Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.
The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.
The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.
As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picture and the scene. One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.
Days, weeks and months passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window. He had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the man’s body away. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.
Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the world outside. He strained as he slowly turned to look out the window beside the bed. To his astonishment, nothing but a blank wall greeted him.
The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate to describe such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, ‘Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.’
The blind man didn’t accept the limitation of his reality. He could have any reality he wanted and he chose to see a vibrant world through a window in the wall. This made him and his roommate happy. Was that happiness any less real, because it was based on the blind man’s imagination?
The man confined to his back experienced the world beyond the window as strongly and truthfully as if it was actually real. Because he didn’t know the difference, he enjoyed all the benefits of the reality, despite the fact that the blind man made it up.
The surrealist artist M.C. Escher once said, “Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling?”
The magic of this existence is that at every turn we are offered opportunities to shape our own reality. Everything we experience is based on choices we make consciously or subconsciously. What’s unfortunate is that when we are not active in where we put our attention, we end up automatically creating realities based on old programing, fears and limiting beliefs. These realities actually make us miserable but we don’t realize we are the ones making the choices that create those realities in the first place.
Well I know it wasn’t you who held me down
Heaven knows it wasn’t you who set me free
So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key
The Eagles, “Already Gone”
What experience persists in your life, even though you’ve worked tirelessly to change it? How could a simple shift in your perception transform that floor into a ceiling?