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A step backward is the way forward

A step backward is the way forward

“The Obstacle is the Path” – Zen Proverb

There are many times in life when we are confronted with a difficult process of dealing with a situation that takes time and during which we may experience a great deal of pain. Emotional pain.

Reading recently about the art of meditation and how it relates to physical exercise, I started to contemplate how we separate emotional and physical pain and treat them in different ways – and realised that if we start to look at similarities between them there may be ways in which we can shift our attitude and deal with emotional pain from a different perspective.

I’ve talked before about metaphors and how they can negatively impact our perceptions – and how reframing them can have a significant effect on our ability to deal with difficult or challenging situations. Earlier this week I experienced a deep sense of being “lost”. It was a feeling I know very well from the stages of grief – it isn’t just a simple feeling of losing touch with where you are, it is a sudden and desperate disconnection with who you are and life itself. Like being adrift in a huge ocean with no sense of where they might be any land and therefore with complete disorientation. I felt bereft. And in the moment I was in it, there temporarily felt like no way out.

I felt like I had taken a huge step backwards.

Of course as in all states it was temporary. Everything is temporary and holding on to that simple understanding now helps me get through it – I use another metaphor as a mantra. Clouds pass. Holding on to that single thought gets me to a point where I can deal with the feelings that have caused me to land in that space.

And then I started to think about the term taking a huge step backwards and relating it to exercise. If I am walking over tough terrain and meet an obstacle, I may need to move backwards to find an alternative path. In that scenario, would I literally take a step backwards? Well unless there were circumstances that absolutely prevented it, the answer would be no. Because if I did that, I would not be able to see where I was going. I would be placing my feet behind me without being sure of where I was placing them. The likelihood is, I would turn around and face the direction I now need to head in. And in that case I wouldn’t be taking a step backwards, I would actually be heading forwards to the new place I needed to be in order to change direction and make progress in a different way.

So often, we are not taking a step backwards at all, we are actually just being made aware of an obstacle that awakens us to the fact that we need to move in a different direction. And that is progress. So the next time you feel that you have taken a step backwards, perhaps a way to perceive the situation differently, would be to mentally visualise yourself turning round to face the step that you need to take. In that way you can see it from a new perspective - and not only can you see it as taking a step forward to finding your new way along the path, by facing into it, you will deal with it more sure-footedly and with greater conviction and clarity.