“There is one art of which man should be master, the art of reflection.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Quarterly Theological Review and Ecclesiastical Record
I recently put myself into a year long developmental program. On the first morning, beginning with breakfast, I started wondering “Why on earth did I do this? Haven’t I done enough training and development over the years? Enough soul searching? Enough observation and examination of myself?”.
The answer to that is “Yes, I have.”
But the answer is yes only if the foundation for my question is a belief that as soon as I know a certain amount; have had a certain amount of experience; have engaged in a certain amount of training and development, then I have clearly done enough.
Which begs the question – how do I measure “enough”? How do I know when I’ve done enough? When I examine that question honestly, I see that my measures are rarely well thought through. It is mostly an unconscious reaction – some “I’m tired…” sort of emotion. My certainty that “it’s enough” is determined in those moments when I feel as if it would just be easier to be unconscious, to go to sleep regarding my experience. Sometimes my ego’s defenses are weak and its last resort is to put me to sleep (so to speak). Which may be the perfect time to be developing my deep reflection skills.
There are places where I’ve been sleeping for a while now – not big areas anymore (I hope) – but those last bastions of a subtle internal whining I do when I don’t want to be responsible (and let’s be honest, it’s not always that subtle or internal).
Because this program requires reflection (practices that reveal oneself to oneself), what starting showing through my sleepwalking on this training day were the ways in which I still sabotage my vision and my mission. The ways in which I distract myself from what I’m here to do. The ways in which I keep myself small and safe (safe from living on the edge of creating something that is newly emerging for me).
I began to see places where I wasn’t acting or behaving in accordance with accomplishing my intentions (attention management practices I hadn’t started or had stopped implementing; boundary setting I hadn’t gotten around to executing; new areas of interest and study I hadn’t started, etc.).
Those insights came from reflection. Simply looking at myself and my regular habitual practices around that to which I give my attention each day. I’ve taken some small, logistical actions regarding what I’ve seen, but to create sustainable practices for living at this edge is going to require more observation and reflection, not just a quick knee-jerk attempt to “fix” something.
Despite my initial response of “Why on earth am I doing this?”, I find myself interested, thoughtful and grateful for the structure to once again practice thoughtful reflection.