When I wrote my #Reverb10 posts, such as "Let Go Already!", they were more reflective - looking backwards instead of ahead. For that reason, I am putting a bit of a different spin on this month's prompt -- how can I look at things differently as 2011 forges ahead in order to manifest the things that sit closest to my heart and spirit?
The phrase that forms the nucleus of this post is "the unscripted question." I took this phrase from a commencement address given by Atul Gawande, author of "The Checklist Manifesto" and "Better." At the end the audio version of Better, the narrator reads the commencement address Dr. Gawande gave at Harvard Medical School, in which he provided graduating physicians five suggestions for being "doctors who continue to matter." The first was, "Ask an unscripted question." For example, if you are a physician meeting a patient for the first time and that patient is complaining of chest pain and fatigue, as a physician you will ask when the pain started, its severity, how debilitating the fatigue is, etc. But as that individual's physician, you should also ask something like, "I see you are wearing a shirt from Ireland - is that a country you have visited?" Point being that by opening up the discussion with the patient to the things that energize them in addition to the things that bring them down, you will get a more comprehensive picture of who that person is and establish a better rapport.
I was also intrigued by my friend Mark Hohmeister's recent column in the Tallahassee Democrat, entitled "Visitors help you view things in a new way." Mark discussed how hosting visitors from another country "is a great way to see new things, or at least see old things in a new way." He talked about a weekend in which he and his Turkish visitor, a journalist named Mehmet, first visited Mark's Presbyterian Church and then visited the Islamic Center of Tallahassee. In Mark's words describing his visit to the Islamic Center, "...the talk was of Mideast politics and of religion. We talked about the Christian Trinity and they laughed at how "Allah akbar" to many Americans is a phrase associated only with terrorists." Mark goes on to write, "But there was no terror here, no fear. I came away refreshed, the same way I feel after short morning or midday services or evensong that we attend occasionally. I'd been yanked out of my rut, and I saw my city, its people, and my god in a new way. That's an hour well spent."
Mark's experience prompted me to spend an hour "well," in a way that is not part of my usual "script." I did a bit of research trying to find something that would be off of my beaten path, lend itself to reflection, and be somewhere on the outer fringes of my comfort zone. I found the perfect place in the Tallahassee Shambhala Meditation Center. While the Center does an orientation the first Wednesday of every month, in which they provide thorough instructions and participants do a "starter" 10 minute meditation session, I jumped in (bare) feet first with a one-hour session in order to meet this blogging deadline. I emailed the leader first to discuss my intentions, and make sure it was "okay." She assured me I would be welcome and off I went.
The group meets for an hour every Tuesday at noon to meditate. When I walked in (admittedly, with some trepidation), the leader was very welcoming. Everyone introduced themselves and, being Tallahassee, I knew one of the participants (this was a good thing for my comfort level). Karen, the leader, explained the basics - we would spend time sitting, with some minimal instruction from her; spend a portion midway through the session engaged in "walking meditation," and finish by more sitting. The "mindfulness meditation" practiced there "is rooted in the simple, but revolutionary premise that every human being has the ability to cultivate the mind's inherent stability, clarity and strength in order to be more awake and compassionate in everyday life."
I didn't know what I sought in the hour, just that I wanted to intentionally give my mind an opportunity to turn things over in a new and different way. 2011 has been characterized, for our family, by my husband's continued job search and the impact of a reduced income, as well as my deeper questions about how to best use my talents professionally and personally.
It all boiled down to this, for starters:
Sometimes you have to stop running away from the unscripted questions begging to be asked in your own life. You may think you are chasing down a definite answer but it's not there. You shouldn't approach it like a predator running down a weaker prey, capturing it, and consuming it. Try stilling yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually -- you may be surprised to find that an insight alights on your shoulder gently, alive to the possibilities that exist for both of you.
Photo Credit: Rich Leighton, www.leightonphotography.com
(Thank you, Rich, for allowing me to use this beautiful image.)