A few days ago, I was privileged to lead the “Reflection” section of a board retreat. Two things were clear. First, people love having an opportunity to reflect; as soon as you talk about it, you can feel a quiet settling down, like a happy sigh. Second, intuitively, given that opportunity, people step outside the “business” room and create a space for themselves where there is serene beauty, whether it be outside, or by a window, or even sitting near a painting. Reflection comes naturally to us and we ease into it effortlessly.
So it is puzzling why we commit so little to it. In the chaotic bustle of everyday life, reflection is the opportunity to catch your breath, clear your head, find quiet, remember what is important, see things fresh. It’s not a big deal; it’s an ordinary human experience, common to everyone. Children are readily drawn to that state. It’s as though we are born “knowing” how to take care of ourselves psychologically, and then we busy ourselves out of it and forget what we know.
(An example. I was strolling through our neighborhood with my grandson one time when he was about 7. He stopped and stood, looking idly at a colorful plot of wildflowers. I asked him, “What are you looking at?” He said, “Nothing. I’m just looking at pretty to see what I see. I don’t know what I’ll see yet.” That’s reflection.)
Inevitably, after even a brief time of reflection, people return to the business at hand refreshed, inspired, with new and deeper ideas to share. The tone is elevated; the work is more meaningful. The connection is deeper.
It is sometimes easier to recognize something simple and profound by remembering what it is not. The opposite of reflection is reaction, jumping into a whirlwind of thoughts, taking things personally, ratcheting up the tension, giving in to an urgency to be right at all costs, looking outside for people or circumstances to blame or judge for your own mistakes or muddle, roiling at the center of the drama, losing perspective — ultimately being exhausted by the effort to handle everything and figure it out. There’s a lot of reaction in the world today, and way too little reflection.
Imagine what it would be like if we all stopped once in a while as our days went by, looked idly at the nothing-in-particular of beauty, and waited to see what we would see. Would we have a little less upset, a little more peace?