A Unitarian Universalist minister was once my student in a negotiation course. At the end of the course, by way of thanks, he gave me the gift of one of his books, a collection of reflections on life. There’s a gentle calmness about the collection, and one entry in particular that I return to again and again.
In Consider the Lilies: Meditations Rev. Stephen Shick reflects on a colleague who had a habit of putting the present moment into perspective by comparing it to well-known historical moments. He’d say things like, “We are in the same moment as the Union Army was at Gettysburg right before the reinforcements arrived.”
Stephen turned his friend’s historical predilection into a lovely meditation for tense and stressful moments:
“I began practicing viewing my own life as a historian might. When I felt particularly stressful I would get up from my desk, walk to the corner of the room, and watch myself at work. Often I would find myself laughing fondly at the man hunched tensely over his desk. Then I would briefly narrate the situation. This little exercise helped me to step outside of my self-centered view of the world. In our troubled world I am finding more need to be a disciplined observer of my own life.”
When you’re in tension with someone, or in a tough spot at work, such groan zone moments can take up a lot of real estate in your mind. That real estate can be a brownfield, full of toxins that poison you. Or the real estate can be a beautiful garden, filled with light, fresh air and inspiration.
Stephen chooses light and fresh air in his meditation. What do you choose?