“An unexamined life is not worth living,” shouted Socrates. While I cannot agree with that totally, throughout my life I have felt that a dash of introspection would help others to see, to understand, and ultimately to get along better with the other gorillas.
Most everyone likes that first cup of tea or coffee. Just that ritual, of fifteen minutes a day spent in silent contemplation of the universe and our role in it, in a quiet corner, in a special chair, with no interruptions, would do wonders for our social interactions.
I began the habit over 20 years ago when my daughter was a holy handful. I had to get up earlier than anyone else in the household in order to have the peace I needed and the time before work. Usually I had a cat on my lap and a journal by my side. After the coffee and meditation I would write in my journal. I had to get up at 5 a.m. to do this, but as a morning person that was ok. It was worth it.
Over the years the ritual has changed. The location, time and duration alters. My daughter grew up. I am single. The cats have changed.
For a few years I sat in the cold of an outbuilding on the farm and wrote in my journal while looking out a large window and being hugged by my cat. Day by day I could see the changes in the natural world. It was a Thoreauvian thing to do. While the people-world moved ever faster, the natural world moved at a snail’s pace. Thinking and feeling with the flow of nature achieved a balanced centering. I had time to collect myself and my thoughts.
This kind of daily contemplation is quite similar to the serendipity of journal writing. Not only do we contain multitudes, as Walt Whitman says, but the modern world has demanded that we assume so many different roles that it is difficult to separate who is “us” and who is “them,” or what we believe and what we are expected to believe. Journal writing allows us to collect our scattered selves.
Although there has been some ridiculous psychology lately that claims introspection is bad for you I would take the opposite point of view. Obsessive and shallow texting/ twittering/tweeting does nothing to establish deep connection with ourselves or others. It is only by stepping back from the crowded room and the saturated airwaves that we may find out who we truly are and decide if our behavior is what we want it to be. Only by mindful contemplation will we be able to discover the meaning in the events of our lives and come to understand the people in it.