I am definitely jiving with the Dalai Lama's teachings this week. Here's a great passage from his book The Art of Happiness:
Once there was a disciple of a Greek philosopher who was commanded by his Master for three years to give money to everyone who insulted him. When this period of trial was over the Master said to him, “Now you can go to Athens and learn Wisdom.” When the disciple was entering Athens, he met a certain wise man who sat at the gate insulting everybody who came and went. He also insulted the disciple, who burst out laughing. “Why do you laugh when I insult you?” said the wise man. “Because,” said the disciple, “for three years I have been paying for this kind of thing and now you give it to me for nothing.” “Enter the city,” said the wise man, “it is all yours ...”
The fourth-century Desert Fathers, an assortment of eccentric characters who retired to the deserts around Scete for a life of sacrifice and prayer, taught this story to illustrate the value of suffering and hardship. It wasn’t hardship alone, however, that opened the “city of wisdom” to the disciple. The prime factor that allowed him to deal so effectively with a difficult situation was his capacity to shift perspective, to view his situation from a different vantage point.
So what do you think? Could our problems be solved merely by shifting our perspectives?
Easier said than done, methinks. That Greek philosopher in the story spent three freaking years dishing out serious cash to everyone who insulted him before he was able to change his perspective. I don't have that kind of time (or money). And sure, I've heard the advice "try putting yourself in someone else's shoes" a million times, but am I able to effectively do this when dealing with an issue? Not really.
So here's my suggestion. If you're like me and cannot easily flip a mental switch to look at things from a different perspective when trying to work out a problem, maybe physically changing your perspective will help.
Spend five minutes reflecting on any tough situation you're facing while doing a headstand. Or, if you don't practice headstand and are not keen on breaking your neck, think about it while standing on a chair (a la Dead Poets Society), with a strobe light on, while blasting Rage Against the Machine. Or while taking a walk or a bike ride to a different part of town or volunteering at a local soup kitchen. What ever it is, just try placing yourself in a new and unique environment while you think things through. Perhaps changing your physical perspective might help you look at your problems in a different light.
And if you try it, let me know how it goes...
Happy perspective shifting!