go out I beg of you
And taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
With all the wonder of a child.”
Sometimes when I look at my iPhone calendar, with all of those little grey dots indicating a scheduled event, and the color blocked sections of time occupied by some sort of work or social activity, I can literally feel the life draining out of my body. My breath gets quicker, and my mind starts spinning ahead to all that I have to do or accomplish in any given day, week, or month. Anyone else relate?
Now generally, my schedule is filled with things I mostly want to do, or even am excited to do- so what gives? Sure there are cumbersome work tasks and tedious chores to manage, but many of us can feel this way even when getting ready for a party we really wanted to go to, or when racing into a yoga class, or preparing dinner with our families. Why these feelings of dread and overwhelm?
Lack of white space.
Our society places so much emphasis on efficiently doing, creating, striving, building, growing…and we’re frustrated when our bodies, minds, and hearts can’t keep up. In addition to the lurking anxiety and dwindling energy, I’ve observed an even greater cost to the lack of unscheduled time in my life: an increased disconnection from a feeling of contentment.
To me, practicing contentment is one of the most important characteristics of a wholehearted life. Contentment is a mental and emotional shift toward satisfaction; when we feel at ease in our body and mind in any given situation. This pervasive lack of contentment has many influencing factors, but the lack of unscheduled time is a biggie. We have to learn how to let ourselves “off the hook” of the constant drive toward efficiency, so the things that really matter in life have room to surface.
When we allow ourselves the ritual of white space, our minds can move away from anticipating and multi-tasking, to a more open and focused state. Some of our best ideas, inspirations, and mental shifts can happen when we seek the time and space for simplicity and ease.
Our relationship with our ideas, our creativity, our sense of purpose, and our proximity to contentment benefit when we plan in time to do…nothing.
Doing nothing!? Those who know me best know that I don’t do that very well. So here’s my hard fought for advice for the doers and achievers in the room, or for anyone who wants to cultivate a ritual of white space.
Get outside. Not to exercise, but just to be. Go on a walk. Drive yourself to an open natural space. Sit under a tree on a park bench. The Japanese even have a prescriptive medicinal name for this: Shinrin-yoku, or “Forest bathing trip”….a short, leisurely visit to a forest. I know, kinda weird and kinda awesome. Studies are showing that repetitive exposure to nature positively correlates with calming neuro-psycho-biological effects, health promoting hormone production, and a reduction in stress, anger, anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness.
It doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to involve a complex itinerary. Find a natural space to give your ideas, your work in the world, your relationships with others and with yourself room to breathe. Seek contentment by scheduling in time to “be” rather than “do.” (Oh yah, and turn off your phone for a few minutes!)
You just might rediscover your best self in the process.