Shifting Perspectives

Shifting perspectives...sometimes it is something we pursue: a different take on our lives, a new angle on our relationships, a renewal of excitement for our work, the capacity to have more patience, more energy, less frustration, a change that will help us experience greater ease in life … but sometimes we are forced to shift perspectives.

Recently I had the misfortune of having way too much fun on a mountain bike and found myself launched into the air, well over the handlebars, and then…wham…shoulder, meet ground.  The ER doc said it was a grade 5 AC separation (that’s medical talk for no bueno). I was looking at surgery and months of rehab before I would be back to any semblance of the active lifestyle I was used to living. Oddly, or maybe not so oddly but in fact perfectly and synchronistically-timed, I had recently been struggling with some emotional challenges that had me feeling an internal grade 5 separation. Completely disoriented in my personal life, I had surprisingly found a new and stabilizing relationship with myself. This was echoed in last month’s post about living the questions. In the midst of storm and chaos, I found stillness, grounding, and solidity in just being… and now here I am, literally forced into just being. Not the practice I was going for… but maybe I asked for it. So here, in this shifted perspective, what do I find?

Gratitude… for the exercise machines at the gym. For real. Even though our local YMCA is in the middle of a huge renovation and the machines have been moved to the windowless gymnasium, the furthest thing from the freedom I feel recreating outside, I still get to sweat! And this doesn’t happen on a walk in the neighborhood, and I’m not recovered well enough to take to the trails with a backpack… I am so incredibly grateful for this resource!

Reawakening…I am remembering how much I love to read. I used to spend hours as a child curled up in the other worlds of novels and stories. Somewhere along the way of grad school, the internet, and more activities taking me outside, I forgot how nurturing this could be.

Redefining…I have a new interest in my food. A relationship that has been a bit like a roller coaster over the years, I have certainly improved my nutrition and health steadily since college, but often times this improvement has come from a place of “should”… now I am genuinely interested in and excited by the idea of choosing health in my daily meals. I am treating my body well, including appreciating the imperial stout that starts getting released this time of year, or the fall baking season... but it feels different this time. These “indulgences” feel like part of a more complete picture, along with my massaged kale salads and roasted butternut squash 20 ways (in soups, salads, quinoa, thinking of adding it to a smoothie next! ;)

Receiving…. This is the big one. For many years now I have been working on my ability to receive… as I tend to be more action oriented, which might sound like a strength in that I like to give to others, but the shadow side is that I also like to be in control of how people give to me. And in this moment of extremely limited mobility, I am learning to receive love in the ways that others want to give it… when I’m able to put down my own agenda and be open to the various forms that love takes, I experience the gift more fully, and it washes over me like a warm shower.

(Showers are less frequent these days, so that analogy feels especially fitting.)

What does it take to shift perspectives? Hopefully not a grade 5 injury of any kind (physical, emotional, relational, spiritual...). Rather, can we look for opportunities in our daily lives?

For example, I recently led a group of “Active Moms” on a night hike in a very well used recreational forest outside of town. What was a familiar set of trails became a new experience, which allowed these women to notice their thoughts, emotions, and internal sensations without the familiar narration they normally apply. In just 10 minutes of silence under the stars and overlooking the lake, one woman gained a new perspective on a family argument that opened the door for her to find forgiveness and peace; another found, while desperately searching for answers of how to fix her current circumstances, that nothing is truly broken to begin with… and that she and her family are in the process of building something beautiful.

Can we look for opportunities to shift perspectives in the world around us? Perhaps it’s in two minutes of our morning routine, pausing to notice the way the light peaks over the horizon…or maybe it is in the mindfulness of meal preparation, seeing the vibrant colors and tasting with our eyes, our hands, our breath…or just in a moment of standing still, feet planted firmly in the ground, and looking up into the changing colors of the leaves. If we bring curiosity, attention to this moment, and a willingness to see something different, perhaps we will find a new perspective waiting.