I first read the words of Wallace Stevens, quoted in the title of this article, in 2012 and they gave me pause. Was he being literal or metaphorical? Was he encouraging a journey through our minds or a literal walk around a lake? Either way, his words are thought provoking. Imagining a walk around the lake, we would see things differently, a different landscape as it were. We would get space from our original starting point or initial thoughts. We might see something or hear something that changes us or changes our mind. We would have time to think our thoughts in a peaceful environment or perhaps enjoy being distracted by new surroundings. Instead of looking down, we might look up. We might experience a change of perspective.
Perspective is the difference between a positive attitude and a negative one. It is our point of view on life. Is the glass half full or half empty? Perspective is also the difference in being an optimist or a pessimist. We are influenced by things all around us and by taking a moment for reflection, we may experience life lessons that can challenge and change us. Since life itself can change our perspective, we can use these experiences to assist our own growth and change how we view ourselves and the world.
Author Stephen R. Covey stated “to change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” Today we have a constant stream of information coming at us. We are changed by new experiences and significant life events. New ideas can change our perspective and sometimes it comes in the form of friends, family, or even strangers. For me, observing nature and our universe creates new perspectives.
I can change my perceptions with formal education, life education, spiritual education, and even by what some refer to as the “school of hard knocks.” I may tell myself that I cannot cook, yet I can have a change of perspective by learning the skills necessary to do so. In time, I might become, not just a good cook, but a gourmet chef.
I can try something new by resolving to do so and creating a plan of action. I might need help. If you need help, do not be afraid to ask. I often tell clients that if we don’t ask, the answer is always no.
A conversation with a trusted friend or a spiritual mentor may open a window of thought that changes the interior of our soul. We may walk away from the conversation much richer, ‘I understand myself much more deeply than I did before; I understand you in a way I did not before and now you make sense to me; this makes sense; I make sense.’
Witnessing someone accomplish great things or go through hard times changes our perspective. We may see that hard work pays off, or that sometimes even the best efforts do not result in the intended reward. Even as we experience disappointments or other negative things, we can work towards choosing a more positive perspective. This builds resiliency.
An unexpected life experience can challenge previously-held ideas and create more compassion for others. I often think of the support I received from family and friends when I had a critically ill son. Until that time in my life, I never understood how much it means to go to the hospital and see the people we care about. My friends showed up for me in so many ways. They checked on me and my family, brought food to the hospital, offered prayers and consolation, and they sat in the waiting room, just in case I might need them. This changed everything I ever knew about caring for someone. That was 30 years ago and I learned that it matters so much to show up. Even if we are saying to ourselves “What can I really do?” – Just show up.
When I look at the stars in the night sky and I see order and constancy, my problems don’t seem as large. When I see and hear the power of the ocean, I feel both wonder and awe. When I am driving home from work and I witness the unparalleled beauty of an Oklahoma sunset, I am delighted, and for a moment I have no issues too large. In effect, I experience a change of perspective as I purposely choose to observe something bigger than myself.
We are all changed by the experiences of our daily life. Can we challenge ourselves to use these experiences to create a positive view of life, of the gifts we receive, and especially the gifts we never saw coming, some of which are borne through our pain? Our happiness is linked to how we view the events in our life, our perspective. Can we see that there are so many lessons to be learned? Is it possible that “a walk around the lake” can create an opening to change our perspective and live a more meaningful life?
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” – Aldous Huxley