Yesterday morning I hiked down the ridge on which I live and enjoyed a cup of coffee by the lake. I took a few deep breaths. I allowed my surroundings to come to me. The sound of chipmunks rustling in the brush. Fish leaping from the water for breakfast before returning with a kerplunk. Turtles poking their beaks through the surface for a breath of air.
The still water mirrored the trees lining the bank in the soft morning sunlight. Well, not exactly mirrored. The reflection, while crisp, was not a duplicate image. The wind stirred the waters causing the reflected image to blur.
Photo by Tom Smith, Whitewater Lake
The scene generated a metaphor. The trees on the shoreline represent a current life event. The water represents our mind as we process our thoughts and emotions surrounding the event. The wind represents other stresses, hopes, and hurts we carry that impact the clarity of our reflection on the situation. The greater the stress, the less clarity.
Having clarity around an issue offers fresh perspectives that often reveal possibilities otherwise missed. Space is created to better understand another person’s point of view, for example, while acknowledging our role.
How might we become more intentional about making time for reflection to gain greater clarity? What can we do to calm the waters of our mind before entering a time of thoughtful reflection?
Developing a Reflection Practice
Remember, it takes effort to form new habits. My first move in developing a reflection practice is placing great enough value on the clarity it produces to schedule time for it on my calendar. Currently, I aim for 20-30 minutes on the first Friday of each month.
My reflection time begins with taking three deep breaths paying attention to any thoughts or feelings that might hinder me from fully engaging in this work. I imagine placing each thought in a box then placing the box on a shelf reminding myself that I will return to them after my reflection time.
I then answer open ended questions like these:
· What burdens am I carrying?
· Where in my body do I feel it?
· Are these my burdens to carry?
· Which concern is most pressing?
· How is this issue important to me?
· What feelings is it producing?
· What might this issue teach me about myself?
· Describe a desirable resolution.
· What are two or three actions I can take this week?
· How will I celebrate once I’ve acted?
This isn’t an exhaustive list of questions and I recognize that my approach may not be optimal for you. My hope is you’ll consider this an invitation to develop a reflection practice and experience the benefits of greater clarity.
However you go about it, I believe that a reflection practice is a valuable tool in creating space for transformation.