Take A Bigger View
There is always a bigger view. Whatever the situations and challenges we are facing, there is always a frame of reference that can provide us with some perspective. In a mindfulness practice, the always accessible bigger view is our ability to just be aware, to know. Next time you find a difficult emotion arising in your mind, bring your awareness to that experience. The part of yourself that knows the difficult emotion is not itself difficult. If you practice taking the bigger view, the more space you’ll give yourself to deal with challenges as they arise.
— Mindfulness Everywhere
Take A Bigger View
Use this principle of mindfulness to find awareness.
I’ve been extremely tired this week. Every day after work I go home, eat dinner, and then pass out while working on my computer. I don’t normally have a problem with my sleep schedule. I tend to stay up late and wake up when my alarm goes off. But I’ve been having trouble this week — I literally cannot keep my eyes open past 7:00pm.
At the beginning of the week, I went to a birthday party for my girlfriend’s nephew. The venue was a buffet-style pizza place full of energetic and unsupervised children. I remember my girlfriend walking in and saying, “Ah sh*t. I don’t trust this food sitting out like this at all. Where’s the hand sanitizer at?” Later in the night we saw a very small kid coughing his brains out and she said, “Ugh, we’re going to get sick from this place.” Well, she very well may have been right. Dang kids. At least we had fun that night.
It’s never a good time in my life to get sick, because there’s always too much that I need to get done. In order to keep up with my workload, I’ve been passing out at 7:00pm, waking up at 10:00pm, and then working until 1:00am. That means that I wake up even more tired the next day. But at least I’m getting all my work done… That’s worth it… Right?
As I drag myself through the workday, I begin to fight myself internally.
You can’t keep doing this. You’re exhausted!
So? I’m being productive! I need to keep going.
You’re making yourself even sicker.
But if I don’t get all this work done, bad things will happen!
That sounds like a threat… Just go home.
No! I can’t let all this unfinished work pile up on me.
This internal dialogue represents the intersection of two mindfulness principles from prior weeks: Listen To The Body and There Is No Control. I already have a tenuous connection to my bodily awareness, and it gets even worse when I get sick. Indeed, my brain seems to shut down when I catch a cold, which makes it very hard for me to Listen To The Body. And, as you can see from the debate between myself and myself, I also struggle to control my life. But, when those two principles fail me (more accurately, when I fail at implementing them) it’s time to Take A Bigger View.
It’s so easy to get stuck in a problem, thought, or feeling. Sometimes, we need to zoom out at get some perspective on our lives. My work is important, because people depend on me. But, as much as I like to think that I make an impact, I’m still just one person in a world full of ~7,755,326,059 people (as of January 4th, 2020). And this world is just one planet of the many rocks that orbit the sun, which is just one little star system in the Milky Way galaxy, which is just one of 100,000 galaxies in the supercluster Laniakea, which is just one supercluster out of who knows how many in the universe.
Maybe my work isn’t quite as vital as I’m making it out to be…
It’s important that when we Take A Bigger View we don’t belittle ourselves — we’re unfathomably tiny in comparison to the immensity of the universe, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t matter. After all, the point of Take A Bigger View is to realize that we do matter, just not in the little day-to-day banalities that we almost always get stuck on. As Alan Watts says it, “The words I and self should properly mean what the whole universe is doing at this particular ‘here-and-now’…”
I may be one tiny human in a sea of billions of other humans on this tiny rock hurtling through space, but I’m also a massive multi-cellular organum. My body (and yours too!) is made up of 100 trillion cells, and each of those cells is doing something very particular. Do I notice when one cell stops doing its job? Sometimes. But individual cells die or break or get replaced in by body all the time, and I never notice. They’re still very important, and I’m still very important, but maybe I can take a day off without disrupting the whole flow of the universe.
I think I’ll head home and take a nap. My work will be here waiting for me when I get back. After all, if I zoom out just a smidgen (not all the way to galaxies and superclusters) I can see that my health is more important than getting my work done for the day. But we can only see what’s truly important when we Take A Bigger View.
Afterword: Turns out I had the flu, so I was out of work for over a week. Although that’s a lot of catching up to do, I’m so glad I left! I wouldn’t wish that sickness onto my worst enemy, and I definitely didn’t want my co-workers catching it. I strongly suggest you get the flu shot if you don’t already. I’ll be getting it every year now. Laying immobilized in bed for three straight days really helped me to Take A Bigger View and see what’s important. A little vaccination is a lot less terrible than feeling like this… Well, time to catch up on all that work I missed.
Thank you for reading!
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