inspirational tools to create life balance in your everyday

keeping perspective – may 2009


Driving through St. Helena today, I was struck by the open red roses that sat at the end of each row in the vineyard. The roses had full plump petals that reminded me of rain and gardens and Spring. Recently I learned that roses are planted in vineyards because they are susceptible to the same diseases that vines are yet they show their symptoms earlier. When the wine maker sees that the roses are infected, they know that the vines may be also and they can begin treatment before the vines are lost. Knowing this shifts my perspective on the presence of the roses. They seem somehow more beautiful, their strength in their selflessness, these beautiful red flags looking out over the vines.

This past week, the newspapers across the world have warned us of an illness in our communities and introduced us to the word pandemic for the first time in years. As the word spreads here in America, so does the level of fear that as a collective we tap into both consciously and unconsciously. Driving along, I notice that the dramatic words of a clerk in the pharmacy have triggered my mind into a number of ill fated scenarios. As a writer, I tend to get a little bit lost in these stories, especially when I’m driving. There is a lot of detail and drama. As my imagination runs wild I notice my pulse starting to rise and also that I’ve lost my footing in the present moment.

The types of thoughts that come up for me are not based on facts but are giant leaps into future scenarios that will never unfold. I only catch the absurdity of the stories when I move into planning mode. How many times a day do we travel down these twisty roads in our imagination entertaining scenarios that will never unfold? Wouldn’t our time be better spent with what is actually happening in this present moment?

Over the years as I work more with a daily meditation and mindfulness practice, I find that I catch myself earlier on in these musings. When I do, I reach for perspective. In the car today, it came in the form of my iPhone where I download talks by authors and speakers that inspire me. I plugged it in to the car stereo and chose a talk by Jack Kornfield, a western Buddhist teacher from the meditation center not far from our home. In a matter of minutes, I was grounded again. Looking back, I vow to take smaller doses of the news and read websites that provide education rather than fear.

Recently, perspective is something that I’ve been working with. I’ve been curious about how we keep it amongst the ever changing backdrop to our lives. The last few months for me have been made up of a combination of rough waves and smooth sailing days. And so is life. We go up and we come down. What I find interesting is how disappointed we still get when things go pear shaped, almost as if there is a part of ourselves that is convinced that if we finally get it right, it will only be smooth sailing.

So how do we keep perspective when times get tough? The other day my husband was having a difficult day. The things that were going well for him were well out stacked by the things that weren’t. I felt for him. His efforts to move forward kept taking him back. In an effort to start his working afternoon off right, he was listening to the audio book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” by Dr. Richard Carlson. Suddenly, out of silence he said with wonder in his voice “In a hundred years, there will be all new people…” He grinned and shook his head in amazement, “All new people.” His smile told me that the words he had listened to had led him back into the present moment and out from under the weight on his shoulders.

We smiled at each other and the mood in our home lightened. I asked what he was listening to and he told me. I suddenly I too, felt grateful for such an ordinary moment in my life. Simply preparing cheese and tomato sandwiches at home for lunch seemed precious. Richard Carlson, the author of this book Pete was listening to, had died tragically and without warning at age 45. I remember when I first heard about his death and was shocked and saddened. This was someone that knew intimately how precious each moment was. He wrote, “None of us knows, of course, how long we have to live. Even fewer of us realize what a blessing in disguise the ‘curse’ of knowing we will one day die really is. It encourages us to live on the edge, not take life for granted, and to be grateful for what we have, treating life as the miracle it truly is.” Richard’s phrase “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”, is now universally known and used around the world. His life is a reminder to many of how essential it is to keep in perspective what is worth worrying about and what simply is not.

This month, I invite you to explore what it is that truly gives you perspective in your daily life. When the waves come crashing down and the wind is stirred up, what is it that you can hold in your hand to keep you steady? There are a myriad of possibilities. Perhaps it is a quote by someone that inspires you, a photograph of a time in your life where you felt whole, a DVD that elicits wonder or insight, a letter from a friend, a website, a piece of music, or an activity that brings you back into your heart space. This month, consider taking the time to create yourself a box of perspective. Even the steadiest of us, loses perspective. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the next time you lost it, you knew where to find it again?

Start by finding a box. This might be a shoe box or gift box or wooden box. When you find your box, clear your dining table or art table and open it up. Give yourself the month of May to fill your box with perspective, but start today by creating it’s foundation. Take a few small pieces of paper and write down a few quotes that inspire you. If you keep letters or birthday cards, have a read through these. Write down the sentences that remind you of what is important. Include these in your box.

If there are websites, CD’s, DVD’s or images that belong here, either include reminders in the form of notes or actually include these objects in your box. Allow this to be a work in progress. Pay attention over the next month to the moments when you feel a shift in your perspective. This might be something your child says to you that wakes you up in the moment, a place that you visit or how you feel in the presence of a friend. Start to write down what triggers these shifts. Include images or reminders in your box. If there is a person that supports you well, keep their phone number inside your box. Keep your “Box of Perspective” in a special place. If you meditate or have a sacred place in your home, keep it there. If you find that work is where you lose perspective most, keep it on your desk. If you want this to be a family activity, get a bigger box and invite everyone to share in it.

Sometimes it is also physical activity that helps us shift perspective. A long walk, a yoga class, or an afternoon at the gym might do the trick. When I’m teaching yoga, I try to remind my students of the poses where we are able to look at the world from a different perspective. Folding forward in a standing forward bend, we literally see the world from a different perspective. The same is true of rock climbing or hiking to a beautiful vista. See if you can integrate these kinds of activities into your routine.

Begin to brainstorm with others about what helps them regain perspective. You may be surprised by what your learn. For some reason a good vacuum around my house shifts something for me, for you it might be going for a swim. Get curious enough to find out. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your perspective changes.

Perspective also encourages mindfulness of the aspects of our lives that we may have taken for granted. Having recently moved countries from Australia to America, I’m noticing giant leaps in perspective. Just this morning I noticed a shift as I placed a letter in our mailbox. I smiled as I lifted the bright red flag to let the mail person know that I had placed a letter inside and it was ready to be posted. For the past thirteen years in Australia, we didn’t have this service. My perspective has changed and something that once seemed so ordinary now feels like a gift.

If you would like to share stories about what gives you perspective, please feel free to send them to me by email. When I send out the email reminder for June, I will include your words.  Perhaps they belong in someone else’s box as well as your own. Enjoy the month ahead and may your box of perspective be a red flag to the richness in each present moment.

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This is a monthly inspiration piece brought to you by author Christina Adler at ‘everyday balance’. If you would like to share your experience with these tools, please feel free to email me by visiting the contacts section on the home page. To subscribe for a monthly reminder for these inspiration pieces, simply fill in your name and email address on the home page under “subscribe to everyday balance.” For information regarding life coaching appointments in person, by telephone or online, visit the ‘for life coaching’ section of this website. Photo taken by Christina Adler in  California.

posted under 2009 life balance

extra ordinary


as a small child
I would design elaborate
to play

underneath the redwood arms
I was a unicorn
and she was my fairy
the sky was made of magic

and we could eat
clouds for breakfast
because there was no

waking today
the sky hugs down low
something shifted
overnight and I find

so much is extra ordinary
the shape of your hands
the fall of the rain
the taste of tea

this perfect day
rolled out like blank
for you and I to choose

scrambled eggs
or sandwiches
or trivia

either way
even the couch is softer
the tilt of the oak tree
a miracle

the rabbit running up
to the window unusual
the lilacs on the table
a watercolour

I breathe
and smile
I wonder

how I ever felt
the edgy cloak of frustration
the soar throat
of sadness

and I look to see
what hill fear
away on

what tall wall
the future
and the past
have hid behind

I rest back
and hunger for nothing
this moment
it is simply enough

copyright – Christina Adler – 3 May 2009 – Windsor, California USA

posted under 2009 poetry