The streetlight effect

Today I share with you a story that Tamara Levitt told during my meditation session with her on Tuesday using the Calm app. I found what she said very interesting and inspiring because I think that sometimes we only tend to see what is comfortable for us but not what we may work on in oder to shape our character to become that person we have always aimed to be.

The title of this story is ‘The streetlight effect’ and it comes from an old parable. Late one night a policeman sees an elderly man searching for something under the streetlight. The policeman approaches him to ask what he has lost. The man explains that he has lost his keys and they both continue looking under the streetlight together. After a short while, the policeman asks if he is sure he lost them here and the man replies: “No, I’ve lost them in the park!”. The policeman then asks: “Why are you searching here?!” and the man responds: “This is where the light is”.

So we are often tempted to look for a solution where it is easiest to look rather than going into the depths of the root causes of our problems. Our relationship is failing and we don’t want to deal with it, so instead we throw ourselves into our work. We have an interpersonal conflict at work and we don’t want the discomfort of a confrontation, so we just ignore the person. We are feeling down or dissatisfied and, rather than facing our pain, we seek escape in food, shopping or entertainment but these things only bring momentary pleasure and soon we are once again confronted with our difficulties.

We are habituated to looking outside of ourselves for answers but, when the problems we are facing is an internal one, usually the solution lies within and this is good news: we already have all that we need. We just need the insight and courage to confront our difficulties head-on. The truth we seek, the answers and solutions lie within. So it may be difficult to turn inward in time of challenge but this is the work of our practice. When we learn to stay and face fear and discomfort and open ourselves to experience, rather than shut down or turn away, we can be sure we’re digging in the right place.
As Emma Tiebens said: Going inward. That’s the real work. The solutions are not outside of us. Get to know who you really are, because as you search for the hero within, you inevitably become one.

The strteetlight in Sevilla, Plaza de España

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