Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Everything works better when we make time for ourselves

Before my child was born (my first and only), I kept my life very spacious. His father worked different hours and lots of them, and I had a lot of time to myself. I liked it best that way. I stayed peaceful, vibrant, free-spirited and grounded.

I'm an only child, and always thrived with a lot of personal time. I use it in various ways- writing, reading, art, music, hiking, yoga, and so on. I have taken many spacious walks, no time limit, no destination at times, just the fresh air, earth, movement, and the rest of the world just swirling around me in its own way. Gentle and leisurely self-reflection and spacious presence are the common thread among all these varying ways to return to myself.

After all, returning to ourselves is the quest of yoga, of spare time, of life, right? Find out who and what we are and to be that fully and fearlessly is our individual purpose in life. Who we are evolves constantly, and we can direct this consciously. Carving out "spare" time gives us the necessary space required to rejuvenate, and to drop all of the erratic or negative energy and stress we have gathered from our frenzied interactions with others in the so-called real world or man-made deadlines, pretense, and insufficiency. When we do what feels good, be it cleaning our home and rearranging the furniture or taking a long hike, we clear our minds of all the past clutter, all of the stress that clogs our attention and robs us of peace, health, contentment and joy.

Our society doesn't value down-time, especially down-time spent alone or not shopping or watching TV. Self-reflection is crucial, either actively or passively (both are required), and gives us the freedom we need to re-expand into our natural state (yoga, being our unique selves fully).

I have recently realized that lately I have given up all of my down-time. And I am not well for it. I am less creative, inspired, joyful and positive. I am less pleasant, and I am not myself. I am not a horrible person, but I am not me. And I am not willing to be anything less then the most whole and vibrant version of myself possible at all times. I want my son to know me for the wonderful person I am, and I need to be my very best example for him. My sweetheart deserves the very best version of me as well. How can we expect love to thrive when we smother each other and don't have the freedom to be ourselves, evolve, and miss each other?

This is the value of independently spent, relaxing, rejuvenating, self-reflective time. It saves romantic relationships. It makes us sick less often and more satisfied in our lives. It helps us to be the most patient and loving parents possible. It makes life better, for ourselves and everyone around us. If you think that is just a little far-fetched, consider how a person's patience is inversely proportionate to their amount of inner peace. Without constructive down-time, we all become fearful, raggedy, bitchy little cobras, heads reared up, ready to attack anything and anyone that moves. Everything becomes a burden, a chore, a reason to sigh or feel on edge.

We have to trust ourselves and each other enough to allow and encourage this constructive freedom. If we want our romantic relationships to stand a chance of weathering the tests of daily life and time, we need to do this for each other. We need to require it of ourselves and each other. It is the same as parents- without time apart we have no space to miss our kids, and we do not treat them as patiently and we cannot appreciate them as thoroughly. Even if we are single without children, we have to take time from work for play. In many European nations, two-weeks vacations every year are mandatory, and no work is to be done at all, no communication from the office is allowed.

Perhaps that's why the single life is so admired by so many- its not that it is even fundamentally better then a relationship or marriage- its that it naturally involves lots of free time, and most couples, with good intentions, pave the road to their break-up with a complete lack of regular, healthy alone-time for each individual.

Life is like one of those little puzzles with the squares- without one blank square nothing else moves and nothing works.

1 comment:

  1. You are dead on with this article. Without time for myself I am one difficult person. Busy is fine and busy means you are actively engaged in life but down time is a must for regeneration. The sad thing is as a society we are not teaching our kids this. kids start younger and younger on a high stress diet of running from one activity to another. Why are we burning out our youth?
    I am one of those folks who value their singledom and wouldn't trade it for the world. I can choose: with the kids, alone or with a friend. Whatever my needs are at the moment.

    Talk about this in class, It has definitely inspired me. We all could use the reminder now and again.