hasn’t left. It seemed to rise up out of its surrounding context and put its hands on either side of my face and speak directly to me. “Pay attention!” it gently commands.

We look but we don’t see what is. We see our thoughts about what is, our beliefs about what is, our judgments about what is, our stories about what is. We create an image of what is. Then we like our image and want to keep it, or we don’t like it and want to change it. All the while, we’ve missed what actually is. We’ve created an illusion and called it real.

We are not really looking. We are looking away.

So what does it mean to look? The verse says it is simple and easy. We don’t have to acquire new skills or learn more information. On the contrary, looking, really looking, is a process of releasing, letting go of our beliefs and opinions and judgments long enough to see what is right in front of us in the present moment.

When something happens, there is a nanosecond of pure experience, a momentary delay before our brains begin the familiar process of labeling, categorizing, explaining, judging. In other words, before we start telling ourselves a story. We react to and interact with this story instead of engaging with what really happened. Our reality becomes a closed system as we create our own illusion and then relate to it in some way.

We can’t really stop our brains from telling stories. This is what brains do. But we can bring our awareness to the present moment and look, really look, before the gap closes and our story begins.

If it’s so simple and easy, why does it seem so hard? Why do so many “perish,” as the verse says? Because we are so attached to our stories. Our stories are familiar and habitual. They have become so real to us that we are unaware of our illusions that we have trapped ourselves in.

People catch monkeys by cutting a small hole in something stationary and putting food in it. The monkey will reach inside and take a handful of the food, but then it can’t get its hand out. Instead of letting the food go, the monkey will be trapped by its own attachment to the food and is easily captured. The monkey chooses the illusion of being trapped over freedom.

We might not be able to stop our brains from doing what they do, but we can be aware of it. Once the story begins we can observe it without becoming ensnared by it. We are free then to keep our attention on what is. We are free to look. What we see will blow our minds wide open.

Give it a try. Next time something catches your attention, try to pause for just a moment. Look at whatever is happening and then see when the story starts. And when it does start, just watch it, and watch your interaction with it. And perhaps, at some point, see what happens if you let it go.

9 thoughts on “Their Labor Was to Look”

  1. Oh, Lord, Galen! In light of what I'm writing about our recent experiences in Asheville, this could not come at a better juncture. God snatched us both out of our comfort zones during that week, and the narrative changed, whether we wished it to, or not.
    We do perish when we cannot adapt and "stop our brains from doing what they do." We must become acutely aware and awake, using every facility God has given us, to ride out the storm.
    I hope and pray that in this series, I have "pause(d) for just a moment. Look(ed) at whatever is happening and then see where the story starts."
    Blessings to you, my friend, as I'm so grateful for your revelations here!

  2. Martha, I had not connected this to your saga, but now that you have pointed it out, you are right–what a dramatic and, to use your word of the year, huge opportunity to be present with an open mind in faith. You were living on the razor's edge of this practice.

  3. I love this so much, Galen, and am glad to have read it today. I'm living this now, where I feel professionals around myself and my daughter (who I am advocating for in a bunch of systems) keep seeing what they are used to seeing, instead of what is really there. And, when I point that out, and they bring their vision to what is in front of them, possibility opens up. *Of course*, I can and am turning this inward as well. And, I love that I read this today, here, as a perfectly placed reminder. Thank you!

  4. What a deep pleasure to reconnect with you, Joy. And how pleased I am that this came at a helpful time for you. You are in the trenches of parenting, practicing on the razor's edge. You are already the master of this practice of being truly present, so how blessed for your daughter that you can bring this to her life right now. Thanks so much for stopping by, and I do hope that things move towards the light for you and your family.

  5. Wow my dear friend, you are amazing. I loved your thoughts on this one. It is so true in our day as well as in the days of the Bible. The Israelite's were to look on the Serpent's Staff which represented Christ and because of the easiness of the way many would not look and therefore perished. In the The Book of Mormon; it is retelling the story that their forefathers would not look and therefore perished. This was a warning to them also and to us.
    We are to look with our spiritual eyes and heart and keep them focused on our Savior.
    I especially loved your last paragraph and it is something I will try when I am in the start of a story. I like how you found more layers to this scriptural thought. You do have a way of finding deeper meaning to what you read. I love that about you.
    Blessings and hugs!

  6. You are so sweet, LeAnn, and I'm glad you suggested that I read The Book of Mormon. I am curious about people's faith traditions and beliefs, and I find it is often helpful to go to the source teachings.

    I'm pleased that you liked this post. I definitely took that verse out of context, but this post represents how that verse spoke to me.

  7. I loved how the verse spoke to you and it was helpful for me to see a different view point. You always stretch my thoughts. Hugs~

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