May 04th 2010 - What do You do When You Are Rear Ended by Reality?
Perhaps you've experienced this, or something like it. See if any of these scenarios sound familiar:
You enjoy a lovely lunch with a friend, conversating (I know it isn't a real word, but I like how it sounds) and connecting. You walk up to pay the bill, feeling happy and refreshed...and your card is declined.
Or maybe you've just stepped out of a successful meeting and you're feeling on top of the world...until you return to your office and get the email that lays a whole new load of tasks on your desk.
Perhaps you've just heard an inspiring speaker and you are feeling so excited that you share the message with a friend...and they tear it apart and devalue its purpose; leaving you to question its validity.
You may be drawing a sigh of relief, feeling financially stable for the first time in a long while...only to go to the mail and find a hefty, unexpected bill.
Or maybe you've just emerged from meditation, prayer or worship and you feel deeply spiritually connected...until you and your spouse have a disagreement and begin arguing.
It could even be the day after Christmas - or a birthday - or an anniversary...and you sense the emotional "let down" that sometimes hits after a big event.
Or you bring a new baby home after months of expectation and preparation; feeling proud, thrilled, elated...until sleep deprivation sets in.
Or, imagine returning home from a Disneyland vacation feeling joyful and happy. Quickly those positive feelings change to feeling perplexed, then shocked, then violated, then stressed when you find a pile of expensive electronic gadgets delivered to your house because someone at the rental car agency took your info and has been using your credit card for a week. (Yes, this actually happened.)
Or, like me, you could be driving home after a five day retreat, feeling filled-up, rested and relaxed...only to be rear-ended while sitting at a red light, totaling your car when you're 1200 miles from home.
No matter how wonderful our "mountaintop" experiences are, sooner or later we have to come down off the mountain and face reality.
Right now I am in Palm Springs, California. Two years ago my sister and I visited Palm Springs in June. It was HOT. I'm a Pacific Northwest girl, and anything over ninety-degrees is too hot for me. (When it's cold, you can put more clothes on, but there is only so much you can take off.) My sister and I spent all our time either in the pool or in an air-conditioned room. It was actually frustrating to have the weather be so nice and sunny, but too hot to enjoy. And then, one day we took the sky tram up the big mountain that overlooks Palm Springs. Oh, the sweet relief of moving up the mountain, the air growing cooler as the tram made its ascent. And at the top, what a view, a stunning vista laid out before us. The air was clean and fresh and the sky was clear. We were able to hike around and comfortably explore in the delightfully moderate temperature.
I have to be honest, I knew how hot it was down below and I felt reluctant to come down off the mountain. Of course I realized that I couldn't stay up there forever. The reality is that, no matter what heat we are going to face, sooner or later we have to come down. A mountaintop, by nature, is a temporary haven.
In the past I have perceived my mountaintop experiences in a number of ways. I have come down from the mountain, feeling that surely I will easily carry my newfound inspiration, revelation, renewed joy and relaxed attitude into my daily life...only to be hit by people, challenges, tasks and daily chores that seem to whisk away my refreshed outlook.
In the past I have used my mountaintop experiences to judge myself; I emerge from the experience thinking, "I shall live like this always" and then compare my reactions to "real life" against my mountaintop experience. Then I feel like a failure when I wasn't able to maintain my mountaintop attitude.
When I expect my mountaintop experience to look and feel the same in the valley, I can negate the experience or blame myself when it doesn't. This perception, by the way, only drags me further away from the mountain, making the path to reach it longer and more arduous than before.
As a person who feels compelled to comfort and minister to others, I have always been fascinated by the stories of Jesus leaving crowds of needy, hurting people to go alone to the mountaintop to commune with God. Jesus knew his time was short, and yet he made time to meet with his spiritual source, his Father, on the mountaintop.
The time Jesus spent on the mountain communing with God did not change the condition of the people and situations in the valley; it changed Jesus. His time apart renewed him to face the crowds clamoring for his words, his healing spirit and his loving touch. Jesus retreated to the mountain to seek guidance and gain clarity for his next steps. Yet even he had to come down off the mountain to accomplish his life purpose. Jesus stepped away from all that strove for his time and attention, in order to be refreshed and renewed; inspired and comforted.
I see this now as similar to the act of putting on one's own oxygen mask before trying to help others. More than anything, the mountaintop is a place of refreshment that we need to experience in order to face the crowds of people and tasks that clamor for our attention and crave our loving care. I'm coming to deeply realize, through experience, that my mountaintop experiences are opportunities to be refreshed so that I'm able to more fully embrace life in the valley.
While I'm not meant to have or even fully live out a mountaintop experience when I'm in the valley; I have the opportunity to return to the valley refreshed. I return to the valley with a renewed sense of purpose and clarity. I return to the valley with a deeper sense of spiritual connection to my ultimate Source. I return to the valley with refreshed perception.
I can shift my perceptions and expectations to realize that what I carry from my time on the mountain is simply expressed differently in the valley. I can see that, while my mountaintop experience is not identically played out in Reality Valley, the resources gained are valuable and effective as expressed in day to day life. I can realize that they won't look the same or feel the same as they did on the mountain, yet they are powerfully effective, gently comforting and delightfully inspiring as they are expressed in the valley.
So, there I was, sitting at a red light, relaxed, my mind replaying the retreat and my time at Joshua Tree. Suddenly, with no warning, I was hit violently from behind. My GPS flew out of its cradle, landing on the floor. My ashtray flew open, showering me with the spare change I keep in it. My water bottle actually seemed to leap out of the cup holder. One super burst of destructive forward energy and my world changed. I went from joyful contemplation to survival mode. My brain rocked with shock just as much as my body, trying to make sense of what happened and determine if I was alright.
I'm growing more and more aware that my perception of life determines my experience of life. I believe perception is like viewing my life through a particular pair of glasses. Wearing glasses that are the incorrect prescription will warp and distort your vision and, therefore, your experience of life.
Perception can be either life-draining or life-sustaining. Perception can be distorting or clarifying. Perception can blind you to your resources or open your awareness of all your blessings.
Immediately following the crash, my first thoughts were, "Am I okay? How is the other driver?" My perception now is that I am abundantly grateful that there were no serious physical injuries. I am grateful for professional police, paramedics and tow masters. I am grateful that I have a friend in Palm Springs to comfort me and care for me. I am grateful for auto insurance and having a lawyer on retainer...just in case. I am grateful for the one-way rental car that will carry me home. I choose to perceive that, while this event is temporarily disruptive and stressful, everything will work out okay in the end.
When you are rear-ended by reality, you are more likely to keep your experience in life-sustaining perception when you have made time to refresh your vision and renew your spirit through a trip to the mountaintop.
When you step away from day to day life you are more able to access a fresh perspective that will be life-giving and life-sustaining when you come down off the mountain.
By stepping away to gain a fresh perspective you are more fully able to develop ways to integrate your mountaintop experience with your daily life. Remember, it will not look or feel the same as it did on the mountaintop simply because it is daily reality. While you may not carry with you the exact feelings, you can return to the valley with renewed life-giving perspective.
What reality is rear ending you today? How can you step away to the mountaintop to refresh your perspective? What may your life look like if you change your "prescription" and look at life with new vision?
Points of YOU Corporate Trainer Retreat Facilitator Professional/Personal Development Coach
Maple Valley, WA 98038