We can’t solve our problems with the
same level of thinking that created them.
…I can rise above the battleground in my mind…
Here I find peace. Here I find safety.
Here I see innocence and there is
no need to judge.
A Course in Miracles
The wise ones tell us that a change in perspective is the key to peace of mind. For example, we could use the old analogy of four people who witness a car accident while standing on four different corners of an intersection. If we asked each person to describe the incident, each one would have a different set of observations. If we stay on that level of awareness, we could easily assume that the solution to the conflict in perspectives is to determine which one is the most accurate. That sort of situation can lead to debate if not outright arguments. The conflict centers around who is right and who is wrong. Nothing gets resolved. If however, we go up above the intersection in our minds, we can more clearly see that each position carries with it a different but equally valid point of view. That meta-level shift in perspective is what leads to peace.
When we find ourselves stuck in a conflict, going around and around in a feedback loop, both Einstein and A Course in Miracles (ACIM) tell us that the secret is to stop – just stop, take a breath and step out of the struggle by going way up high and looking down on the problem. That shift in perspective can change everything. So many problems aren’t solved by trying harder with the same familiar variables at hand, but by simply seeing them from a qualitatively different point of view.
I remember reading about a hotel someplace where its guests were constantly complaining about how slow the elevators moved between floors. I’m sure I won’t get the details right here, but as I remember it, the powers-that-be came together to brainstorm about what they could do to solve the slow-elevator-problem. They didn’t have the resources to install additional elevators. They couldn’t mechanically make the existing elevators travel any faster. Hotel guests were always going to need extra time to lug their travel bags and suitcases into them. So, given the limited, adjustable variables they had to work with, it looked like they had hit a dead-end.
Then somebody, somewhere thought to ask a meta-level question – and here is that move to the bird’s eye view. They thought to ask, “What is the real problem here?” And the answer was not so much that the elevators ran so slow as that the hotel guests got frustrated having to wait so long. So, what could they do about alleviating some of that frustration? That question opened up a whole new set of possibilities. Out of that shift in perspective, someone came up with an ingenious solution: Install a wall of mirrors across from and around the elevator doors. Boom! That did it! They capitalized on our ( meaning human) inherent preoccupation with self. Brilliant.
So let’s make this shift in perspective more practical. You might be wondering, “What does it mean to go up high and look down on the problem? How do you actually do that?” Great questions. Here’s a place to start. Think of a current situation where you feel stuck and ask yourself:
1. Is there some other way to look at this? Is there some other way to define the problem?
2. Is there something about this situation or the way that I am trying to handle it that feels really familiar? Am I stuck in an old pattern? Can I trace this pattern back to my childhood?
3. In what way am I resisting letting go and allowing something new to come into my awareness? What am I holding on to and why? What am I afraid of?