I remember when being told to sit quietly in a chair was a common form of punishment in both schools and households. These days, I’d consider it a gift to be pointed to a chair and told to think about what I’ve done.
I don’t know how people can maintain a sense of sanity during long days of constant intrusion. Moments of total privacy and reflection seem to be essential to personal growth. Of course, many of our daily interruptions are self-inflicted, due to our sense of obligation to those around us.
For example, I feel like I always need to be “available” to family members, friends or colleagues. My son, Shane, seems to be irritated when he can’t reach his mother or me on the phone. I have friends and clients who consider me saturnine for being out of touch for so long (meaning several hours in a row). And my “smarter-than-me” phone is bursting with requests and answers to questions I have yet to ask.
So I’m in favor of creating quiet spaces, like old-fashioned library zones, across the country. These retreats would be open to anyone to use to escape road construction, sirens, loud motorcycles, crying babies, clever ringtones and, most of all, those wishing to capture little pieces of our attention.
Stepping into these sanctuaries, we would be free to relax our frantic pace. We could listen to all of our internal narratives and investigate the wisdom of our choices without a battery of outside influences. Then, with our minds at rest and our senses sharpened, we could enter back into the world, fully prepared for all it has to offer.
The truth is, we have the power to create these meditative moments wherever we go. It might be on a sidewalk that meanders around the neighborhood, in a bathtub full of warm, bubbly water or a mound of dirt where we can proudly plant our “timeout” chair.