Seeing the Big Picture 2:5
…continued from You Are Not Doing This Alone
I believe that desperation is a great motivator and that most spiritual pursuits are fueled by desperate conditions and situations. Crisis often brings out the best in people. For the duration of the crisis we put aside our petty problems and focus on the matter at hand. Time and time again I see this simple theory in practice as communities come together after natural disasters, participating in a joint effort to rebuild their lives. Witness the behavior of the people in Atlanta after the bomb explosion during the summer 1996 Olympics. People at the site who weren’t hurt stayed to help those who were rather than running in fear and thinking only of themselves. In such cases, people seem to step outside themselves, outside their self-centered lives, and begin to care deeply about the world around them and the welfare of others. Chances are, their view of the world permanently shifts. Awareness is piqued, and they no longer exist only for themselves. Their true self is heard and rises to the occasion.
Did you ever spend extended time in bed as a child with chicken pox, measles, a broken limb, or something more serious? Such a forced withdrawal from the world can be an opportunity to see the world from a new angle. If it happens when we’re very young, we may not already have a fixed or rigid outlook on life. Such experiences are often the most vivid for us, the ones we most cherish from our bag of memories. Something happens during these times that shifts our perspective on our small world, though we probably can’t quite articulate it yet. We may even have trouble understanding it now. We experienced pain, our normal world was turned upside down, and we had to adjust ourselves to the circumstances and not focus on what we were missing. We had to take advantage of the possibilities in this new situation.
As adults, catastrophic experiences such as a heart attack, loss of a job, or the break-up of a relationship can send us spinning into fear and self-pity. But how many people do you know who have used such occasions as opportunities to reevaluate their lives and priorities? Calamitous events can shock us into seeing things differently. Pleasant events and achievements can also serve to shift our awareness, but it has been my personal experience (and that of many others) that the painful events are the most powerful in opening our eyes.
While each of us can become complacent in our life, waking to the bigger world only with a catastrophic shock, it is not necessary to wait for such an event before we seek to transform our lives.
We can make some progress along this road before we are faced with a disaster, as is inevitable. And once we take this road, normal life events such as illness and death will no longer be seen as disastrous but will be taken in stride, even with the pain.
As we grow up we develop and nurture our own specific view of the world. This view is influenced by our families, our neighbors, our experiences, and our own self-nature. We might, as we mature, learn by our so-called mistakes. Perhaps with each little hurt experienced along the way we learn to avoid certain situations or people. Maybe we steel our hearts against further pain, until our world gets smaller and smaller and our hearts and minds get tighter and more fearful. We see things our way and are too afraid to entertain or even allow other views. This may sound extreme, and maybe you even pride yourself on your open mind. Congratulations. Then you are ready for this. But I think that most of us, if we are truly honest with ourselves, have some degree of fear, especially when it comes to change.
All it takes to learn to see again is an open mind, an open heart, self-honesty, and humility.
As you learn to see your world in a new light, more than just your vision will change. All your senses will be touched and eventually transformed by these new awarenesses. As your world gets shaken up, you will begin to hear things differently. The voices from without and within will register as they never have before. You will begin to hear the truth of your inner self. At first you may not even recognize it, hut if you listen long and hard enough you will begin to become aware of it. So. Open your eyes. Open your ears. Open your heart. And you will he fine.
To be continued…