Up and up


Not long ago, I found myself outside early one morning just as the sun was coming up. I had made a special effort that morning to catch a super early yoga class in my neighborhood. It’s one of those things that is so hard to motivate to do, and then once you have, you realize it was so worth it. As I left the studio and walked the few blocks home, the sky above me shifted moment by moment from purple to pink to orange and yellow. It was breathtaking, and I couldn’t stop looking up — something it had been so long since I’d truly done.

When you bump into someone you haven’t seen in a while, and they ask you how you’re doing, what’s your typical response? 

Probably something like, “Good!” or even “Great!” whether it’s true or not, then followed by something else like, “Busy! but good!” Or, “things have been crazy these past few weeks, but it’ll be fine soon.”

Busy. Hectic. Crazy. Swamped. Slammed. Trying to get your head above water. Trying to find a moment to look up.

When we are managing a lot, we say our “heads are down,” and it’s literally true. There’s more than one reason for it, though.

First, of course, we want to focus. We train our gaze down to exactly where it needs to be, to drown out the bigger picture and keep it from distracting us.

Second, when our energy is frenetic, the ground is stabilizing. We instinctively look down to steady ourselves. It’s part of our nature, and once again, it is meant to tune out the extra noise of surrounding areas, as well as within our minds.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that. Focus is important. Grounding is soothing. You’ve heard me praise its merits many times, including earlier this past summer. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing?

That’s a trick question. You know the answer.

What if you’re always busy, trying to focus, and looking to the ground to support you? You might be missing out on the things that happen to not be right under your nose.

I had a moment earlier this week when I was trying to solve a problem. I was looking for space in an existing framework to insert something new. I was struggling, as one solution after another proved unfeasible. Then I realized, I was taking the framework for granted. I didn’t need to keep it exactly as it was. There was nothing saying I couldn’t take it apart, at least in part, and reconsider where everything needed to be in light of the new information. So I did that, and suddenly it all made sense. It fit.

The solution was there all along, I just needed to step back, and look up, to see it.

Sometimes the bigger picture is too much. When a particular challenge is pushing you to your limits, small, focused doses may be exactly what you need. Letting yourself get trapped there, though, that’s a different story.

The world is big, and the sky is beautiful. Don’t get so distracted that you miss it.

Photo credit: Moi


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