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What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking & Sacred Space

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posted on Oct, 29 2011 @ 12:52 PM

Interruption-free space is sacred. Yet, in the digital era we live in, we are losing hold of the few sacred spaces that remain untouched by email, the internet, people, and other forms of distraction. Our cars now have mobile phone integration and a thousand satellite radio stations. When walking from one place to another, we have our devices streaming data from dozens of sources. Even at our bedside, we now have our iPads with heaps of digital apps and the world's information at our fingertips.

There has been much discussion about the value of the "creative pause"* - a state described as "the shift from being fully engaged in a creative activity to being passively engaged, or the shift to being disengaged altogether." This phenomenon is the seed of the break-through "a-ha!" moments that people so frequently report having in the shower. In these moments, you are completely isolated, and your mind is able to wander and churn big questions without interruption.

However, despite the incredible power and potential of sacred spaces, they are quickly becoming extinct. We are depriving ourselves of every opportunity for disconnection. And our imaginations suffer the consequences.

The value of disconnecting is being examined here, and as a person who meditates, has dabbled in Buddhism and Taoism, I can appreciate the benefits and, imo, necessity to accommodate some sacred space and emptiness. I am reminded of the zen riddle where the student asks for his cup to be filled with tea and the master fills the cup but continues to allow the tea to overflow all over the table when pouring. The lesson is, how can we obtain any more info and perspective if our cup(brain) is so full all of the time. I see it as a cycle, like day and night, or the tides washing in and out, where active and inactive are both integral sides of the same coin.
If we allow ourselves to be constantly exposed to info via media and marketing, not only are we staining our psyche with turmoil and gloom, but we are preventing our own creativity, which so often bring innovation, resolution, and a chance to use our minds and bodies in a more harmonious way.

If our brains do genuinely see and record everything around us, well in today's world of doom and gloom, every fiber of our being is soiled with distraught, distrust, and angst. When some think relaxing in front of the tube is a form of letting it all go and relaxing, well it is not because we are bombarded with half truths, fear and marketing of things we do not need.

Why do we crave distraction over downtime?

Why do we give up our sacred space so easily? Because space is scary. During these temporary voids of distraction, our minds return to the uncertainty and fears that plague all of us. To escape this chasm of self-doubt and unanswered questions, you tune into all of the activity and data for reassurance.

But this desperate need for constant connection and stimulation is not a modern problem. I would argue that we have always sought a state of constant connection from the dawn of time, it's just never been possible until now.

It seems to be distracted is more comfortable, in a strange way, and I feel it is drive, both conscious and unconscious to keep from dealing with or sorting out reality. How can we address or fix something if we can not let a complete and unfettered thought unfold? Also, often times, idle thought allows one's own personal demons or negative experiences to surface, which are uncomfortable at times. But I think only by engaging the thoughts can truly dissipate them, to some degree, whereas ignoring them only allows them to fester and come out in an unhealthy ay either mentally or physically through stress.

We are depriving ourselves of every opportunity for disconnection.

The need to be connected is, in fact, very basic in Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the psychological theory that explains the largest and most fundamental human desires. Our need for a sense of belonging comes right after physical safety. We thrive on friendship, family, and the constant affirmation of our existence and relevance. Our self-esteem is largely a product of our interactions with others.

It is now possible to always feel loved and cared for, thanks to the efficiency of our "comment walls" on Facebook and seamless connection with everyone we've ever known. Your confidence and self-esteem can quickly be reassured by checking your number of "followers" on Twitter or the number of "likes" garnered by your photographs and blog posts. The traction you are getting in your projects, or with your business, can now be measured and reported in real time.

Belonging and affirmation of our existence, validation of our selves, these are important facets of our being, and we are, for the most part, social beings, so naturally we strive for these things. But it has to be kept in balance, imo, as in we have to nurture our selves as well, and this 'downtime' is crucial to good health and balance.
edit on 9-1-2012 by GAOTU789 because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 29 2011 @ 12:54 PM

1. Rituals for unplugging.

Perhaps those in biblical times knew what was in store for us when they created the Sabbath? The notion of a day every week reserved for reflection has become more important than ever before. It's about more than just refraining from work. It's about unplugging. The recent Sabbath Manifesto movement has received mainstream, secular accolades for the concept of ritualizing the period of disconnection. Perhaps you will reserve one day on the weekend where you force yourself to disconnect? At first, such efforts will feel very uncomfortable. You will deal with a bout of "connection withdrawal," but stay with it.

2. Daily doses of deep thinking.

Perhaps "sacred space" is a new life tenet that we must adopt in the 21st century? Since we know that unplugging will only become more difficult over time, we will need to develop a discipline for ourselves. Back in the day when the TV became a staple of every American home, parents started mandating time for their children to read. "TV time" became a controlled endeavor because, otherwise, it would consume every waking moment. Now, every waking moment is "connected time," and we need to start controlling it.

We need some rules. When it comes to scheduling, we will need to allocate blocks of time for deep thinking. Maybe you will carve out a 1-2 hour block on your calendar every day for taking a walk or grabbing a cup of coffee and just pondering some of those bigger things. I can even imagine a day when homes and apartments have a special switch that shuts down wi-fi and data access during dinner or at night - just to provide a temporary pause from the constant flow of status updates and other communications.

3. Meditation and naps to clear the mind.

There is no better mental escape from our tech-charged world than the act of meditation. If only for 15 minutes, the ability to steer your mind away from constant stimulation is downright liberating. There are various kinds of meditation. Some forms require you to think about nothing and completely clear your mind. (This is quite hard, at least for me.) Other forms of meditation are about focusing on one specific thing - often your breath, or a mantra that you repeat in your head (or out loud) for 10-15 minutes. At first, any sort of meditation will feel like a chore. But with practice, it will become an energizing exercise.

If you can't adopt meditation, you might also try clearing your mind the old fashioned way - by sleeping. The legendary energy expert and bestselling author Tony Schwartz takes a 20-minute nap every day. Even if it's a few hours before he presents to a packed audience, he'll take a short nap. I asked him how he overcomes the midday anxiety enough to nap. His trick? "Practice," he said. Like all skills that don't come naturally, practice makes perfect.

4. Self-awareness and psychological investment.

Our most basic fears and desires, both conscious and subconscious, are soothed by connectivity and a constant flow of information. It is supremely important that we recognize the power of our insecurities and, at the very least, acknowledge where our anxiety comes from. Awareness is always the first step in solving any problem.

During research for my book, Making Ideas Happen, I was surprised by how many legendary creative leaders credited some form of therapy as a part of their professional success. If you're willing to invest in it, then take the plunge. Whatever you learn will help you understand your fears and the actions you take as a result.

5. Protect the state of no-intent.

When you're rushing to a solution, your mind will jump to the easiest and most familiar path. But when you allow yourself to just look out the window for 10 minutes - and ponder - your brain will start working in a more creative way. It will grasp ideas from unexpected places. It's this very sort of unconscious creativity that leads to great thinking. When you're driving or showering, you're letting your mind wander because you don't have to focus on anything in particular. If you do carve out some time for unobstructed thinking, be sure to free yourself from any specific intent.

The potential of our own creativity is rapidly being compromised by the era we live in. I believe that genius in the 21st century will be attributed to people who are able to unplug from the constant state of reactionary workflow, reduce their amount of insecurity work, and allow their minds to solve the great challenges of our era. Brilliance is so rare because it is always obstructed, often by the very stuff that keeps us so busy.

I wanted to add that realizing this premise, and applying it has benefited me greatly in reducing stress, feeling whole, and being able to release the tension from a situation that gets me ruffled. It just makes sense that we have to allow the buildup to subside, so that we can build it again and again in a more constructive way.

posted on Oct, 29 2011 @ 01:05 PM
I use the above video for just 10 minutes of emptying out my head, accompanied by some stretching, and I think it works, almost miraculously. I understand how complete silence and stillness can be somewhat uncomfortable, so I like to use music that is non-repetitive and lyric free, otherwise the mind will be snagged into rampant thoughts. This type of music though is conducive to peace, harmony and higher mental functions, imo.
The 'sacred space' is one not necessarily of emptiness, but one of positive resonation, whether it be in a garden, at the beach, in a forest or wherever, the point is to have something in that space that emanates love, joy, inspiration, or just calmness.

Our shrinking attention spans are, imo a result of not just increased technology, but the speed in which most things are presented. I was at a friends house and people were gathered around the TV, in a hypnotic stare that seemed kinda surreal. I was not paying attention to the program(pun intended), but noticed the flashing of light. I began counting seconds between images and I never got beyond 3 seconds. Older movies had more space and drawn out segments, facilitating unwinding thoughts.

Teachers these days are acknowledging the shrinking attention spans and they feel it has incapacitated deep or continual thought process, which are a necessity in not only learning, but in solving problems.
I took a psycho-physiology class and we learned that in the 50's, the attention span was around 54 minutes. Today it is 11. Now the thing is, our classrooms have not changed much in 50 + years. Could this be part of the issue with ADD? Why the heck has teaching not evolved to match our social and mental changes?
It is interesting to think about our future selves in a world with such advancing technologies, and I wonder if it will make us better humans or worse?


edit on 29-10-2011 by speculativeoptimist because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 29 2011 @ 01:47 PM
reply to post by speculativeoptimist

Thank you for this wonderful thread. Its very important and what we need to do is connect within to our answers, to our spirit, to our direction, to our Source, to the wellspring, to deep wells of thought and contemplation.

In a world that is pushing us into choosing or taking sides, or whatever agendas they have planned, we need to stand still. Not board the different trains, or boats that arrive. We don't have to board them, stand still.

Sarah Brightman - The Journey Home

Those words are found in here too!

But I haven't gotten far in reading this I digress, and will continue. But had to pause at these words from your quote in the OP:

"This phenomenon is the seed of the break-through "a-ha!" moments that people so frequently report having in the shower. In these moments, you are completely isolated, and your mind is able to wander and churn big questions without interruption.


I know why. Water. Doing the dishes too will do this. Showers, long baths, or dangling feet in streams. Its the earth grid. You can have some interesting connection and contact, or seek asking a question over and over then go zen mind, and become one with the moment, and the answers come. Stilling the mind and connecting to the earth grid or energy.
edit on 29-10-2011 by Unity_99 because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 29 2011 @ 01:58 PM
reply to post by Unity_99

Thanks for the reply and insight Unity, I had not made the water connection, but I fully agree with you. I think I want to get a small indoor water fountain/fall in my space.
I dig the vid too, poetically beautiful and spacious, thanks. I had not heard of her either.


posted on Oct, 29 2011 @ 02:30 PM
Distractions make the hours pass quickly, and we can avoid deep thinking, growth, and don't realize the cost to us, externally for some this is a wounded life that does not heal, for others its building sand castles, palaces on barren soil, they can build great illusions of success but underneath its hiding emptiness, and lack of spirit.

I wish philosophy had been taught in school from elementary on, contemplation, comparative studies on religions and philosophy For we all have the Christ, the Spirit, within us, and connections to Source, to our answers, and yet we're not even taught to value, deep reflection. Contemplation. Meditation.

As a right hemisphere dominant, introspective person who must seek long stretches of solitude, and inactivity even due to health problems, that I always thought were a hardship, but now, realizing there was a blessing there all along, because its led to more seeking, but the I feel guilty wishing others would disengage.

For example for many this would mean a life change. Sharing work with other seekers, and cutting down on the outer commitments, to work at home, share a business, with others, reduce time, or find other things to do. For some they simply can't and need to find ways to gain that extra hour, for tending their inner self and sacred solitude. For our bodies are the temple, and we need to seek within.

posted on Oct, 29 2011 @ 02:37 PM
Well I'm not sure how the average individual goes through their daily routine, but mine seems to be a bit different than most.

I pick lots of mini projects to work on, and switch to and from them as the day progresses. I also spend a lot of time lying deep in thought on my bed, in the chair, or out walking or riding the bike.

Sometimes I need no distractions, and complete silence just to allow the spinning of my thoughts and feelings to settle down. Other times my downtime means plugging in the iPod, blaring music, and riding around town.

I don't not think deeply, or take breaks. Breaks are essential for efficient productivity.

As soon as you start to feel burned out: switch tasks, eat a healthy meal, or just take a power nap.

posted on Oct, 29 2011 @ 02:54 PM
reply to post by unityemissions

Sometimes I need no distractions, and complete silence just to allow the spinning of my thoughts and feelings to settle down. Other times my downtime means plugging in the iPod, blaring music, and riding around town.

Sounds like you both recognize and utilize this concept, with success. That 'settling down' of thoughts is paramount, and it just takes a bit of time and effort, whereas most people are uncomfortable stepping outside of themselves to observe their thought processes. They never allow it to settle or dissipate, to discover what lies beyond.
I like your analogy of doing different tasks too, it sounds like a good exercise and an effective way to avoid boredom, which seems to be an epidemic these days.
On the subject of boredom, may I present this little gem that always resonated with me.

Boredom is only for people who do not know themselves, of the wonders of life. The moment boredom arises, it is a teacher. It is our mind and spirit's way of communicating to us that we are not looking deep enough into the things around us, nor are we living fully in the span of a moment, and understanding eternity. Realize the source of boredom, when one loses touch with reality and allows their mind to rush, wandering aimlessly over all things one should be doing, rather than enjoying fully what is. By releasing distracted thoughts, nature rushes in to fill the void, carrying one back to the world of silence and beauty that enveloped them. At once they feel connected to the earth again, the internal clock slips slowly back to the expansion of eternity.

Tom Brown Jr. - Way of the Scout

Thanks for the reply and thoughts unityemissions,

posted on Oct, 29 2011 @ 03:20 PM
reply to post by Unity_99

Again thanks for sharing your perspective Unity, and I both agree and have experienced what you describe.


posted on Oct, 29 2011 @ 03:55 PM

I thought of this song.

I'd like to have more dis-connect, but I am on this treadmill called modern life.
One has so little time, that leisure activities like computers, games or whatever trumps meditative thought, downtime, flake out, veg, whatever you want to call it.

For a lot of people it is just the last puppy picked.

posted on Oct, 29 2011 @ 03:59 PM
This is sort of along the lines of the thread I started. Not giving oneself credit for being their authentic selves, and being giving yourself credit for just being who you are.

It's a guilt trip laid on us by society.

Kind of like a damned if you do, and damned if you don't mentallity.

posted on Oct, 29 2011 @ 06:34 PM
reply to post by Toadmund

Man that was awesome! I dig Rollins, but never heard that song. I think the lyrics are great!

Don't like to think too much, it makes me think too much,
It keeps my mind on my mind
Don't wanna see too much, it makes me see to much
Sometimes I'd rather be blind

All the things that they're saying & doing
When they pass me by just fills me up with noise
It overloads me
I wanna disconnected myself
Pull my brain stem out and unplug myself
I want nothing right now, I want to pull it out

Yeah, I want to pull it out, yeah
I wanna break it all down, hey, I wanna pull it out
Yeah, yeah, disconnect myself, disconnect myself
I wanna see it go down, yeah, disconnect myself

A thousand miles an hour going nowhere fast
Clinging to the details of your past
Talking 'bout your damages and your wasting my time
Wanna be the king of pain, stand in line
All the numbers and the colours and the facts
Backed by the rumours and the figures and the stats
I think I'm gonna download my mind


Too damn bad if at the end of the day the only thoughts
In your brain are all the things that they say, what a waste
Too damn bad if at the end of the line you got no idea
What's on your own mind, you got no one to blame but yourself
Too much to know, too much to see
It might mean something to you but it's nothing to me
Its just another ad for someone's version of how they think it should be


posted on Oct, 29 2011 @ 06:36 PM
reply to post by supine

That's enlightening supine, I am guilty of calling myself a slave to economic servitude at times, and it is not good, even if there is truth in the statement, reaffirming it only imprints it deeper onto my soul.

edit on 29-10-2011 by speculativeoptimist because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 29 2011 @ 11:28 PM
I completely agree. I'm only 28 but when I used to catch the bus to school I would either lose myself in a book or just stare out the window letting random thoughts pass through my head. I look at kids these days and they often watch in wonder at the seemingly endless distractions they seem to waste their time with. They'll be sitting their with their headphones in, checking their iPhone's; they cannot seem to switch off.

I myself love nothing more than doing nothing. In the woodland near my house I have a little spot a few kilometres away from civilisation which I often walk to and relax. i used to be a practising pagan and this area was my sacred spot. It still has a ring of stones and an alter but I have passed by that phase of my life. But the spot still remains just as special to me.... I could spend an entire day there if I could.

I think much of today's problems are caused by people not taking the time to stop and 'smell the roses'. I personally could spend all night looking up random cramp on the internet. But after a while I find it necessary to slow down and take a mental holiday from day to day life.

posted on Oct, 30 2011 @ 12:03 PM
Nice thread.

We definitely need to value silence more than we do.

I enjoy quiet time just to take a break from the busy world that we live in. I try to convince the people around me about the liberation from stress that it brings, but no one seems to care. They'd rather be zombies captivated by their "programs".

posted on Oct, 30 2011 @ 12:47 PM
reply to post by 1littlewolf

Mental holiday, me likes! I used to call it mental recreation, like your description, a break from the activity. I hear ya on the observation of others too. I was thinking the other day, in an idol moment downtown, how it seems no one just sits and gazes or looks around, everyone is buried in a media toy. There is not much reflection, pondering or contemplation going on. I worry that our imagination is drying up and I hope it does not become an unnecessary appendage at some point!
Anyway, glad to hear people still lose themselves in a moment....


posted on Oct, 30 2011 @ 12:50 PM
reply to post by smithjustinb

Hey Justin, I knew you could relate to this after reading some of your threads. Thanks for chiming in and may you continue to spiritually shine and enlighten here.


posted on Oct, 30 2011 @ 08:00 PM
I wanted to add, the value of great thinkers may becoming a thing o the past. great thinkers have to think, right? And that means deep uninterrupted thinking about big subjects. I have often heard people say that our smartest and wisest people were in the last 500 years and since then there has been a decline in intellect. When I think about those times, with no media or distractions, beyond survival or war faring neighbors, the time people had to sit and think was tremendous, hence the great works of Plato, Socartes, DaVinci, Confucius, Mozart, Einstein, Tesla, and the list goes on and on. These people sat for days thinking and the word 'thinking' means just that, and I am afraid it is becoming a lost art in the modern world. There are exceptions I am sure, but for an opportunity of great thought to be available to many, we are too strapped with desperation, media, gadgets and shrinking attention spans. Then there is the future which seems to be worsening along these lines.

Who has to think anymore with Google? The satisfaction of immediate answers versus lengthy reading and problem solving naturally appeals more to people these days, even if given a choice. I am saddened by this fact, but hope that tech can somehow keep us pushing forward not only with ability, but intellectually, conceptually and creatively.


posted on Oct, 30 2011 @ 08:25 PM
Part of zenmind and contemplation is being in the moment, not the past or the future, but clear, calm, here and now.

posted on Oct, 30 2011 @ 08:33 PM
What does one do when the ultimate Instance from meditation cannot be shut off, instead of being fought for to occur with all ones might, as all do. Now where do I hide. There is no place to go.

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