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Context fills in the cracks

It’s Thursday morning and I’m at the coffee shop. That’s not unusual; I’m often here at the coffee shop with my spouse for our weekly collaborative “Sermon Breakfast,” when he talks about his thoughts for the upcoming sermon and I type notes of his thoughts and our discussion. But he’s out of town this week, and I need the context of the collaborative familiarity of this place.

That context is framed in part by the ambiance here at the coffee shop: the baristas know me and the symphony of sounds within the hum of the air whooshing through the vents, the various bangs, taps, and hissing of the espresso machine, the friendly bark of “order up!” and responding ‘thank you!’, all punctuated by the occasional laughter that rises above it all like leaves caught in a wind are comforting. But even more than that, it’s context of Thursday morning, a day of creativity and collaboration all supported by the routines of this particular day of the week. This whole context helps to generate traction for my creativity today.

In the story of our health, “context” relates to what was happening at the time that you sustained an injury or when you notice a particular pain (or symptom).

During our own personal development throughout our lives, context takes on a bigger sensibility to encompass not only what’s happening at the time of a particular event but includes so much more: the emotions running through our mind & heart at the time, the circumstances surrounding any particular event, our relationships with people involved (even those people not physically present at the time), what we know at the time (as well as what we don’t yet know), even what we pick up from our five senses, where we happen to be physically standing (or sitting, or walking, etc.) and so many other aspects.

Context might be best described as the whole of our experience within a period of time condensed within a single snapshot: Context is ubiquitous and, while it’s a constant ever-present aspect of our experience, it’s really easy to take context for granted.

For example, the question “may I ask you a question?” holds a different context when it’s asked by a close friend while you’re walking into a movie theater than when asked by your boss while you’re packing up to leave work for the day. Not only does the context of each situation change the experience itself, but the context engenders curiosity about what else we know – and what we could yet know – about that particular situation and our reaction to & response within that event.

Generally, context remains an undercurrent in our lives, always present and often complex, and while our personal experience of a particular context may change depending on our perspective and what we know at any given time, our ability to review and reflect upon the context of the circumstances of our lives is always available for review and reflection. Knowing how to review the context within our lives becomes a powerful tool in our development and our relationships.

Your context is your own and, while it may be influenced by others, you are the only one who can really speak to and unpack your own context because others can’t read what’s inside your thoughts.

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