Friday, April 5, 2013

Perception ...

Hi everyone! This has been a busy week what with travelling back from a retreat at the Bethlehem Retreat Centre, (my favourite quiet get-away, which I highly recommend to any of you wanting a simple, beautiful, nurturing environment in which to recharge your batteries), and Easter weekend with my surrogate family in Nanaimo and then getting ready for a workshop with the Q'wemtsin Health Society in Kamloops next week.

Despite the busyness, I've had two opportunities to notice what a difference perception can make to any situation in our lives. The first opportunity was on Wednesday morning as I considered going to my thrice-weekly aquafit class. Looking at my to-do list, I knew I would have to rush to get to the pool on time and that going home to shower and change before my afternoon meeting would likely cut into my lunch break. All of a sudden, the class became just one more thing to fit in - more of a burden than a help. I eventually decided to go to the pool anyway and as I slipped into the water I was surprised to remember the wise words of a grief counsellor I worked with during Derrick's illness:

Jan, there are two ways of "being" in the water. You can go and slog through the exercise routine, feeling bored and worrying the whole time time about the things you should or could be doing at home. Or, you can be truly present in the moment, consciously perceiving the refreshing, cool, wetness of the water against your skin; its buoyancy as it supports and carries you; the exercises, themselves, gently stretching the tension from your neck and shoulders; the joy of the music and the waves, both enlivening your spirit.

Two very different perceptions of the same activity, one helpful and the other, not so much. When I consider the difference between the two, I realize that, for me, perception is a matter of choice. If I look at the class as something I "have" to do, I feel stressed and resentful. If I see it as a source of nurturing, buoyant support, and veriditas in the middle of my day, it feeds and refreshes me.

The second opportunity to notice perception at work came yesterday as I walked into Granville Market to have a latte while I did some writing. As I walked the length of the Market, I became aware of white and blue posters on each of the twelve thick wooden posts supporting the roof. The posters were labelled, Poetry in Transit, and each sported the work of a BC poet. The one I liked best was called I am not old by Samantha Reynolds from her book, bentlily: a collection of poems:

I am not old

I am not old, she said
I am rare

I am the standing ovation
at the end of the play

I am the retrospective
of my life
as art

I am the hours
connected like the dots
into good sense

I am the fullness
of existing

you think I am waiting to die
but I am waiting to be found

I am a treasure
I am a map
these wrinkles are imprints
of my journey

ask me

Rare. Standing ovation. Art. Good sense. Treasure.  These are not the words we usually associate with aging and yet what a wonderful picture they paint of the second half of life. Once again, choice is at the core of perception. While we can't choose the manner or length of our aging, we can choose our perception of the process. Perceiving ourselves and aging others as rare treasures waiting to be found, with wisdom and good sense to offer, is much different from perceptions of helplessness, hopelessness, and infirmity. Once we become aware of our automatic perceptions, we have the opportunity to reframe them.

So, what about you? What are the areas in your life where you could use a perception tune-up? Think of the situations where you routinely feel discouraged or out-of-sorts. Is there a chance that becoming more conscious and reframing your perceptions could make a difference to those parts of your day? (I don't mean that we should "just put on a happy face" in difficult situations. But we might be able to find a way to put the best spin on things that integrity will allow and then reap the benefits in both mood and energy. Why not give it a try?


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