Problems, Perspective, Practice and Grace

Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash

One simple practice that I have been using to regain perspective in the middle of difficult problems.

This happened to me today. I lost perspective for a while today – like standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon with a piece of paper in front of my face, all I would see is the paper. I didn’t just lose sight of everything around as I stared into the paper (the problem), I lost my hearing, sense of smell, taste and touch as the problem consumed me. Worse yet, I started to rehearse a narrative about my position within the problem, and it had a heavy sense of “victim” to it. As the narrative played on, I began to lose my sense of identity and hope for a positive outcome; a better tomorrow.

I decided to try to write about it, thinking that my cathartic practice of blogging would help, but my narrative continued, and the only thing that would have come of the process was the spread of infection. I stepped back from the problem for a moment and decided to be present. I forced myself to listen for what I was not hearing. In just a few minutes, I heard geese, ducks, a mourning dove, two woodpeckers, a meadowlark, a song sparrow, some house sparrows, and a chickadee. I went for a walk, and left the problem (mostly) behind. I saw the work of beavers at the lakeside, thought about this year’s tick population (low so far), felt the cool air landing fresh on my cheeks, and felt my chest warm up under the protection of my hoodie. My legs felt strong and I noticed a sense of reward for all the high intensity interval training that I have been doing lately.

All of this (and much, much more) was missing from my life as I was absorbed in the problem. Well, in actuality, it was not missing, I just couldn’t sense it’s presence, for I was not present.

Perspective is everything. Though we never see the whole of the  any situation, its easy to think that what we see is all there is to see and know, and this partial view forms our narrative of what we believe to be true of the whole…which becomes a dangerous practice, as we can end up making very bad decisions based in our limited understanding.

This issues is just as damaging in the larger context of life. We can very easily come to be absorbed in our circumstantial problems and lose all sense of the wonder and beauty of life. Just as if we were standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon with a piece of paper in front of our face, the narrative we begin to rehearse is flat and monochromatic, blinding us to the manifold diversity and marvel of creation.

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” ― Anne Frank

When this happens, we need only pause, reset our focus, get present and use our senses to detect what we have been missing. Instead of rehearsing the narrowed narrative of the victim, we can remind ourself that we have been created with care and intentionality and with such complexity that if the code were to be written into books, from our single human DNA strand, the books would fill the very grand canyon we stood in front of. With this magnitude of evidence supporting the knowledge of design intentionality, how can it be reasonable to believe, even for a moment, that we are defined by a problem?

I confess that I am not good at this all the time. I regress back to old narratives quickly. I get focussed on problems and see them as defining. I lose sight of my intrinsic significance as the temporal deceives me into thinking I have none, and/or that I can improve my significance in some way. I only know one way to win: Grace. To give up is self-imposed defeat, so to let go and resume the practice of moving forward in the larger narrative of life is the better option – by far.