Time Alone

Find a regular time and place to be alone. People in transition are often still involved in activities and relationships that continue to bombard them with cues irrelevant to their emerging needs. Because a person is likely to feel lonely in such a situation, the temptation is to seek more and better contact with others; but the real need is for a genuine sort of  aloneness  in which inner signals can make themselves heard. Doing housework after the kids leave for school or paperwork with the office door shut are not being alone in the sense I am talking about.

The old passage rituals provide the person with this experience of deep aloneness, often in a wilderness setting. (Interestingly, the Hebrew word for the “wilderness” in which Jesus, Moses, and Buddha spent time during critical periods of their lives is the same word that means ‘sanctuary.” This unmappable “nowhere” was also, as several of these heroes were explicitly told, holy ground.) Traditionally, time spent in such “sanctuaries” was a continuous period; but you many have to plan your time to accommodate your own life situation. One person manages that getting up every morning forty-five minutes ahead of the rest of the family and sitting quietly in the living room with a cup of coffee. Another jogs regularly after work for a half an hour. Another plays ocean sounds and temple bells on his car stereo whenever he drives along. Still another has cleaned out a little storage room off the upstairs hall and sits quietly alone in there for an hour after supper.

William Bridges, Transitions

The Gift of Belonging

We all need a place we can call home – not just brick and mortar and four walls, but an atmosphere that is secure, where we feel completely comfortable with each other in the sureness that we belong, and that our happiness and well-being are of utmost importance to our partner. John Powell has captured the essence of this love in one sentence: “We need the heart of another as a home for our hearts.”

You are accustomed to spending time together without quarrels and recriminations, so that you feel safe with each other. At the same time, familiarity should never bred discourtesy. The courteous kindness we show our partners should be even greater than courtesy shown to anyone else.

Although warm affection seems as simple and uncomplicated as the comfort of an old shoe, it takes a measure of time and consistent behavior to build this love in your (relationship) – time spent in proving to each other that you can be depended on to be loyal, supportive and kind. In short, that you can be depended on.

It is possible to begin developing this love now, even if you have failed in the past. It will require forgiving and forgetting past mistakes. It will necessitate a practical decision to be one against the world. It must include consistent kindness in your daily behavior, for this is fundamental to the continuance of love.

Ed Wheat, Love-Life for Every Married Couple

Gaining new Perspective by unfocusing

Truly successful people don’t come up with great ideas through focus alone. They are successful because they make time to not concentrate and to engage in a broad array of activities like playing golf. As a consequence, they think inventively and are profoundly creative: they develop innovative solutions to problems and connect dots in brilliant ways.

In a time and age when everyone is over-scheduled and over-focused, creativity is more and more prized— it’s the key to your effectiveness and success, in life and in business.

Experts suggest that the key to being idle or to unfocusing is to diversify our activities rather than being constantly focused on a single task. To get a new perspective on something, we actually need to disengage from it. We can diversify in two ways: through mindless tasks or through a broader set of experiences.

Stanford psychologist Emma Seppälä writing in the Washington Post

Unfocusing increases Creativity

“By taking that fifteen-minute period for mindlessness or daydreaming, your attention has been broadened and your mind is now able to make more creative connections between ideas. This cannot happen when you stay overly focused on a problem,” explains (Scott Barry Kaufman, scientific director of the Imagination Institute at the University of Pennsylvania).

Walking, in particular, appears to boost creativity. In a study appropriately titled “Give Your Ideas Some Legs,” researchers found that, both during the walks and right afterward, people scored higher on several different creativity tests. 

You can also unfocus by broadening your experiential and intellectual horizons. According to Kaufman, anything that violates expectations of how the world works can boost creativity. For example, a semester spent studying abroad boosts students’ creativity. Why? New experiences that disrupt our usual way of life and show us a different perspective make us more mentally flexible or creative.

Stanford psychologist Emma Seppälä writing in the Washington Post

The best moments in our lives

The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his won record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person, there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expend ourselves.

Such experiences are not necessarily pleasant at the time they occur. The swimmers muscles might have ached during his most memorable race, his lungs might have felt like exploding, and he might have been dizzy with fatigue – yet these could have the best moments of his life. Getting control of life is never easy, and sometimes it can be definitely painful. But in the long run optimal experiences add up to a sense of mastery – or perhaps better, a sense of participation in determining the content of life –that comes as close to what is usually meant by happiness as anything else we can conceivably imagine.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

fuming and fretting

One autumn day Mrs. Peale and I took a trip into Massachusetts to see our son John and we pride ourselves on the good old American custom of promptness. Therefore, being a bit behind schedule, we were driving at breakneck speed through the autumnal landscape. My wife said, "Norman, did you see that radiant hillside?"

"What hillside?" I asked.

"It just went by on the other side," she explained.

"Look at that beautiful tree."

"What tree?" I was already a mile past it.

"This is one of the most glorious days I have ever seen," my wife said. "How could you possibly imagine such amazing colors as these New England hillsides in October? In fact," she said, "it makes me happy inside."

That remark of hers so impressed me that I stopped the car and went back a quarter of a mile to a lake backed by towering hills dressed in autumn colors. We sat and looked and meditated. God with His genius and skill had painted that scene in the varied colors which He alone can mix. In the still waters of the lake lay a reflected vision of His glory, for the hillside was unforgettably pictured in that mirrorlike pond.

For quite a while we sat without a word until finally my wife broke the silence by the only appropriate statement that one could make, "He leadeth me beside the still waters." (Ps 23:2) We arrived at Deerfield at eleven, but we were not tired. In fact, we were deeply refreshed.

Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking