The word ‘reflection’ means to look back, as if we are looking into a mirror or seeing our reflection in a pool of water. We are looking at ourselves as if from the outside. We are observing ourselves with a degree of detached curiosity. We are conducting a brief, objective review of our lives.

And sometimes when we look in the mirror, instead of just guiding the razor or applying some make-up, we might catch ourselves in the moment. We stop, we stare and we wonder just who is that person gazing so intently back at us?

In our quieter moments we all tend to become more reflective, thinking back over the day and pondering recent events. Usually we are looking back and reviewing facts, remembering what has happened and sorting the events into a coherent story.

Reflection usually occurs during the pauses in our lives, especially after an event has finished. Driving home from work, finishing reading a book or having a quiet glass of wine at the end of the day are all situations where we might drift into idle thought.

When we give ourselves a moment to stop doing, we can shift into a more detached state of being. We can be reflective, and we can passively dissect the day. The more ‘in the moment’ we are, the more reflective we become.

Whether watching a sunset or gazing into an open fire, we all tend to become more aware of the bigger picture in our lives. We look for meaning, patterns or a sense of higher purpose.

We can all find ways to deliberately schedule more opportunities for reflection in our daily lives. We can keep a journal or diary, and choose a bath rather than a shower.

Taking a regular walk at the end of the day is another simple way to unwind and reflect on the bigger picture. The habit of purposeful self-reflection is a skill that sets wise folk apart from the rest.

Reflection is a way of accessing a sense of wisdom in life. If we don’t stop to reflect, then we simply trundle through the events that we experience without pause for thought, without assimilating what we have learned.

We are little better than sheep, grazing with their noses firmly pressed to the ground for the entire duration of their life. And when they look up from the grass, they are simply looking for more grass.

There are naturally occurring moments of enforced big-picture reflection in life, usually following adversity when life comes to a crashing halt. Painful loss inevitably brings the burden of grief and a renewed search for purpose and meaning in life.

In the eerie calm following a tragedy, we often experience profound insights about what is really important to us and what we truly value.

These life-changing insights also occur during those exhilarating moments of joy, when time seems to stand still. At the birth of a child or when we see the tail fluke of a diving whale against a picture-perfect sunset, we simply gaze in awe at the richness of life.

In such moments, we feel that we are in touch momentarily with something profound. We sense that there must be some kind of inherent message in the experience that connects us to a fundamental truth in life. We must grasp these opportunities with both hands whenever they occur.

By Chris Skellett, author of The Power of the Second Question - Finding Simple Truths for Complex Lives.