We are disturbed not by what happens to us,
but by our thoughts about what happens.
The last of the human freedoms is
in any given set of circumstances.- Victor Frankl
I am, of course, not talking about lying or being dishonest with yourself. But there typically is more than one accurate way to look at things. To illustrate this…consider a story many of us have probably heard before. That of The Blind Men and the Elephant.
The story goes, that several blind men were describing an elephant based on the part of the elephant they were able to touch. The one standing by the tail described the elephant as rope. The one by the trunk had a very different perspective and described it as a branch….the ear felt like a fan, the body like a wall…and so on….
Each was limited in their perception by the part of the elephant they could touch. In addition, each of them felt they were right. They began to fight and defend their perspective until a wise man passed by. He pointed out that each of them was “right” in their description, but limited. They learned that other perspectives could be just as “right” as their own. Only by being willing to listen to the other points of view and sharing their own view, could they all grasp the totality of the elephant.
So far, we have primarily talked about things like weather and traffic. It becomes an even more powerful technique when you stretch a little bit to consider situations in your life and people around you. The “elephant” in the above situation could be your boss, the kids, the political system, the election, your ex-boyfriend, any thing else in your life that is causing you stress.
If you wish to give this a try, pause the I-pod/CD/tape in your head, become aware of the content of the I-pod….. My suggestion (as always) would be to start with something small....something that doesn't really bother you too much in order to practice.
- Think about what you are telling yourself about the situation or issue.
- Notice how you label it? Good? Bad? Terrible? Horrible? Catastrophic? (this is the “story” you make up or the part that comes after the comma from last month.)
- Notice how thinking those things makes you feel.
- Ask yourself, “Is this the way I want to experience my life?” (If you are happy with your experience of this situation, then try again later with a different situation. I am relatively certain that everyone can think of at least one thing to which this might apply!)
- Do I believe that changing this is within my control?
- Do I want to give up my peace of mind to external factors such as the weather, traffic, other people or external situations?
- Ask yourself if your judgment of the situation is really true and complete? Are you seeing the whole elephant?
- If you are certain that it is true, ask if it is serving you? If it is not, make a conscious effort not to put your attention on it. (More on that in a later post!)
- Ask yourself if you can change your perspective. That might mean looking at something from a different angle, broadening your view of the situation or considering someone else's perspective.…like the men and the elephant….or looking at the EPCOT ball from a different angle.
I’ll start with myself….. As many of you know, I used to work in the tax department of a bank. Each year, April 15 was a huge, overwhelming deadline. Supervising preparation, and making sure all the returns got either filed or extended was not always fun……..I used to feel that it wasn't possible to get all the work finished in time for the deadline…..Hhhmmm….am I making up any stories here? Do you think those judgments are making me feel particularly good? Is this the way I want to experience my life? (About now, those of you who know me may be about to say obviously not, and point out that I no longer work there…….but I did for 6 tax seasons…..so back to our story…)
One of the candidates, said the following about gun control, “We might not agree on gun control, but we can agree that automatic weapons should not be in the hands of juvenile gang members…..”
Not just gun control, (comma) is a good thing or gun control, (comma) is a bad thing like we talked about last month. This candidate offered a third option….of keeping guns out of the hands of gang members. That's a broader perspective!
For one more photo on perspective, please take a look at the picture of the month shown below. Any idea about where this might be? It is from the perspective of looking down from the top at a very good friend of mine! It will tell you where in the caption. Next month, we'll talk more about the actual process of changing a thought or a judgment, but until then.... remember to check out the whole elephant or change the perspective on the EPCOT ball in your own life!
I would love to hear about the "elephants" in your life! Please submit your feedback, as well as any questions you may have, or topics you may be interested in for the future, to the blog under the comments section below.
If you prefer, you may also send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . All posts will be archived on my blog along with other useful information at:
Simply Spirituality or
Until next month....
Here's hoping you keep your spirituality simple!