I begin today’s post with a confession. I invested the previous two weeks in restoring my mental, emotional, and spiritual sanity. I decided several weeks ago that after seven months of not venturing more than a few miles from my home, I needed a respite and a retreat. I didn’t have to think long to determine my destination – a beach community in Northwest Florida that my family and I have been going to for over twenty years.
I drove down myself and drove home alone as well, which with eleven and a half hours of windshield time one way is a fair amount of alone time anyway. I also had a few days at the beginning and end of my time there when my wife joined me to spend time alone and rejuvenate. I tell you all of this not to brag about my beach and golfing exploits, nor to brag about my beautiful golfer’s tan. I brought back several thoughts with me from my time that I think you will enjoy reading about.
One of the detriments of our distracted, byte-sized addictions to all of the opportunities for distractions that exist in our world today is that I believe we have lost the ability to sit still for even a few seconds. Especially to sit still and think, without being distracted. I confess I struggle greatly with this.
I am neither proud of this, nor am I content to allow it to continue at the ever-increasing rate that it has overtaken my life in the past several years. I am committed to creating more margin in my life to be able to sit quietly and think. Indian-born philosopher and writer Jiddu Krishnamurti said this: “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” Whoa!
My handy dictionary app on my phone (my primary distraction) defines observe: To see, watch, perceive, or notice. To regard with attention, especially so as to see or learn something. Ok, let me see your hands, how many of you in the past week took time to perceive or notice something? How many in the last month regarded something with enough attention to learn something. Yeah, me either.
Let’s take it one step further. My dictionary app says this about evaluating: To determine or set the value or amount of. To judge or determine the significance, worth, or quality of. Now, this is convicting. Again, a show of hands for everyone who has not been conditioned by our world today to look at something quickly and not make a snap judgment. Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Here is the conundrum. Can we observe without evaluating? Of course, we can. But it takes patience, practice, and intentionality. Is there a place where you can go that makes this easier to do? Some room in your house, a coffee shop in town, or even just a favorite chair where you can sit and think with no distractions?
For me, there is no better place than outside in nature. I love being outdoors. Of course, a beautiful day doesn’t hurt, but even if the weather is less than perfect, I find that doing outside allows me to connect with myself and to connect with my Creator. It could be almost anywhere. I prefer the beach or a golf course but since I don’t get to do that every day, an early morning walk with my dog is a good substitute.
No matter where you do it, and how you do it, I believe we need to fight for our intelligence and create some margin to think, to ask ourselves questions, and to listen to the answers that come. I like to do this with God too. I have to admit, I don’t always get the answers I think I am looking for, but I rarely come away from such a session without feeling more relaxed, more clarity, and more purpose as I go through the rest of my day.
I’d love to hear from you. What practices work for you? What do you need to stop doing to create more margin to start thinking? What questions or comments do you have? I’d love you to share them below.
I also invite you to review my coaching page on my website here. I have only a couple of spots left in my Personal Development Coaching Practice. Each week I offer two free strategy sessions on a first-come, first-served basis to people interested in exploring how to become a person who pursues their goals and dreams. These precious hour-long sessions prove again and again to be invaluable to those who participate. You can book these directly on my coaching page – I look forward to serving you.
Famous American poet and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau famously said, “The question is not what you look at but what you see.” On some level, we were all horrified by the events that took place in our nation’s capital last week. Not surprisingly, it has stirred up even more division and vitriol than existed a week ago, which seemed palpable even on its own.
I have no interest or inclination to get into a political discussion. If you’re looking for that, you won’t have to look very hard. I have determined that I will focus my time on building solutions by offering grace and kindness rather than looking to become involved with the many opportunities available to engage with strangers and especially close friends in a moral online battle. My solution is straightforward; I try to ignore it.