Ever wonder where all the time for digital media comes from? It's not like before the internet people were sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Or were they? Our best guess about what we do less of now as we spend more time e-connecting is reflecting. Just writing the word reflecting we feel ourselves nostalgic for a quality of time that seems rare these days. Once there was a spaciousness between—between events, goals, and things to do—when we would experience time void of expectations. During those periods we would take a moment or two or three to reflect on, well, anything and everything.
With space to ponder, our minds become free to wander, venturing over what has happened, is happening, or might happen. From there we can consider what we did, what we might have done, and what we want to do. Reflecting in this way is vital to self-learning and is an opportunity to integrate the various aspects of ourselves.
If we choose, reflecting can take us deeply into ourselves, encouraging us to go beyond our habitual thoughts and explore new terrain. Here we may uncover truths that have eluded us, or unearth a cache of new possibilities that has been quietly, patiently waiting to be found. Through this process of discovery we can become unstuck, inspired and, just possibly, wiser.
Sometimes we need room to recite the narrative of our lives to ourselves so that we can catch up with who we are currently. While reviewing our life we may stumble upon all manner of things, including stuff we've forgotten, like reading an old journal written by a younger self. It is also a chance for letting go of the stuff that no longer serves us—outdated attitudes, beliefs, assumptions—as we update our story to what is true for us now. How many times have we found ourselves pursuing outdated decisions and goals because we haven't taken the time to reconsider them? As we catch up with who we are, our breath deepens, and we feel more grounded in our being.
The need for reflection is so imperative to our mental well-being that if we don't consciously make sufficient time for it, our unconscious will. Sleeplessness or poor quality sleep can be a symptom of too little downtime. Sickness—especially when it knocks you flat on your back—can be another indication. Significant time spent on mindless distractions is yet another. (One or two cute kitten videos is totally understandable, but by your fourth kitten video you should suspect a more profound agenda asserting itself.) Tiredness while pursuing work tasks may be one more sign that your brain wants to kickback and consider.
The consequences of denying ourselves sufficient time to reflect are grave indeed. Ultimately it's a recipe for crazy; but short of that, it can make you feel anxious, confused, disoriented, ungrounded, out of control, or depressed. We need reflection to de-stress, and if we don't make time for it, all the impacts of unprocessed anxiety cascade into our lives.
It is one of modern life's curious paradoxes that we now need to create structures to give ourselves the time and space to daydream. We need to literally schedule in time for nothing and prompt ourselves to wonder. Here are some suggestions to help you stare into space:
In this era overwrought with consuming, it is good to remember that much of what we need is easily and freely at hand when we take the time to be with ourselves and simply reflect.
Check out our own New Year's process for reflecting on the year that has been and clarifying your intentions for the year to come.
Right now, schedule in time to reflect during the coming week, and make a commitment to unplug as well. Notice what's different when you give yourself the most precious gift of all: time.
May you feel the wonder as you wander.
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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