“Never underestimate the power of a single individual to affect the world. Remember, one candle in a cave lights everything.”
– Abraham Maslow
Maslow offers a series of meditations for what he refers to as ‘being-values’ or higher values. These include creativity, awe, wonder, courage, transcendence, beauty and love. Maslow suggests practising the following exercises to help us shift perspective and inspire a greater sense of meaning. The human tendency to habituate to circumstances means we tend to fall asleep and start taking the many gifts life offers for granted. These exercises act as an antidote to this. One idea might be to pick one of these meditations for a day or a week and notice how it changes your perception.
- In the midst of the mundane tasks of daily living ask yourself: How would this situation look to a child? To the innocent? To a very old person who is beyond personal ambition or competition?
- Cultivate the sense of possibility by contemplating a new born baby or a great person from history like Socrates, Leonardo or Mandela.
- “Outer voices are usually louder than inner ones, and lower voices are usually prepotent over higher ones”, writes Maslow. Therefore, we need to cultivate quiet time to listen more deeply to ourselves – no busyness, no noise, no activity, distraction or responsibility.
- Contemplate people who are admirable, beautiful, and lovable.
- Contemplate life from a historian’s perspective – 100 years or even 1000 years in the future.
- Contemplate your life from viewpoint of non-human species, ants etc.
- Imagine you have only one year left to live.
- See your daily life from a great distance, for example from the perspective of a village in Africa.
- Look at a familiar person with fresh eyes.
- Look at a person as if seeing them for last time.
- See a situation through eyes of the great wise sages.
- Try addressing yourself not to those immediately around you but over their shoulder to the greats of history.
Journaling about these scenarios may be a useful way in. There is an added benefit to taking time to reflect afterwards on any shifts you noticed in yourself from practicing each exercise.