It is nearly Thanksgiving, and soon December will be here. The holidays are fully engaging most of us now, with busy-ness, crowded days and nights, a lot of too-much-ness. For some the holidays are dark—sad times peopled with a very few souls and many faded memories. For some the holidays are filled to over-stuffing with too much of everything—food, people, places, things.
This is a time when it is good to wait, to step back, and to allow in some white space. When I was in publishing, I supervised a lot of design work—work in museums, work in books, brochures, websites. In my own work now, I direct the design of my website and my printed materials (though I have to give most of the credit to designer geniuses like Yael with Kalanit Design Studio, who does my website!). Over time I’ve found that design with a lot of what we call “white space”—open space, space not filled with color or type—is design that is almost inevitably more elegant, more beautiful, more welcoming than other design approaches.
The same is true, I think, in our lives. Creating room for a temporal and emotional white space—time in between appointments, fallow time for thought, time to allow a walk or a nap, or a cup of tea with a friend—allows a sort of peace to open up in our lives, and that peace grows into a wise and beautiful serenity. It is so common in our culture to index our success by our level of being scheduled. How often do you ask someone “how are you?” and hear the reply “Great, fine—really busy.” As if “busy” is synonymous with “fine.” People often mention that there is no time for reading or reflection or meditation in their lives but then list a string of events that structure their lives—every night filled with something to do, crowded with noise or people, being in traffic and tumult.
But how can we create a clearer life, or allow a more open calendar? Simply give yourself permission to schedule evenings for nothing but quiet—whether you live alone or with someone else. Schedule time for reading, meditating, yoga, or perhaps a mind-body release technique like EFT–some quiet thing that is done at home, without loud noise and crowded expectations. Give these gifts to yourself regularly—and at times that are especially helpful. Do you have a high-pressure job? Think about spending all of Sunday evening at home, preparing for the week with a quiet evening and a good night’s sleep. Are you giving a big presentation on Wednesday? Or is there a party that night? Again, allow a quiet night on Tuesday—avoid going out, allow yourself quiet time at home, with a good book, a conversation with someone you love, maybe a favorite piece of music—or simply silence and a cup of tea (one without caffeine).
I have learned some, in my life, from teachers of prayer and meditation—monks and nuns and other contemplatives—who pray the hours and keep a default of silence in their lives. I have learned to do the same—-I don’t don a habit and go to chapel daily, but I default to silence and stillness, and have a community of contemplatives and healers in my life, as well as other dear ones who are close to me . Out of that is coming (not perfectly, and I have a very long way to go) a beginning of tranquility in my life. I love this. I think of it as personal white space. The stillpoint. It can be the great gift of this season, one that allows an emotional elegance and beauty, an opening up to deep and true peace. So in spite of all that needs to be done, take time to give yourself the gift of designing your own beautiful, tranquil life.