Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gathering Wool

Woolgathering: –noun 1. indulgence in idle fancies and in daydreaming; absentmindedness

Daydreaming gets an unfair bad rap. How many times as a child did I hear, "Quit daydreaming. Concentrate!" I was a highly intelligent kid, but I wasn't the best student in the world because I would allow my mind to wander. At conferences, teachers would tell my Mom that I could be off the charts if only I would apply myself. Often, Mom would walk into a room and find me staring out the window. She would say, "Why haven't you finished (insert chore here)?!" I never had a good enough answer for her.

Sometimes focusing on mundane tasks just seemed... silly.

I still feel that way.

As an adult, I do recognize that there is a time to focus, a time to buckle down and get things done.

However, I also recognize that there is a great need to let one's mind run loose on the playground.

People will spend lots of time and money shopping for just the right foods that will give them proper nutrition. They'll spend lots of money and time working out at a gym to keep in decent physical shape.

So few people take time out to nourish their spirits, to nurture their minds, to fuel their imaginations. Those parts of us need attention and love and exercise too.

When was the last time you stared out the window for no real reason, without contemplating the next thing on your list, and just let your mind drift wherever it wanted to? When was the last time you named the shapes of the clouds (Oh look! There's a rabbit chasing a stegosaurus!)? When was the last time you gave your mind permission to wander - rather than scolding yourself after having caught yourself mid-wander?

We go full speed all day, flitting from one thing to another like gargantuan hummingbirds. And we wonder why we're stressed. Society and progress have pushed us into a higher speed over the years, so much so that we've forgotten how to slow down. We need that slow down. We need a few minutes every day to just let our heads breathe a little.

I do it all the time, especially now. I feel sympathy for those who don't or won't take that kind of time in a day. How do they keep their heads from imploding?! Very often, taking time to let my mind wander leads me to solutions to things anyway. It's like letting your eyes go crossed and blurry and when you re-focus them everything seems sharper. It's like turning the volume down on your favorite song for a few seconds, and then turning it back up again. As you do, you suddenly hear all of the instruments in the band with clarity, rather than just the lead guitar.

Take a mental recess today, and gather ye wool while ye may...
[With apologies to Robbert Herrick (read this!)]

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