Create an oasis of quiet …

I have a real need for Silent Spaces in my day – times for me to pull away from noise, activity, energies and emotions and balance myself, inside. I have since learned that this is partly because I’m an Introvert – one easily knocked off centre if engaged in the energy and company of others for too long. Where Extroverts thrive in this environment and pump up in the midst of others – I deplete, slowly; like a balloon with a pin prick.

The other reason Silence matters to me, I’ve learned – is that Creativity is more likely to emerge when the swirling thoughts and pressures of the day are allowed to quiet down. This can take some time – as I’m sure you all know.

I recently watched a lecture by John Cleese on the 5 Factors to Creativity – and he shares the process we can go through when we seclude ourselves for the sake of Creativity with humour. Something to the effect of this: “Okay, I now have 90 minutes to be creative and original in the creation of the solution to this challenge before me. The door’s locked and everyone knows I’m not to be disturbed. Oh – I forgot to tell Mary that I need that report on Wednesday instead of Thursday, which means I have to reschedule lunch with Tom. And I mustn’t forget to buy a birthday gift for Sue on the way home tonight – and my son’s first play-off game is at 6pm and I forgot to wash his uniform. I’ve got 27 calls to make before 4pm and all these paper clips to arrange. And when was the last time those plants were watered. Oh my God, I’ve got waaaay too much to do to be creative right now – I’ll have to schedule this again for tomorrow when I have all the work cleared away.”

I have been accused of being a slow thinker. I understand where that belief comes from – while others can give snap answers to questions posed to them, I tend to process the question, ‘feel’ it from a variety of angles and perspectives, relate all that to the context at hand – and then share my best thought or opinion as a result. Naturally, this is an invisible process where only I know what’s going on. And while it can take the space of one minute or less – that is a life-time to a ‘snap thinker’.

In John Cleese’s lecture – he speaks to pushing through the discomfort of not going with the first answer that floats up, or with any answer for the sake of making a decision. (This does not apply to Decisive Thinkers – those who actually have the capacity to come up with the best possible solution quickly and then lead the action accordingly. This is for those who feel they’re ‘supposed’ to make decisions quickly – or go with an easy option for the sake of finally making a decision without sitting with it long enough for a creative and/or  original and/or decision you can truly live with and implement arises.)

As an example – he referenced his time with Monty Python, and his surprise that he consistently produced scripts that were more creative and original than someone else on the team who considered to hold more talent. What it came down to, apparently, was that John Cleese was willing to sit with the challenge for as long as he was allowed before a finished product was needed – while the other member of the troupe would always create scripts around the first idea that popped into his mind, as that was easier and faster.

Anyone who Journals knows that this is a process that requires more than a few minutes at a time. As you start documenting your day or recording your thoughts and feelings (or whatever you use your Journal for) – you merely tap the surface of all that’s inside of you. The longer you sit with your thoughts and feelings and commit to the process of writing ~ the more often you’re amazed with the insight that presents itself on the page, seemingly ‘out of nowhere’. Clarity and insight don’t always dwell on the surface – to reach them, you often have to dig deep. Like roots, they exist underground – and its important to tap into them, because they breathe life energy into whatever grows from them.

I’ve never really minded being labelled a slow thinker – because I’ve known, inside, it’s not true. I’m a deep thinker, a contemplative — which would render me useless in an emergency situation where quick thinking and immediate decision-making was necessary, but serves well in a myriad of other situations. And my well of thought and insight is fed and nourished in the Oasis of Quiet that I allow myself when needed.

Have you walked a Labyrinth before? This is a Walking Meditation that I was willing to consider when first introduced to it by Shirley McLaine in an Oprah interview – and then later in her most recent autobiography, I’m Over All That. You start at the entry point, and then follow the paths back and forth, around and around, to the Labyrinth’s centre. Walking in Silence is recommended – though of course, how you approach and use the Labyrinth is up to you. Once in the centre – you can sit and actually meditate, simply look around, linger – or turn around and work your way back through the Labyrinth’s paths to the exit.

Being the Spirit Sleuth that I am, I walked the paths while looking around for signs in the trees, the clouds, words I overheard spoken in conversation by others walking by, observing thoughts that floated through my head, etc. When I’d walked in and then back out again, I captured what ‘came up’ for me in my Journal on a nearby bench before leaving. It struck me then how I’d held back from approaching when I saw another woman walking the Labyrinth when I arrived. I was careful not to photograph her while taking pictures of the site. And I lingered some time in hopes she’d leave – both so I would not disturb her process, and also – so she would not disturb mine.

Time was passing, however – so I swallowed all apprehension and just started the walk. The paths weave and wind, the odds were good, I thought, that we wouldn’t cross paths at any point anyway. I was wrong – for in spite of the weaving and winding – it’s all one path (sounds like a Life Wisdom, doesn’t it?) ~ and we did, eventually, meet up.

I stepped to the side with an apology. She responded with a smile – and as she walked by, she said, “Stay on your path. Stay on your path.” Of course, she likely meant it in a very literal way, as in – don’t step aside for others, it’s not necessary. Stay focussed, keep walking. But in light of the issue I’m grappling with ~ Stay On Your Path actually holds great significance. And I put it in my heart to fan the flames of creativity when doubt sets in.

Whatever you’re facing, however you’re going to move forward ~ know that a helpful strategy along the way, is to create, and enter, an oasis of quiet from time to time where creativity and original thinking can emerge, present itself and maybe – change everything.

3 Comments

  1. like so many of your posts, this one is packed with all sorts of things that interest and intrigue me: labyrinths? absolutely love them and wish, wish, wish i had space to build one here. neuroeconomics (how we make decisions)? fascinating. contemplation? i aspire. being drained like a pin prick in a balloon by groups of people? you just painted a portrait of me.

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  2. wearmanyhats

    Our priest worked tirelessly to install a labyrinth, (a removeable one) that can be used for lent and encouraged us to take time to contemplate and use it for spiritual growth. It is, perhaps, his greatest legacy for our church. A gift. Our children and I have walked it many times, and I always find a new solution to a problem, or a new insight on something that I hadn’t considered before. Waling it with another is so similar to life; we have to travel our own path even when our runs parallel to another’s or we must pass by another person. Sadly, many of the people in our church don’t appreciate the labyrinth and the effort our leader has put into it. I worry that after he leaves, it will sit and collect dust unless some like me takes it on as a lenten duty. Once again, you strike me as someone who would be a very good friend.

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