Posts Tagged ‘reflection’

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Ten Healthy Ideas – Day Four: Habit of Reflection

December 24, 2013
reflection

Reflection

In 2006, a Stanford research team studied two groups of people. One group were self-described as heavy Internet users. The other group didn’t use the Internet very often. The researchers put both groups through a series of tests where they had to come to conclusions by analyzing a very difficult series of statements in a field none of them were familiar with. At the end, they had to make a decision about what course of action they would take. What none of them knew was they weren’t being tested for their decision-making ability, but their ability to mentally stay on task.

Not surprisingly, those who used the Internet a lot were more easily distracted. The researchers found that when they introduced noises, background smells, lights and people moving by the window, the heavy Internet users could not concentrate as well as the light Internet users. At the end of the test, each participant was scored by an independent panel regarding the final decision they came to. Overall, the light Internet users made wiser decisions. 

Here is what they concluded. The heavy Internet users had lost the ability to reflect, to ponder the possibilities. They were more easily distracted and could not keep their minds on one subject. In essence, the could not Reflect

Reflection is the ability to analyze and dissect the events of a person’s life, looking for meaning, purpose and possible courses of action. If a person cannot reflect, they will often act impetuously and unwisely. Unfortunately, most 21st century people no longer take any time to reflect. As Nicholas Carr says in his book “The Shallows”, that our

“online intelligence has weakened our ability to reflect, to examine, to imagine and to analyze. We can maintain more information in our brains and yet we have less ability to make good use of that knowledge”.

74 separate times in the Bible the word “Selah” is found. The word means to “stop and reflect, to see deeply into something”. Most often this word is employed in the Psalms after the writer has made a profound or troubling statement. He wants the reader to stop and reflect on how to proceed now that this truth is presented. This was not hard for someone who grew up governed by the slow pace of an agricultural society. It wouldn’t even be that hard for those who entered our world when there was no television, radio, newspaper or Internet. But now that we have all of those, who has the ability to reflect very long any more.

Ten years ago, I was asked to lead a seminar for young church leaders on the skills involved with meditation and reflection. There were 150 people at the conference and they had four options for their seminar. Only one person chose to attend my reflection teaching. I actually had expected this so my feelings were not wounded too deeply. I told the organizer that the only way we could get people there would be to rename it something that sounded more dynamic. The people of our world no longer desire to spend long moments in reflection. What good is there in completely stopping at various times a day? Actually, reflection and meditation are very helpful to all of us.

Health professionals say that time of reflection each day can lower blood pressure, regulate the body’s ability to fight off disease, eliminate the need for most anxiety medication, reduce the intensity of migraine headaches, help to heal overwrought relationships and reduce the inflammation associated with arthritis. But these are just the physical benefits.

When we have a time of reflection, we can clearly see the patterns of our lives. Recently, I walked a person I am mentoring through exercises where they had to reflect on their life. At one point, the person got agitated and wanted to stop. When I asked them why, they realized that anger was bubbling to the surface and felt overwhelming. I had them focus on what they were angry about. Soon, elements of their marriage relationship came to mind. Piece by piece, this person worked through their anger and sense of defeat. By the end of 20 minutes, they no longer felt the anger. The next day, my mentee called me and expressed shock about something else. They had been suffering with a sense of fatigue mid-morning for several weeks. For the first time in all those days, they felt energized in the middle of the day. They realized that the meditation time had alerted them to an inner anger that was robbing them of energy.

I usually suggest people have at least a ten minute reflection in the morning and the evening. This can be combined with exercises like the Well of Reflection or a few other exercises I am going to mention in upcoming articles. It is good to have a journal around to keep track of insights.

As Socrates so eloquently told us “the unexamined life is not worth living.” When was the last time you examined your life in any depth? Have you observed some subtle motivations that you need to get a grip on? Do you see how your anger and fears are with you more than you would like to admit? Are there dreams you have been shoving down because you haven’t taken the time to process them? How are your relationships really going? Have  you taken stock of your closest friends and loved ones to determine if  you are acting in a healthy way toward them?

All of these are questions that can only be answered if a person takes time to reflect. In order to accomplish a meaningful time of reflection each day, it is necessary to answer the following questions:

  1. What will stand in my way of doing this daily?
  2. What do I need to stop doing so I can reflect?
  3. What do I hope to get out of this?
  4. Why am I not already doing this?
  5. What would be the best time to do this so I will accomplish it every day?
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Reflective Life – Lesson 1

September 24, 2010

A football fan knows the meaning of the red flag. A head coach throws it when he wants the referee to review the last play (hoping the ref will change his mind). I noticed that all coaches have these moments of hesitation before they throw it. I have learned they hesitate because they first ask assistant coaches way up in the booth to review the play. If after review, they see a chance for a successful challenge, they tell the head coach. It is this moment of reflection that can change a football game.

If you want to live a reflective life, Read the rest of this entry ?

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Reflection Leads to Better Decisions

August 18, 2010

We are told in the Bible that Jesus of Nazareth spent all night alone, deciding which of his followers would be the co-leaders in his movement. He chose 12 men, and some would say he chose very poorly. One of his choices betrayed him in the end. Most of the rest ran away when he was arrested. Two of his followers were political revolutionaries and one was a lackey/informant for the military police of the day.

But he himself makes clear that he chose these 12, all the while knowing their weaknesses. What I note is he spent all night making the decision. He spent all  night ALONE making the decision. He reflected on the personal qualities of all his closest disciples, on the voice of God, on the needs of the movement. During this deep reflection, he did not use a “Lifeline” to call a friend or poll the audience. He used a technique called Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Disappearing Art of Reflection

July 30, 2010

Recently, I wrote an essay on “Rethinking the Value of the Internet” and I came to point #4 and realized it opened up a huge can of worms. I said that the Internet can cause us to lose the ability to become reflective. I received a flood of emails and personal responses asking me to go into more detail about this.

A week later, I read about a book written by Nicholas Carr titled, “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains” wherein he laments our lost ability to REFLECT in life any more. I realized I had to read it and digest it in my search to help others become more reflective. There are literally hundreds of pithy quotations from that book, but let me quote just two. Early in the book, he makes this analogy:

“Once I was a scuba diver in a sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

The Internet, he says, causes us to no longer see the big picture about anything. He puts it this way,

“We don’t see the forest when we search the Web,” he writes. “We don’t even see the trees. We see twigs and leaves.”

He adds that Twitter, Facebook, text messages, emails, television and every other type of media causes us to have permanent Attention Deficit Disorder. He wonders if the increasing incidence of ADD in our society is because the multiplication of media  has taken everyone with mild cases and turned us into raging Distractoholics. He is exactly right.

In the next month or so, I will be publishing a series of essays to bring our minds back to the disappearing ability to reflect  on anything. In this series I have four purposes:

  • To point out the value of reflection
  • To note the dangers associated with not reflecting
  • To show the obstacles that prevent us from reflection
  • To propose solutions to those obstacles

Join with me in this hunt for the elusive “Reflective Life”.

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