Archive

Posts Tagged ‘reflection’

Illumination

September 29, 2014 4 comments

IMG_5247During the autumn months in New England, we coaches have a co-conspirator in Mother Nature. Wielding her paintbrush and bending the angle of the light to move the seasons, She forces us to take new perspectives and directs our attention to marvels un-seeable in the full sun of summer or the winter dark.

A visit yesterday to the Trustees of Reservations’ Coolidge Reservation in Manchester, Massachusetts stimulated some reflection for me. With good reason, light is probably our most common metaphor for understanding…enlightenment, illumination, clarity. To see something clearly is to truly understand it. But I think the light during the transition from summer to fall works a more subtle magic. To see something differently is to understand it differently. What looks like a beginning might be an ending, and vice versa.

What practices help you bend the angle of the light to see things differently throughout the year? Particularly when you feel confused or stuck?

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New Leaves, Same Roots

Core Values Venn DiagramWhat do you promise not to change this year?

No, I’m not trying to talk you out of your courageous commitment to new behaviors. As a matter of fact, I’m trying to help you. I want to see you eat better, exercise more, improve your listening skills, find time for reflection, stop driving like you’re the only important person on the road, etc. I totally support your intention to change!

And that’s why I’m asking you what you want to conserve.

Behavioral change can only stick if it’s intrinsically motivated—when we say, “I want to,” or “this matters to me,” rather than, “I should.”

Naming what matters to you will help you illuminate what you want to conserve—those core values that sustain your resolve to change. My intention to savor my food honors my values of gratitude and beauty. My determination to read more and watch less TV is grounded in values of language and intimacy.

When I work with clients to clarify their core values, we uncover gold mines of intrinsic motivators. Not all values inventories are as visually delightful as the one you see here, which so cheerfully embodies the client’s values of creativity and design (he told me I could share it with you). But however you format it, this is the kind of list that provides a solid foundation for choosing the life you want.

Victor Hugo advised: “Change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” What would happen if you started your year with a galvanizing look at your values? Please get in touch if you want some help with that.

Happy New Year!

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The Words We Use

Word cloud of dream languageA recent item in The Boston Globe entitled Fighting Words described how social media and marketing commentator Crystal Smith leveraged simple technology to illuminate the gender stereotypes that dominate television toy commercials.

Using the free online tool Wordle, Smith generated comparative word clouds of the nouns and verbs she heard most frequently in toy ads targeted to boys and girls.

I have to admit feeling dismayed by the stark picture of gender bias that her informal experiment revealed (although an interesting range of opinion is evident in the comments associated with Smith’s original post). But, at the same time, I was reminded about how useful a tool like Wordle can be in raising our awareness about the language that we use.

Have you tried using Wordle to uncover any hidden emphasis in your resume, or in your online bio, or in your marketing copy?

For example, I generated the word cloud above out of excerpts from my dream journal. I was not at all surprised to see water, car, or my son Matt’s name cropping up with some frequency. But look at how the words “going” and “back” stand out. Until I looked at this image, I hadn’t realized how often my dreams have a theme of travel; how often in my dreams I have the sense that I have gone someplace and I have to get back.

I loved discovering this thread of meaning in my dreams. I have followed it to some fruitful reflections about where I am in my life’s journey.

If you haven’t yet tried Wordle or another word cloud generator, I recommend that you do. You might be surprised to discover what pops out at you from your own words.

Shifting Vistas

For all my friends and clients who fret about feeling guilty or lazy when doing “nothing,” here’s a guest reflection from my wise sister Clare, reminding us all of the necessity for gazing…

NYC Skyline from Long Island CityGazing at eternity in skyscraper and pond

I guess I’ve always been a gazer. For as long as I remember, I’ve loved  to take time in the midst of my busy life to sit quietly and gaze, resting my eyes on vista—grand, simple, natural, human-made, moving, or still. The sights on which my eyes rest are portals to inner vistas; as I gaze out, I also gaze in, my consciousness free to wander in comfortable silence. This feels passive—but is it really a form of active inner learning?

I remember the last time I gazed out at the New York skyline. As I sat on my terrace on the East River’s east bank, bidding goodbye to my New York life, I felt the poignant turn of my own personal tide. The skyline show was a visual symphony of memory and feeling, and my emotions rose and fell with the surge of my shifting inner experience. This visual play allowed me to cement my inner understanding of my years there and to surf forward to what would come next.

And here I am now, in what came next. My newest vista is the small pond in my Virginia garden, with its cascading waterfall, graceful Japanese cherry tree, and ever-patient statue of a girl reading. When I first arrived, I was afraid my inner vista would shrink in this smaller life-view. But in fact, I think the opposite has happened. My reveries at the rock-edge of this pond have helped my awareness shift to the turning cycles of life, not just my own but the planet’s organic thrust and pull. Here, I feel the pulse of my consciousness as a member of the human community—dangling my feet in the water, I understand that we all recede and we all pour forth in an endless dance of connection and separation, growth and diminishment, life and its final cycle out.

And so, I realize that gazing is not just a passive rest from activity, but a necessary activity in itself, a practice of recharging of my inner eye to better equip me for my busy days. I wonder what my next vista will be?

Reflection

December 14, 2010 2 comments

Reflection at sunsetA couple of nights ago, at a service convened to sing in the Christmas season, the celebrant invited us to come back often. He suggested that his church, with the music it offers, creates an ideal spot for reflection and refuge from holiday stress.

I noticed how frequently we’re encouraged to “reflect” during this time of year, and I got to thinking about reflection. By its nature a relative term (reflection on…, reflection of…), the word reflection means, from its Latin roots, a bending back. To reflect is to reconsider something in a new light. Like a shadow or an echo or a memory, a reflection measures and translates the substance of the thing being reflected.

When my sister died in a flood four years ago today, there was no time for reflection. In shock, we were immediately occupied with the logistics of saying our unprepared and broken-hearted goodbyes. Yet in the months and years since losing Kate, I have repeatedly bent back to her life and her death in search of understanding and inspiration.

In that reflection I have found insight…

To reflect is simply to learn, and ultimately perhaps, to act with new awareness. More than just a trick of light, a reflection is less tangible but no less real than the thing that gives it being.

What are your reflections teaching you?