Turning on my laptop this morning, I was greeted by the new screensaver image Microsoft randomly delivers each day. It was an aerial view of Niagara Falls, or what I like to call, a bird’s eye view.
I could see the wide u-shaped expanse of the water falling and several miles back on all sides where the US and Canada nearly meet. I could see a tourist boat floating near enough to the base of the Falls I couldn’t help imagining how wet those tourist were after that bouncy excursion!
So why am I telling you this in my psychologist’s blog, you ask and I would too.
What struck me as I observed the landscape was the juxtaposition of the calm water above the Falls until the turbulence of the water nearly falling and the heavy mist of water drops that soaked the tourist after it fell on their boat which rocks and rolls from the fall.
Is this not a metaphor for life? Everything is going along rather predictably and smoothly and then one-day, bammm! something shoves you over the edge, where you land with a crash and get bounced around from the after effects until you find a new stability and predictability sets and you feel stable. Or is it?
Try out his mindful viewpoint for contrast: You are relatively calm inside and everything else is relatively stable and running rather smoothly in your life. You are consciously grateful for this because you know it won’t always be like this, life has its ups and downs. You can’t predict what the future will bring and worring about it won’t have any effect on it, but it will negatively impact you. What you do have is now, the present moment, and in this moment you know you are fine. Fine meaning that you are handling it, and you can replace it with, in pain, or struggling or floating with happiness, in this moment. Then bammm! something happens that could throw your life into a tail spin. It depends on what you choose.
Essentially in that moment you have two choices, one is to be in the thick of it and at the effect of it. You’ll get bounced around for some time and often feel you have suffered in some way.
Your other choice is to take a bird’s eye view of what just occurred, without added drama or exaggerations, without resistance or running away, without blaming or defining or judging the situation that is unfolding. The bird’s view is from a place of calm, distance from the mist and froth, and a 360 degree view which together give the bird an enhanced understanding of all the factors impinging on that moment. The factors are out of the bird’s control in that moment which has passed, but the calm and distance perspective (known as the witness or observer) is decidedly not. As a result, the birds fly’s around, keeping it’s distance and perspective until there is a shift and it is led to a new awareness and responds from within this knowing.
In the first example, the person reacts and their life turns upside down or is at least emotional and choppy for a period of time. Their life changed and they feel a victim of it and are possibly suffering because of it, they believe. This gives them a sense of control and guidelines for handling the future. Otherwise, they personally remain relatively the same.
In the second example, the person responds, and their life is shifted or changed and perhaps they see things or themselves or others, differently than before this. This person and their life are changed too, because of the added experience. Often it’s perceived as a gift rather than something they had to suffer. Their life becomes calmer and stable sooner than the reactionary person’s life does
So if you find yourself perilously close to the edge of falling (perhaps a new year brings this feeling about), take a bird’s eye view; get some distance and calm yourself from within and realize what you are grateful for in this moment. If the bammm comes anyway, make a choice to react or to respond. Either takes seconds.
In mindfulness-based therapy, you’ll learn tools, including meditation, and how to view your life from a different point of view, leaving you free to fly to new horizons without fear of falling.