When I was a little kid being raised by a single mother, much like my own son, I spent summers tucked away in the gardens at my grandparent’s farm in the lush Ozark Mountains of Southwest Missouri. My grandparents, raised in the Great Depression, were like the MacGyvers* of life, living on a tiny pension from my Papa’s long graveyard hours at a plastic factory, they took early retirement over insanity and exhaustion and threw all their savings into a hundred-year-old house built from the rocks that fell from the hills that surrounded them.
They grew, built, or bargained for most of everything they needed and I consider my grandparents to be some of the most productive people I have ever known.
I think back on my time there and remember the days there, me doing next to nothing, them working diligently. But also not.
My Papa would wake up in the morning and before doing anything, he would drink coffee on the sun porch and look at the hill. Sometimes he would look at the hill for a couple of hours. He was literally looking at the hill, but it was more. Looking at the hill was something he did every morning to clear his head, think his thoughts, have his ideas, and come up with solutions for the problems he was currently trying to solve: how to water the garden more efficiently, cover mulch, chop wood, store meat, or make giant crochet hooks so my Nee could make rugs for the front room before the next crowd of guests came to relax among the whippoorwills and wasps.
Then, he would go to work for a few hours.
Later in the afternoon, avoiding the sun, he would move to the other side of the house, where he had moved a large flat boulder underneath a giant black walnut tree. There he would sit on the rock. Again, sometimes for a couple of hours.
“He’s sitting on the rock.”
It was normal. No one questioned his productivity or accused him of lethargy. Looking at the hill and sitting on the rock *were* working.
No one called it “practice” or “meditation” or any kind of “doing”. We took it for granted that it was a key component in his productivity and it went unquestioned.
Until recently. By me.
I need a whole metric crap-ton of completely silent time to think my own thoughts. I like to exercise alone, take daily long baths, and sometimes stare at things like trees. I’d stare at a hill if I had one handy. But for years I did those things with a thick, soupy, layer of guilt.
And then I remembered Papa. And realized that, while my life (and yours) are going to look different than his in that we are legitimately required to be more places than him, we can be inspired by this and incorporate our own versions of spacious, creative thought time.
I’m so done trying to fit another article or another conversation into the margins of my life. I’m done trying to make sure everyone else’s needs are met around me before meeting my own. I’m DONE with forsaking the key component to my own productivity IN THE NAME OF PRODUCTIVITY.
I’m done with oxymoronic thinking.
I’m ready to do one of the greatest experiments of my life. To see if spending actual HOURS in my version of hill gazing/rock sitting (which currently looks like meditation, walking or jogging, and sound healing – will write a post on this later) will make me more productive. I suspect it will. Actually, it already has.
I know what doesn’t make me more productive: hours staring at my computer screen worrying about it all. Also, guilt.
I want to share this with you because I want to offer you the same idea. It’s not new, but here’s a new mental package to put it in or whatever.
In this time when everyone I know is rising up wondering what to *do* and what can be *done* on top of their already glorified lifestyles of busyness… can we add space instead?
Would adding mental and emotional space actually make us more powerful? More effective? Stronger containers to hold and withstand the inevitable grief of trying times? Would it make us better listeners? More self reflective and less defensive? More comfortable in our own skins? More compassionate? More fierce and focused? And ultimately, able to dig deeper, rise higher, and crack open some systems that are no longer serving the humans and the earth?
I’m betting everything I’ve got on “yes”.
Curious about how to add space in a life that feels like the proverbial rock and hard place?
Perhaps we should be working together. Let’s talk.
*Remember MacGyver from that 1980’s U.S. TV show? That dude could, like, make a bomb from a QTip and a bottle cap. Yeah. That’s my grandparents. Only they *rarely* make bombs.