A 12-Minute Meditation to Widen Your Perspective

This guided mindfulness practice helps us relax and see the full scope of the possibilities in front of us.

Adobe Stock/ lovelyday12

When we feel stressed, anxious, irritated, or angry, one of the things that happens to the mind is that it shrinks down and zooms in on the challenge at hand—the stressful moment, the emotion we don’t want to feel. There’s a researcher, Andrew Huberman at Stanford, who calls this “the soda straw view” of the mind. This is the view of stress. When we’re stressed, our perspective becomes small and possibilities fade away. All we can see is the thing that we want to get rid of, or that we want to change, or that we wish wasn’t happening in our lives, or even in the world. 

One of the most powerful mindfulness practices we can do is intentionally and consciously expand our perspective, expand the size of our awareness.

One of the most powerful mindfulness practices we can do is intentionally and consciously expand our perspective, expand the size of our awareness. Research shows that we can do this by adjusting our visual focus. When we shift from an intensely focused stare to something more like a relaxed gaze, taking in a panoramic awareness of our environment,  we’re actually shifting the nervous system itself. It has a similar effect as taking a few deep breaths. 

We’re going to play with this shift in this guided meditation. You can think of this shift as going from a small, contracted, tight mind to a relaxed, wide open, big mind. From here, we can begin to create this habit in our lives, intentionally creating an experience of relaxation, especially during tense moments. Stress, moments of discomfort, irritation, and anxiety, are often like looking up into the sky at a dark thundercloud, and all we can focus on is the dark cloud. What we’re going to do in this practice is zoom out from that one small cloud and begin to see that surrounding that one small dark cloud in the sky is miles beautiful, clear blue sky. 

A Guided Meditation to Expand Perspective and Let Go of Stress

  1. Find a comfortable seat. For this practice, unlike many other forms of mindfulness practice, I actually find that it’s very helpful to keep your eyes open. In addition to that, it can be very helpful to align yourself somewhere where you have a view of something. It could just be a view of your house, a view of your room. Maybe you have a window you can look out of. We’re kind of giving ourselves this visual field that’s going to become part of the practice. This practice is unbelievable when done on the top of a mountain, or sitting at a beach, or at a park, or at sunset—but we’ll take whatever we’ve got. 
  2. As always, I like to start by just feeling the sensations in the body. Feeling a sense of relaxation trickle down from your head, through your neck, into your torso, your hips, your legs, all the way down into your feet. Relaxation, it turns out, is the key to this practice. You might also notice the breath. Notice the sensations happening with each inhale and exhale. 
  3. Now let’s turn our attention to the first element of this bigger view: the big mind. And that is the visual field. So just for fun, let’s start by picking an object in your visual field. One small, tiny object. Maybe it’s a tree outside. Maybe it’s a chair in your room. It doesn’t matter what it is, but we’re going to start with the opposite of the wide view that we’re trying to cultivate. Focus in on this one small thing as intently as you possibly can. Bringing all of your visual perception to this one small dot of awareness. Let’s do it for about ten more seconds…and now drop all effort. 
  4. Let your eyes relax. Notice that almost automatically, after a moment of focus like that, the mind just sort of relaxes into this wider, bigger view. Notice what it’s like now to see the panoramic view of whatever’s in front of you. You’re not trying, you’re not effort-ing. You’re just allowing yourself to take in this view, to gaze at what’s in front of you. In a relaxed way, you can even imagine the edges of your visual field slowly expanding. It’s like you’re now the wide-angle camera on your phone. And we do this from a spirit of allowing and receptivity. You’re just allowing yourself to be in this state where you’re gazing at the world in panoramic awareness. The big view. 
  5. Now let’s add one more piece to this. Begin to notice sound. We’re now going to add auditory perception. Just notice sounds that are close by from this open, receptive, relaxed state. You might even notice the sound of each breath. And now allow the scope of your hearing to expand. Noticing sounds in the room. Maybe there’s the sound of ventilation. 
  6. And now in a relaxed and gentle way, allowing yourself to notice sounds even further off into the distance. Maybe the sound of the breeze outside, the sound of birds, just relaxing into this wide, big view. Eyes relaxed and open. Ears relaxed and open. And now we might add one more sense. As you hold this wide open gaze and you hear the sounds you might also notice that sensation is happening in the body. That’s also part of this view. 
  7. Now see what happens when you just allow the sensations of the body to be part of this view. Noticing that your awareness, the scope of your mind, keeps getting bigger, broader, wider, vast. Noticing the visual field. Noticing sounds. Noticing sensations. No attempt to change. Relaxing into things as they are. Seeing this moment with this totally fresh, wide open view. 
  8. Chances are, if you’re new to a practice like this, it takes a little bit of effort and concentration to stay with this kind of a wide open perspective. So the invitation for the next minute or two is to drop that effort. Don’t try. But see if you can still stay connected in some way to this wide open view. If you feel even the slightest part of yourself wanting to push your eyes open or your ears open, or expand the size of your mind, let that go. No effort, but staying in this relaxed, receptive view. Now see if you can just stay in this effortless open view for the next 30 seconds or so. And now, before we come back, I want to give you a few moments just to explore and investigate this bigger perspective.
  9. Staying where you are, just noticing any differences between the way you ordinarily see life or the world, and the way you’re seeing it now. Comparing and contrasting the big mind that we’ve been trying to cultivate to the small mind, which, for most of us, is our home base. 
  10. Now you can bring yourself here. We never really left. For me, when I enter that state of mind, or that mindfulness practice around opening awareness, the scope of the mind, it often feels like my mind becomes almost like a security camera, that I’m just watching the feed of this camera, listening to the feed of the microphones, watching whatever’s happening. It tends to be really boring and not very interesting, but it starts to become incredibly interesting the more my perspective widens. 
  11. One of the things I’d like to do before you go is to give you a practice that you can take with you for the rest of the day, a way of integrating this shift from the small mind to the big mind into your everyday life. The way to do this is really quite simple. It’s to imagine several times throughout the rest of the day that you’re seeing whatever it is that you’re seeing from the perspective of a mountain top. Or maybe it’s the perspective of a beach. Pick your favorite natural metaphor. The basic idea is that if you catch yourself feeling stressed out, or if you notice that you’ve spent the last 45 minutes scrolling Instagram on your phone with a tight-gripped stare, just take 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 30 seconds, to see whatever’s happening from the mountain top. In fact, it can be quite interesting to bring this big perspective into something like email, or the document you’re working on, or surfing the news, or whatever it is. It’s actually so radically different that it can change your entire perspective of some of these things that make up a big part of our day. So that’s the homework for the rest of the day: three moments where you are seeing whatever’s happening in life from the mountaintop, and then see what happens.

Never Miss a Meditation

Enter your email below to get new podcast episodes delivered straight to your inbox! You’ll also get insights from expert mindfulness teachers and exclusive deals on Mindful Shop products, events, and more.