What ever happened to daydreams?
Recently I heard a story that reminded me of after school time when I was in grade school. The author describes an era I call B.T. – Before Television. He came home after school to a quiet house, an afternoon snack awaiting him. He changed into play clothes and then boredom would set in. He lay on the living room rug wondering what to do. The clock ticked rhythmically. He felt his heart beating in the silence of the moment. Then suddenly, he seized upon an idea, and off he would go to find a friend to share his imagined adventure!
I remember those days when there was plenty of time for the imagination. A special teacher of mine later named these seemingly vacuous moments as “lag time”- suspended time when fruitful thought can develop. It is a portal through which one perceives her true feelings, innermost urges, and clear thoughts.
Lag time is “doing nothing”. Today it is revolutionary, even suspect.
Children today have virtually no lag time. American children suffer from a lack of time to develop a fertile ground for their imagination. But the good news is it is still possible to capture these moments at home if you are willing to turn off the television, the computer, the music, and slow the pace. Just sitting is something I had to learn again from an Iroquois teacher when I was an adult. Often the lesson for the day would be sitting in total silence for several hours.
In our fast-paced world of multi-tasking, digital games, cell phones, e-mail (the new drug – Crackberry), television, and the personal IPOD loaded with hundreds of songs – there is virtually no down time unless we are asleep. This is even true with young children, most of whom have never experienced the “lazy days of summer.” Dragged from place to place, weary and irritable, many young children cannot be still or tolerate unplanned time. Today’s adults and youth experience withdrawal symptoms without external stimulation.
My children and I have been vacationing at Deer Springs Inn in the White Mountains of Arizona for the past nine years. There are just a few cabins set back on the edge of the Mogollon Rim. It is Ponderosa Pine Country where tall red trunks soar to 100 feet.
This place has become a refuge to many families. You learn about it through word of mouth. Everyone guards its whereabouts like buried treasure. There are no phones, televisions or any outside communication except the radiophone for emergencies. Due to the 14-mile trek on forest service roads, guests rarely leave until its time to go home.
There is sleeping time, reading or drawing time, chatting on the front porches, hiking, and writing time. And there is silence and the drawing of wind through pines as if the forest invites us to breathe with it.
At night, a campfire beckons everyone to wander down to roast marshmallows, drink wine, laugh and commiserate into the night. Our faces are ruddy and lit by a blazing fire, poked lovingly by Ed or Mary King, the owners. The low hoot of an owl and the pine sap popping in the fire are the only music. Towering pines encircle a portion of jet black sky dotted with glittering stars and a big, white moon. The air is crystal clear. Every cell in your body lays back and sighs.
My son recently stayed up there with my daughter and me. He is a businessman from Nashville and lives a commuter life with a stressful job in the healthcare industry. He told me later how those four days at Deer Springs completely reoriented his mind and spirit. He felt deeply renewed. Whittle on a stick, let the chips fall where they may. He had forgotten about lag time.
With all of the technological advancements marketed as convenience, we have enslaved ourselves in a frenzy of driving, working, planned recreation, planned “free time” and – more driving! Often, children never set foot at home until after 6 p.m. as weary parents pick them up from day care. Chasing our consumer driven dreams we have neglected the imagination, the soulful, the spontaneous – in short, the spice of life!
But, it can be recaptured with very simple acts and it costs nothing. It just takes a little retraining:
1) Practice turning off the television, radio, stereo for brief periods. Later go for longer periods.
2) Remove clutter from rooms. Don’t replace any of it.
3) Put plants in your home. Hang a bird feeder.
4) Practice sitting and doing nothing for 15 minutes. Breathe deeply and then settle down to regular breathing. Smile. Notice the change in how you feel.
5) Just keep it simple. Your place of repose might be a hammock or a chaise lounge. Invite the kids.
Revolutionary Acts in Lag Time
Allow the spontaneous to return.
Reclaim your own thoughts and feelings.
Seek silent places.
Stay away from crowds.
Keep it simple.
Go for a walk and smell the roses.
Feel your body, listen to your heart.
Resources for Parents:
This is a fabulous site for parents to learn tips from child development specialists and family counselors.
Resources for Adults:
Coming to Our Senses by Jon Kabot-Zinn
Reading this book will add years to your life!