How are you painting your picture?

I currently have over thirty-five items checked out of the library (including books, CDs, DVDs, magazines and books on CD), and more than anything this collection of items expresses my passion for exploring ideas and considering things in ways that are new to me.

A good friend and I use the phrase “expanding the frame” to describe this process, this pursuit, of coming to see a bigger picture and understanding things in new ways. The metaphorical boundaries of the frame capture the feeling of seeing the whole picture (which seems to be a way humans tend to feel), and at the same time, remind us that we are only seeing our picture – which we, sometimes sheepishly, have to admit has been missing important parts of the picture in the past.  Simply put, the frame metaphor allows us to more peacefully hold the contradiction of having faith that we don’t see everything that is going on despite how much it feels like we do.

For me, having faith in the parts missing from my picture fosters compassion towards others. I engage with a willingness to see, to understand, what is motivating this person to act in a way that from inside my frame seems selfish or mean or inconsiderate.

One of the more challenging aspects of frame expansion is turning your exploration inward and looking for what you might not be seeing about yourself and the way you engage with the world.

One of the books I’ve been reading recently is Will Bowen’s Complaint Free Relationships. Bowen started the A Complaint Free World movement through his church and wrote a book under that title in 2007. Both of his books offer a very accessible exploration of how we engage with others and the world around us; he often uses stories to convey ideas and his books are relatively jargon-free.

While I wouldn’t rave about either of these books in a “You have to read them!” fashion, I am happy to have read them both because I believe ideas in the books have shifted things for me in the direction of more love and more ease – and, a paragraph from Complaint Free Relationships also inspired this blog post!

To share this paragraph, early in his second book, Bowen writes:

When we ask questions we engage the mind; we focus. In your relationships, what is your focus? Are you asking yourself questions that draw you to the other person or that repel you from him or her? Are you asking what you like about the person or what you would like to change? Are you asking how you can make the person happy or why he or she is not making you happy? (p.40)

These sorts of questions turn our frame expansion inward and cultivate awareness around how our focus may be shading the picture in our frame – or limiting the size.

And, these questions extend far beyond our relationships. What sort of questions are you asking about other aspects of your life? Your body? Your job? Your car? Your home? Your housekeeping abilities? Your income? Your health?

Are you asking yourself what is broken, missing, or needs fixing? Or, are you asking yourself what is working, what you are grateful to have or what is awesome in your life?


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