Monday, August 17, 2009

The golden evening stars

During the leadership course I recently finished, we had to do an exercise one day called a "sensory walk".

It's where you think about a problem or an issue you might have, and you take a walk outside. You have to look at your surroundings and really notice them. Then, you have to choose something that forces a positive metaphorical connection between the situation you're thinking of, and what you observe.

It's a process that makes you reframe your problems as opportunities, using your environment as the stimulus.

So for example, I looked at a big pile of horse poo on the street and thought: fertiliser.

I saw the tram tracks and thought about the professional journey I'm on: that it seems like it's in a rut, but that I can change it just by exercising free will, my right to choose, and getting on or off the "tram" in a different place.

A sensory walk is a really stimulating right-brain activity that forces you to think creatively about the blocks in your way. And finding a metaphor for the issue often results in you coming up with a solution. Or at the very least, a new appreciation for a different way at looking at the problem.

Reframing issues is what I do for a living, except I do it for corporations. With a naturally optimistic "glass half full" outlook, it's no coincidence that I've cultivated a career where I get to flex this muscle on a daily basis. It's part of who I am - though of course, like everyone, I get down in the doldrums too, and I can find it just as hard to wrest myself out of that spiral as the next person.

But I think I must have taken the sensory walk lesson on board and really ingrained it in my mind.

Because today, when I was walking to the station in the howling wind; along a path I walk every single day, I suddenly found myself looking at something I'd never noticed before. It's a very industrial wasteland, the path I walk, almost completely un-beautiful, and I look at it on my way home and I see nothing but a tangle of railway tracks, crappy old buildings, dirt and grime.

Today though, for some reason I looked up at a certain point, and I stopped walking - because in amongst the rubbish and the detritus of the urban space, I saw this building etched with golden stars.

Looking closer, I could see that the stars are always there, part of the exterior wall, but that you have to look at them at the exact moment the angle of the sun hits them in the right way, in order to see them glowing so beautifully in the fading light.

And I felt so wonderful, to have looked through the landscape differently, and to have finally, properly seen.


poet said...

Wow. This is great. And bravo for working with metaphors and reframing! That's what I'm looking to do in the future... probably... maybe more in academia than in the real world, though...


rabbit and the duck said...

A very thought provoking post - thank you for sharing : )

I Purr-Furr to Craft said...

I love what you wrote in this post! Love the stars in the building too, unless the sun hits it in the right place you would certainly not have seen them. Thank you for helping me look and face my problem solving in a new way for me.

Sandra @ Pepperberry & Co. said...

What a gorgeous story, and what a perfect activity for reframing thoughts. Thank you so much for sharing. I think you're perfect in your job!