January 14, 2013 · 4:52 pm
Perspective is the kind of tool that we don’t normally even think of as a tool, let alone attempt to understand it’s impact on our lives. Looking toward the beginning of a new year, it makes sense to take a closer look at how our perspective affects what we do and our view of who we are. For the most part we consider our perspective to reflect the reality of ourselves and the world around us. We function as if our view of life is a mirror giving a clear image of everything exactly as it is. Might there be a bit more to it than that?
There seems to be a continuum on which our perspective, on any given day or at any given moment, is poised. Not to say that one is good or bad or better than the other, but it can be important to distinguish which is which. How does this perspective or point of view or frame of reference serve us now? What can we learn from viewing what’s happening from a different perspective? How can we keep from getting stuck in one way of seeing or understanding and develop the ability to shift perspective? The bigger question is whether we have a choice in how to view what’s happening in the moment of being in it.
I suspect we develop an affinity for some particular way of looking at ourselves and our life situations. We may have a propensity for diving into a narrow view or a close up of what we are looking at. It can be a matter of focus – sometimes it is more functional to focus awareness on what is right in front of us and other times it serves us better to step back and take a broader view. But there must be a level of awareness that helps us discern which view to lean into or away from.
Sometimes the situations in which we find ourselves cause a shift in our view without our even being aware. When life offers what feels like too much, in the midst of shock or overwhelm, it can seem that we have lost perspective. Unable to focus on detail or take in the bigger picture, how is it possible to sort through what is in front of you? Seems the first step is to appreciate exactly where you are right now – breathing in and out in a conscious way, feeling your body whatever way it is at the moment and simply noticing. Being mindful of what’s happening now.
Most of what gets in the way during times like these is the drive to act or respond in the face of not knowing what to do next. Or it may be the desire for the situation to be different. In either case, your energy is committed to this drive or that desire. If instead, you take a deep breath and allow yourself to be fully where you are, you open up space for a shift in perspective and a choice to be made. Being in the present moment supports your ability to step back and take in the bigger picture and also to focus in on the detail but to do both in a less energetically attached way.
Appreciate that this way of being present to yourself is essentially a moment of freedom. Enjoy it. Savor it. Acknowledge that it will change. And smile, because you can always get it back.
November 16, 2012 · 9:38 am
How richly important it is to appreciate the ways in which we bring our stories forward into the present of our daily lives. We carry the history of who we are in days, months and years past in the cellular memory throughout our body-mind. These form the narrative of who we believe ourselves to be today. Undoubtedly this ongoing story line shapes the way we negotiate life, helping us to categorize experiences and recognize similarities in new situations as we move into future moments. It forms the basis of learning and supports the foundation of our growth into adulthood and in life.
Yet, while it is essential to our survival as a species, we are prone to add elements to the story, extra details, emotional overtones, alternate endings (or beginnings), hidden meanings or agendas. It sometimes seems as if we judge the original screenplay too simple, begging us to embellish the bare bones to make it more of whatever we want it to be. Another way in which we create a more fuller narrative about who we are is by surrounding ourselves with objects. Each object carried forward becomes a repository for additional aspects of the story of who we are, who we have been, who we will be going forward or who we want to be in the eyes of others.
Object acquisition may seem like a foreign concept since the way we grasp onto things is so much a part of our routine pattern of behavior that it seems beyond normal. It fulfills a need; it’s part of the everyday. Maybe, if we are so inclined, we can, through the practice of mindfulness meditation or yoga, come to see how we become attached to the objects we have. And we might even create an intention to let go of objects not needed any longer or develop a different perspective on the items we keep. This shift requires that we interrupt the connective threads that bind us to these things, changing the way we see or understand the meaning or purpose of an object. In this manner, we might feel that we have taken a few more steps along the path of wisdom.
Or, so it seems, until some great event befalls us where many of the possessions we have are destroyed. Hurricane Sandy has resulted in just such a huge emptying out, all at once, in a manner that felt more like a physical wrenching and breaking apart. And, as much as we hold the sense of what has happened as a mere letting go of objects and not a greater loss, attention must be paid to the personal stories that are woven amongst the wreckage. In the pile of refuse are things that had some meaning for us, and herein lie the narrative of our lives. There may be treasures, utilitarian items, even some that were long ago forgotten in a box, others in the process of being let go, given away or thrown out. Memories of some sort are associated with all of them. In the moments of clearing out these remnants of destruction, we are asked to let go of these parts of our history.
It’s important to realize that we have choices about how we let these objects go. Some carry memories that need to be loved as we release them. Some that deserve acknowledgment of the purpose they served. Some are simply reminders, placeholders of an earlier time – or perhaps not so simple in that they stir emotions as they lie there, tangled in the past and present. I wonder if the biggest choice that faces us is in the understanding that these objects and the history that they represent are not who we really are. It can be okay to let them go, coming back to what’s happening now and the fullness of who we are in this moment.
October 7, 2011 · 7:23 pm
Suppose you are at an edge, standing at a point where moving forward feels like stepping off into the unknown yet staying where you are is increasingly uncomfortable, and, of course, moving backward isn’t even a choice. What happens now?
Sounds like a big deal – yet we do this over and over again every day. Mostly, however, moving forward happens within the context of what we know and what is familiar. Driving the car, making a call, walking down the street – all these actions happen without us knowing exactly what will happen next. We do, for the most part, have expectations based on past experiences that allow us to take up these activities with confidence or ease. But if enough about the activity is outside our familiar set of past experiences, then the sense of the unknown surfaces. How we meet this can range from anxious resistance to enthusiastic excitement.
Think of children for whom almost all experiences are unknown. Would any of us have learned to walk or run if we chose staying with what is familiar? Or if we had a lengthy internal conversation about what was about to happen next? Unlikely! So we all have the capacity to choose moving forward, taking the next step, even in the face of not knowing.
Consider how we meet these edges in our life situations – right now, today. Could it be that what seems edgy to us does so because some aspect of it strikes us at our core? How do we choose moving forward or staying when our perception of what is at stake is the sense of who we are or what our truth is? It isn’t simply about “not knowing.” What stirs us is the dissonance of the potential before us compared with what we think of ourselves, our idea of who we are, our self image. Perhaps this is actually the edge of awareness. And our choice is to explore and take the next step or hunker down and stay put.
So, what might make the difference in how we choose? If you go back to the childhood reference, moving forward was possible then because we felt safe, accepted and had a sense that someone had our back if things didn’t go well. Or else the motivation was that consequences of failing weren’t clear and/or the risk seemed worth it. Or simply being curious.
How to bring some more of that curiosity into how we make choices to explore edges and step out into the unknown as who we are right now? Can we use the tools we have and the gifts we’ve been offered? Meditation, mindfulness techniques and yoga can support the sense of who we are and strengthen the ability to take the next step. They can provide a safe home and make it easier to move forward. Yoga therapy, in particular Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, offers a unique structure for supporting this kind of exploration of the edge – one in which you can explore with safety and acceptance, with the sense of someone having your back. What matters most in the way you meet your edges is that you get to choose – how far, how fast, even whether to go at all…