Day 16: How a Soft Focus Can Make Us More Compassionate Leaders

Sally-Anne, 09.10.20

Welcome to Day 16 of 21 Days on the Mountain. In our Power of Pause practice today, I’m at a river gorge with the waterfall behind me, contemplating the way we look at the world. How we focus on and react to what’s going on around us, and often lose sight of what’s beyond the immediate situation or circumstances. 

When we have a very sharp focus and zoom in on the details, like if we were taking a photo of a flower, the background becomes blurred and fuzzy. 

But with a soft focus, we have a greater depth of field. We can see things in the distance. We can look beyond the obvious and start to see the bigger picture – the person, the intention, the situation, the context.

Being able to see the big picture as well as the detail is an essential leadership skill. If we want something to change, we need to be able to see it from all angles so that we can develop a realistic view of what’s happening and respond appropriately rather than behave reactively. 

So join me for our video today as we explore the different perspectives of looking and seeing – the detail and the big picture – and practise holding a soft focus so that we can respond in a kinder, gentler, more compassionate way. 

Video Transcript

Hello and welcome back to 21 Days On The Mountain, a chance for us to pause together for a few minutes. So this is Day 16, and I’m sitting next to a gorge, you can hear it no doubt in the background, it’s very loud. There’s a bridge just here and I’m looking down at a great depth, as a tributary of the river Giffre flows through this gorge which has been carved out through the limestone centuries ago. It’s the most beautiful spot and the river is getting stronger and stronger by the day.

And as I sit here, and I’ve been sitting here for 15 or 20 minutes, I’ve been reflecting on our depth of field. So any of you who are photographers and even I, and I’m not a photographer much, I do understand a bit about depth of field when it comes to photography. I know that if we see a photograph with a small depth of field, we’re going to be focusing on something in the foreground, perhaps a beautiful wild flower in sharp focus, and then I love the fuzzy background to bring the flower into relief. That’s a small depth of field. And if we’re looking at a large depth of field then the photo is going to show us everything in the background deeper and deeper in its clarity. 

So I’ve been thinking about how I’m looking at this gorge. When I first sat down I found myself sharply focusing on this beech tree, this sapling of a beech tree that’s sitting right here. Looking closely at the leaves, and bringing them into very sharp focus, and as I do that now I’m aware that everything in the background is very blurry and I’m aware that, you know, my eyes are quite sort of piercingly focused on this. And then if I raise my gaze and extend it down into the gorge, I can see that the clarity of this sapling has receded and I’m looking in a different way, softening my focus. And as I lift my eyes and consciously kind of move my gaze outwards, I start to take in more of this scene. And then I look up and see the mountain above, and I could look as I have done for the last 15 or 20 minutes, I could continue looking, and deepening, and broadening, and softening until this whole landscape becomes more visible. 

So yet again I find myself reflecting on how we as human beings ‘look’. So often I, speaking for myself, I might focus on something very immediate, some very immediate need. Or something that’s just happened, that grabs my attention. And in focusing very very closely on that thing, that thing that someone said or the thing that’s just happened, I lose all sight of anything beyond it. 

But if I can pause, and sort of metaphorically step back, and metaphorically, or even literally look beyond this very specific thing with this very sharp focus that I just experienced, and do my best to look beyond it, look at what’s behind it, look at the voice, the intention, the person, the situation, the context, if I can do that with a soft focus, with compassion and gentleness, then this thing that seemed very sharp and immediate and obvious and urgent, this thing recedes. Its importance simply recedes. And when I respond, I’ll respond from that softer, gentler, more compassionate focus. So yet again as I sit here in nature, next to this gorge, reflecting on all of that, this gorge becomes my teacher. Nature is our teacher. 

So let’s pause. Let’s pause together today, and I invite you to reflect on that, any aspect of that which resonates with you in any way, that you can relate to in any way. Make it yours. I invite you to reflect with me in this two minutes. 

So let’s pause. Let’s bring our awareness inside. Bring our awareness to this space between our sternum and our navel, and consciously breathe. Breathing in, and breathing out. Following your breath, in your rhythm, in your flow. I’m going to close my eyes to help me concentrate. I invite you to do the same, and to join me in this two-minute reflection. Breathing in, know you are breathing in. Breathing out, know you are breathing out. This is an act of self kindness, of self care. 

Pause…

And when you’re ready, on your next breath, gently, with soft focus, open your eyes. 

So thank you for joining me today. I wish you a joyful day. And perhaps you might consider setting your intention, to soften your focus. To look beyond what you immediately see, to get, if you like, the full picture. 

Thank you. Looking forward to seeing you again.

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