Peanut Butter, Jelly, and Perception

August 16, 2018
Reading time: 3 minutes
Appreciation, Spiritual Tools


One of the more profound teachings of Kabbalah is that everything that happens to you is meant to happen. Everything. Every time. Without exception. This probably feels very aligned when the thing in question is something that you perceive as being good. It is decidedly less easy to accept when that something is unfavorable or challenging. This is where the power of perception comes into play. How we choose to perceive things literally changes our experience of them.

I recently read an article by Kent Callison, the Director of Marketing for GameTime. In the article, he describes an experience that powerfully illustrated just how vital perception can be; making peanut butter sandwiches for his kids.

His kids love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but despise the end pieces of bread loaves. While I doubt anyone particularly loves the end pieces, when push comes to shove, we’ll definitely eat them in the midst of a PB & J craving. However, as a mother, I understand picky eaters and know firsthand that “push” and “shove” won’t help you when your kids don’t want to eat something. Enter; a shift in perception.

Callison goes on to describe being caught by his wife throwing away an empty bag of bread with the two end pieces still inside. When she asked why he was throwing out two perfectly good pieces of bread, he explained how their kids just won’t eat them. Her response floored him.

“She told me they ate them all the time. The trick was to turn the slices over so that the brown outsides were on the inside. That way the sandwich looks like it is supposed to.”

He tried her method and, lo and behold, it worked. His daughter happily ate her peanut butter sandwich never realizing that it was made with end pieces because to her eyes it looked right.

It is a simple yet profound example. Our perception of reality is, in fact, more important than the reality we are perceiving. In the story, the sandwich didn’t actually change, but the daughter’s perception of it did. As a result, she was able to enjoy something delicious that she would have otherwise pushed away.

How often does this happen to us in life? Opportunities and blessings appear to us all the time but because our perception is skewed, we reject them, push them away, or miss them entirely!

I’m going to ask you to step into your negative perception for a moment. This might feel counterintuitive but stay with me. Make a list right now of your “end pieces” — the things in your life you just don’t like and wish you could throw out. These could be aspects of your job, your daily routine, a relationship, or anything that you feel gets in the way of you being able to fully enjoy your experience.

Now ask yourself how these things could be blessings in disguise. You don’t have to do anything about them or take any action; just pretend you’re putting on a pair of perception-shifting glasses and simply observe.

How could that challenging relationship be a blessing?

How could that failed project actually be an opportunity?

How could that frustrating change of plans actually be a really good thing?

The kabbalists explain that what we physically see in our life is merely an out-picturing of what exists in the unseen world of our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. Our inner lives make up 99% of what we experience. And that other 1%? That is what we experience with our five senses. The world that we see around us accounts for 1% of our experience. That’s the tippiest-tip of the iceberg.

This being the case, when we experience negativity, we are more likely than not overly focusing on this 1% aspect. Our perception is only on the physical circumstance. Again, everything that happens to us happens for a reason. If we take a step back, refocus our lenses, and choose a different perspective, that circumstance will literally change before our eyes, revealing the truth. Just like a sandwich that would have once been considered disgusting instantly became a delicious lunchtime meal.

It isn’t our fault that our perception is skewed. We are conditioned — both evolutionarily and societally — to look for what’s wrong with everything. But we can even apply a shifted perception to this as well! Instead of perceiving negativity as a true response to something that inherently terrible, see it as nothing more than an invitation to shift your perception. A warning light on the dashboard of your consciousness that is helping you to release old patterns of thought and see the good all around you in each moment.

Rewiring our brains for positivity takes time and patience, but just like any other positive change, baby steps are the best way to go. The next time you feel like your life is bringing you “end pieces,” take it as a sign to shift the way you perceive the situation. I’m willing to bet that something surprisingly wonderful is just waiting there for you to notice it.



Turn your end pieces over! This week, when something that seems negative occurs, ask yourself how it could actually be a good thing. See how this changes your experience of it and feel free to share in the comments.

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