In a picture, when we zoom in, we magnify details. We can see those details more clearly, but we loose perspective as we don’t have a view of the surrounding scene. The same is true in life. Often, we get caught in a thought or in a conflict, we cannot see our way through until we look at it from a broader perspective. Let me introduce to you a personal favorite of mine as a coach, a technique that I call “Zooming Out”.
We know we need to zoom out when we are stuck trying to make a decision or solve a conflict. Also when we find ourselves obsessing over things and getting stressed out. In Albert Einstein words, “we cannot solve problems at the same level at which we created them” so if we want to go ahead and break out, in one of those situations, we need to change our perspective
Our point of view very often determines our thought process. Let’s review visual example of that. Those of you that have seen the movie “The Davinci Code” will probably remember when professor Langdon is giving a lecture about symbols. He shows some slides, we could see symbols but we could not see the context in which they were located. Our minds completed the information and thus we could interpret them from our own personal background, values or experiences. For instance, when we saw a figure with white robes and hoods, everybody thought about the KKK, when in reality, as we saw when they showed the total picture, they are catholics in a religious procession in Spain. When he showed a close caption at a statue of a child in the lap of a female figure, everybody thought about a representation of a baby Jesus in his mother’s arms, or even an old statue symbolizing fertility. With a bigger perspective, we could all see a statue representing the God Horus in his mother, Isis, arms.
When we feel trapped in a conflict, we are acustomed to going over and over the same thought process. For example: I am tired of this job and my monetary situation. I want to earn more money. I want to be my own boss. Therefore, I should or I want to set up my own business. However, I don’t have money to invest, so I can’t. Besides, I don’t have time either to set up a new business because my job takes all my energy and time. Hence, we end up where we started. It is clear that if we apply the same premises every time we think about a situation, we will arrive to the same conclusion. Here is when a “zooming out” comes in very handy. We zoom out by not focusing upon the situation we have here and now, and focusing on the situation we want to have. This is equivaent to a zoom out because the new situation is further from us and our perspective is broader as we don’t have all the specific details yet. This can twe thought of as being in one specific geographical point, and wanting to be in another without knowing yet what the name of the street is. We just zoom out our “mapquest” or “Yahoo-map” from the point we are now, until the desired destination area is visible on our screen. Then, and only then, we can trace a path towards it.
Relationships can also be thought of in the same manner. In a given moment we can have a problem with our partner. He did something to me that I hate, so I am angry. It is difficult for me to deal with those feelings, and every time I think about it the only thing that comes to my mind is what he did, so I just fuel my feelings and reinforce my separation. If I try to solve that conflict with my partner from that position, there is not much room for maneuver, because we are focusing upon a narrow point. When we zoom out, we include in the view a much richer history of bonding, love and forgiveness. From this point, it is much easier to find solid ground for working towards communion.
In short, “zooming out” is a process that allows us to look at situations from a broader perspective, and it is very useful when we are stuck trying to solve a problem or conflict. Why don’t you try it next time you feel like you don’t know what to do? I hope you find it helpful. I will be happy to hear about your experiences using this method.
"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly" - Richard Bach
I wrote an article recently (“how to stop worrying too much”) in which I gave some tips about overcoming some of our day-to-day worries. I’ve received comments from readers that thought it was very useful; others, instead, felt that it helped them to relax, but still, they felt overwhelmed by problems. Their problems are real, tangible and specific. They are economic, professional, sentimental or health related problems. I understand that the clues given in that article had two purposes:
1. To let people differentiate worries from problems,
2. To help adopt the best attitude to confront both.
However, I think I missed the opportunity to mention something about why we are not more open to finding alternative solutions. That is why, today, we are going to talk about fear; because fear is what stops us most of the time from finding better solutions to our problems.
Fear is the most important factor preventing us from creating the life we want to have. For instance, when somebody suffers an unhappy marriage for years, the fundamental reason behind why they do not get a divorce, is fear.
• Fear of the other person’s reaction.
• Fear of society’s response
• Fear of making our economic situation more difficult
• Fear of the emotional implications for our children
• Fear of being alone
The list is never ending. It is the same when we keep a job that is far from fulfilling. We are scared to leave something that is giving us a certain amount of security, social or professional status. Also fear of the possibility of not finding anything better. We are afraid of poverty, failure, and loneliness. Moving, making new friends, listening to people with different ideas from ours, making mistakes, even getting older or not having a large bank account are things that scare us. Why? What is behind the fear we find when we confront the possibility of changing the status quo of our life?
Fear is produced by a previous experience or because we have the idea the that something can bad will happen, or a combination of both circumstances. For instance, we are scared of a plane because it could crash and have a fatal accident; we fear poverty because we were poor at some point in time or because we have seen the problems that poverty causes. We are well aware of the extreme consequences, that, in some cases, can even threaten our survival. This is the same for the fear of loneliness or disease. Nevertheless, in reality whether we have lived these experiences first hand or not, fear belongs to the realm of thoughts and imagination, not in the real present moment. We can say for sure that fear is something as imaginary as the weapons of mass destruction of some countries: just a hypothetical possibility.
When we let our fears run rampage we focus our attention in one of the results that can happen, and we forget that there are other possibilities that may be much more positive. Of the people I know that are happy, some have married more than once, or they have changed careers, countries, or even religion. What they have in common is that they are able to assume that when something is not working for them, it is possible to change it for the good. In fact, we have the duty and the ability to change it. On the other hand, people that are dragging around a lack of happiness for years, almost invariably, they have in common that they feel trapped in a reality for which they don’t feel they can escape, because of fear of the consequences. What they don’t realize is that negative consequences are already in their present situation. In reality they are turning their backs upon a world of possibilities that can open up solely by starting moving towards a change.
Some time ago I read a beautiful story about the possibilities that change offers. A Zen monk arrived one night with his master to an old house in the mountains. The owner was very poor, and he lived precariously with his family off of what a malnourished cow produced. That was their only possession and income source, so they looked after it very carefully thinking it was the only thing that allowed them to survive. Despite their precariously situation, they were very hospitable with their guests, giving hem room and food. In the morning, the thankful monk said to his master how much he would like to help this family. The master, agreeing with this noble sentiment, orders him to throw the cow over the cliff. The horrified monk obeyed. A few years later, the monk, now independent from his master, happened to be back in the same area. Still full of remorse for his action, he decided to go to the house of the family, with the intention of making amends for his terrible action. When he arrived, he almost could not recognize the place. The garden was well looked after and the house looked beautiful. There were cows, chickens and sheep’s in the space next to the house. So he knocked the door. The same man that had hosted him some years ago opened the door. He invited him in and he asked to him to stay for dinner. The monk talked about how much had changed and how well everything looked. The Host smiled, “We were not so well off before” But one day, the cow that we had disappeared, at that moment we realized that our future was in our hands as we had nothing left to lose. We all started thinking about what we wanted to do, and that way we discovered our purpose in life. Since then we have followed it and we are no longer in shortage. To lose that cow was the best that could have happened to us. Finally, the monk understood in that moment the lesson that his master had gave him some years earlier. We are the only ones with the power to change our situation and to decide how we want our life to be, we just need to be conscious of it and liberate ourselves from the fear of change.
If there is anything in your life that makes you unhappy, start by accepting that it can be changed. Open yourself to the possibility of finishing with that situation, but this time, instead of recreating in your mind everything negative that could happen with that change, focus upon thinking about all the positive that can come with also. When something is scary or it makes us worry, we usually visualize again and again everything that can go wrong. Lets use the same technique that we have already mastered, however, this time we will recreate the possibilities of everything getting better, or, at least, that we can liberate ourselves from what it was making us unhappy. Visualize a short, medium and long term view of a positive result for everybody related to the issue. If you make a decision in a positive way, with the intention that the result is a general benefit, that is how it will be. Otherwise it is wise to remember that as of now you may have 10 years of an unhappy marriage or a job that you hate. Five years from now if you don’t change that will be 15 years.
So, why throw away your life like that? what are you waiting to take control of your life ? What are you afraid of ?
Today, I would like to explore what lies behind human selfishness. I am trying to understand why we don’t care after each other at a global level, and see if it is possible to maintain hope for a better world. Sometimes, the only way to confront an offensive concept is to understand it.
Initially, it looks clear that we, humans, are not in solidarity with one another. Almost half of worlds population lives with $1 dollar a day. The UN report “The Inequality Predicament” states “…80 percent of the world's domestic product belongs to one billion people living in the industrially developed world, while the remaining 20 percent is shared by five billion people living in developing countries.” 12.000 children die every day of starvation. And we are only talking about poverty, not human rights, violence or diseases. It is obvious that there is something wrong in this organism called humanity. It seems clear that we are uncaring as a group, but, is that true at an individual level?
Charity and Non organizations (NPO) manage multi budgets. Many governments and private associations send considerable amounts of for development projects in third word countries, destined to end hunger and improve living conditions. However, those amounts are insufficient, not only in proportion to the of the country giving it, but specially, compared with the amounts that are needed. Since the creation of Unicef, in 1946, and many other organizations that followed, a lot of work has been done, but the situation has not improved. ¿Why are we not able to solve this situation? In fact the contrary is occurring, in 1960 the of the richest countries was 30 times higher than the group of poorest countries; in 1990 was 60 times higher. As the total riches in the world increases, the poor get poorer.
Most people I know are touched by images of children, adults and elders that we see on TV, dying or barely surviving. I believe that if we were able to see that by not buying a videogame or by canceling a gym subscription somebody could be fed or looked after in any way they need, most of us would do it. But we don’t see that direct an effect. It seems to be a never-ending ocean between the two worlds: theirs and ours. We feel separated by an abyss that makes all the good intentions, the solidarity that they initially bring about, even the donations disappear. Never mind all the work that is done, what is left to do is always much bigger. Never mind all the years of effort of many organizations worldwide, the needs are always several steps ahead. Apparently, this is a lost race.
I want to believe that it is the frustration of feeling inadequate and small what makes us ignore the problem, and turn our backs on a painful reality. After all, regardless of the voluntary hours we do or the amount of money we share, it it is not enough compared with what is needed to be done. It even gets worse when we think about the victims of violence, slavery or war. Who is the hero that will fly to liberate all the oppressed and punish the bad guys? It is clear that to wash our hands of it is much easier, and it is also a defense mechanism for us.
In this space, we always look at situations from the point of view of the energy world in which we are living. In this case, what we see as a problem is not so. It is just a symptom and a consequence of our immaturity as species. The core of the problem is that we don’t realize yet who we are; we think we are separated and different from the other human beings around us. The solution is to realize that we are all a unit. Imagine that a cell from one of our fingers thought that it was totally independent of another from the brain or from the blood. What’s happens then when a cell from any part of the body turns against a neighbor? Cancer and other diseases appear. Socially, we should adopt a model that we all have near: our own body. Every cell is an individual, but they all together form a unit. The benefit from the collaboration is that they all develop in the best possible way. Nature, animals and plants are a perfect model of collaboration and solidarity. When there is a problem in a part of the system, the rest mobilize to fix it, giving priority to the parts that are more in need or more vital. The reason for us not to follow that model is that we see each other as separate from the rest. The success of the species depends of the survival of the components. The law of the jungle, the survival of the stronger, is not applicable any more when there is a superior consciousness.
I dream of a world where the term solidarity does not exist; instead, to help each other is the norm. To have problems is part of life, but most of the time they don’t happen to everybody at the same time, so today for you, tomorrow for me. When we live as a unit we don’t say we are supportive. When we help some family member we don’t say we are supportive. On the contrary, we think of it as something normal, as the person belongs to our same group; we are part of the same family nucleus. When the neighbor is the one with the problem, if we have a relationship with them or the problem is very serious, it is possible that we assist; but if they are outside of our social pyramid, it is difficult for us to feel the need to get involved. First of all, we perceive it as somebody else’s problem. Secondly, we feel that our resources will be diminished some how. Both perceptions are deceiving. When we finally understand that we are all one, that we are part of a bigger unit, and that what happens to one of us is shared for all, we will not need to be supportive. We will simply look after each other, because that is the way for all to benefit. It is not a question of being good and altruistic, but to be practical. The better off everybody is, the better for us, because we are in the same ship.
I don’t think the solution lies necessarily in the political arena. I believe it lives in every one of us, and I know that when there are enough people that adopt this view, we will manage to end this situation of injustice. The solution is to know, to feel that we are all one; we have to stop living in an insanely competitive mode, and start living in a positive synergy. Every day, in every situation, to practice this new point of view, like changing our position to look at something from another angle. For me, it gets easier when I remember when I was playing with my son and we made figurines with playdoh. It didn’t matter if it was a horse, a tree, a UFO or a baby, in the end they were all the same, they came from the same material and they were going back to the same bag after we finished playing. It would be very funny for me if one of the little figures believed itself to be different or better than the others, just because it was taller or had more details or more colors.
I want to make clear that I am not, of course, making a call for no action. I am not saying that the little we do is not worth doing. What I am trying to convey is that a true change starts always in our thoughts. There is a metaphysical law that says “The Universe is mind; all is mind”. It is true; everything that exists was created first in the realm of the thought before it gets materialized. To create what we want starts by creating it in our mind, and there are not excuses for that. It is ok if we cannot feed all the hungry, but we can feed at least one, and more importantly, we can change our thought process and know that we are not something different and separated from that other world that suffers. Psychologically, in what Jung called the collective unconscious, the shadow, the instinctive part, we all feel separated from others. In order to reach the change in this collective unconscious, sufficient numbers of individuals have to change, and that change has to be conscious. This way, through consciousness, we evolve as humans.
To sum up, let’s stop blaming governments and rich people for the lack of solidarity in the world. The change is in our hands. It is enough if we realize that we are all one, a whole entity, and we act accordingly at every level, starting with those nearest to us. The good thing is that we will end up finishing all wars at the same time, because it will not make sense to fight ourselves.
Helena Aramendia. Allowed the partial or total reproduction as long as the source and the author are credited.