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My husband just paused in my office door. “If I ask you to close your eyes and imagine a pine tree, do you see a pine tree?” I closed my eyes, saw a beautiful long-needle pine swaying gently in a breeze. “Yes. Why?” He’d been reading an article in the issue of Shambhala Sun I’d left open, in which Thich Nhat Hanh gives the instruction to imagine a pine tree, which then moves into the realization of interconnectedness. But my husband was stuck on the initial instruction. “When I close my eyes I see the elements of the pine tree–needles, cones, the shape, the type of limbs, and then I have to assemble them. But I know how easily you see things in your mind’s eye. I had a hunch you’d close your eyes and see the whole tree.” He’s an engineer. I’m a story-teller, story–seer. We’re a great team.

A friend recently confided that she doesn’t read fiction because she can’t see the story in her head, not the actions, not the people, not the places. She always wondered what people meant when they talked about getting lost in the world of the book, and when she finally understood she felt so sad that she lacked that gift.

Another friend, one of my first readers, describes her reading experience as “movies in my head,” which makes her an immensely helpful editor, because she gets a hit as if the film’s been poorly spliced when something’s amiss in a scene, someone shows up in a room without having entered, a character jumps locations or changes outfits in mid-scene.

I love learning how differently we think. When you close your eyes, can you see a pine tree?

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