The gift of perspective:
Stepping back from the flip-chart
In March, I had the pleasure of speaking at the annual School Leaders Conference organised by Exeter diocese. I’d been asked to talk about how meditation can help us live, work and lead more collaboratively and compassionately. For most people present, meditation in the Christian tradition (or any tradition) was completely new to them.
As it turned out, the conference took place just a week before the first national lockdown. Needless to say, everyone was deeply concerned about the impact of Covid-19 on the children in their care and the communities they live and work within.
So, I decided to drop a lot of what I’d planned to say, and tried to make our time together as straightforward and practical as possible.
I began by writing PROBLEM in large letters on a presentation flipchart and asked for a volunteer to stand just a few inches in front of it.
When I asked what she could see, she replied, “Problem.”
I then asked if she could take a step back and tell us what she could see. This time she replied, “Problem, and a little bit of the room”.
Each time she stepped back she could see more of the room. She could still see the PROBLEM, of course. It was there, real, in big black letters. And it wasn’t going away. Life has a habit of happening and it needs to be faced.
But with each step back, her field of vision opened and her relationship to the PROBLEM was changed. With each step, she was encountering the PROBLEM in an expanded, more spacious context.
During our periods of practice, the “problem” we learn to step back from is whatever thought or feeling happens to be flowing through our mind. We don’t try to suppress thoughts and feelings or run away or hide from them. We simply greet them without comment, release them, and return to our practice.
In this simple way, we learn to step back, to enter a more spacious and peaceful relationship with life. We discover a space of opportunity in which we have more freedom to decide how we want to relate to all that life offers us, or throws at us.
We discover the gift of peace that is always available beneath the noise of our thoughts and feelings: a gift we can share with those around us.