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Scheduling Time To Reflect

I remember when I first started boot camp in 2010 that I realized the reason why it was so good for me, is that it was pre-scheduled exercise time. Something about my personality holds to something better if it’s scheduled. Same thing goes with how I kinda failed at my efforts to become a runner in 2006-7 but not in 2011, because in 2011 I did it with a group that had a schedule I had to stick with. Saturdays, Tuesdays, Thursdays. Boom. I got all of my runs in no problem.

And it doesn’t have to be someone else’s created schedule, it turns out. I think this is also why I’ve been doing my weekday runs more religiously this year. They’ve become part of my morning schedule/routine. So much so that, even if I’ve got a “rest day,” I have to convince myself it’s okay to disrupt the schedule and NOT do my morning weekday run. It was easy to convince myself yesterday because I was sore, but it’s not always easy.

SO…all of that brings me to this idea: How do I make time to reflect into part of my daily schedule or routine?

I am an introspective person. I always liked church because it was this organized ritual allowing for reflection. I found myself even attending some weekday services before school in high school, just because that quiet time just refreshed me. I loved prayer time because it was designated to for me to quietly consider how to do better, to be better. And those types of reflection are all things I still love to do, even though I’m no longer a believer. Blogging gives me a little bit of that, allows some catharsis as I parse through ideas…but it’s still something active which is a little counterintuitive to reflection.

I find myself doing it sometimes on trail runs, but part of me is always also focused on not breaking my neck, so my meditation is not always getting my undivided attention. I’ve tried scheduling meditation time in the mornings, but that’s not working. It doesn’t seem to fill my need to “reflect” because – like many people who need meditation, I can’t quite do it because I’m always so stressed about whether I’m doing it right. (I KNOW. I’M THE WORSE.)

The closest I’ve come is with my doodling and my bullet journaling. Doodling is nice because, once I kinda commit to the next set of patterns, I can zone out and color allowing enough of my mind to remain clear enough to reflect. Planning in my bullet journal is interesting because it’s such a chronicle of my day, that it is just the perfect stimulus for reflection. On days where I can really sit down with my bullet journal and plan, or document, or doodle…those days seem to be the best all around days because I’ve done some solid reflecting, even if that wasn’t my intention when I opened up the notebook and broke out the pens.

I just need to figure out how to schedule that into my day. I’ve been trying to put it in my “morning” routine but it feels like such a crammed pack routine already and I refuse to get up any earlier than 3am! I’ve had a few nights where I’ve brought the supplies into bed and kinda made that a “pre-bedtime” routine, but now that I have a book to read, that’s not always what I grab for that “pre-bedtime” part of my day.

What I need is a church where that has a giant sanctuary with stained glass (it’s my jam), but where I don’t have to believe, I can just bring my bullet journal supplies and plan and color and reflect. I have actually considered popping in on a mass someday, but I’m concretely not there for religion, I’m just there for reflection…so it feels a little like cheating and a lot like manipulating something important to the people around me, simply for my own gain.

“Hi. I don’t believe in anything this church teaches as it relates to God or the Bible or Sin or Salvation or Afterlife…BUT!…I really like the atmosphere for reflection. I’m just going to sit here in the back with my pens and my notebook and soak up the energy while I reflect on how to be a better person outside the dogma you’re teaching.

Is that okay?”

During my last pregnancy (the one that ended in my final miscarriage in 2012) I was very anxious (as I always was with pregnancies) so I found myself going to one of those paint-and-drink classes as a way to center myself. (I didn’t drink! I promise!) I think I painted four paintings during that short-lived pregnancy, and those classes are like $35 a pop! But I found it was really handy – not because I was doing it as a social outing like so many other people – but because it was quiet reflection time. If those classes weren’t expensive I’d probably put those into my routine. And I can’t just sit down and paint because the act of TRYING to figure out what/how to paint is counterintuitive to reflection…but someone telling me what to do and me just doing it seemed to be the perfect formula.

Do you have quiet reflection time built into your day? Do you think I just need to make it a priority and set aside time like I do with running? Or is it better to just be in tune with my spiritual needs and when I need time to step away and reflect – just do it then? Somedays I really feel a pull to find a quiet corner to just color…but rarely am I able to do that. So maybe the trick to really effective centering is to do it when my soul seems to call out for it?

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7 thoughts on “Scheduling Time To Reflect”

  1. If you are eve in Lexington Ky go to Joe B’s at an off hour. The building used to be a synagogue and they kept the stained glass windows. The pizza is also amazing!

  2. This one really resonated with me. I also find that if I don’t schedule things, especially a) things that are unpleasant or b) me-time that they often don’t get done. But when it comes to stress, I always try to have some sort of outlet available because otherwise I will just binge eat. Sometimes I do that anyway. I know you are a big zendoodler but have you also considered keeping a stash of adult coloring books around? You can enter that into an Amazon search and some really cool ones come up. I have three, and my favorite is a book of mandalas. That is my favorite stress relief! And you could always cut and paste them into your bullet journal before or after you color them in. I do try to stick to the same bedtime routine and give myself some downtime, but it’s usually reading.

    And as far as the church thing, I think if there’s not an active worship service going on and the space is unlocked, you are absolutely fine to enter and quietly reflect. No need to feel guilty about that, and if anyone comes up you could just say something like, “I needed to come and reflect by myself. It’s so peaceful here.” And they should get the hint not to talk or try to convert you. I think I’ve always felt this way but now I live in Europe and so many of the churches are open to tourists all the time, even during mass, and nobody looks at anybody funny if they have no intention of worshiping or celebrating mass or whatever.

  3. Disclaimers first – I like to drive more than (I think) you do. ok. I have a 50 minute commute and when I took the job all of my friends groaned and sighed because “Ugh.” but that gives me huge transition / reflection time each day. Somedays I use it to keep in touch with friends, somedays it is silent, somedays I sing like only a middle aged woman can (like a beaten, heartbroken, elderly cat).

    It is the silent days that do the most good for me. I have a real chance to change gears and grumble about things that didn’t go the way I expected and to deal with my brain before I switch gears.

  4. I saw a talk by Dr. Amit Sood of the Mayo Clinic called “Mindfulness 2.0” a month ago. A few ideas really stuck with me.

    First, he said that meditation is really hard. Everyone, including him and the Dalai Lama (I guess they’re buds?) struggles with it. MRIs show that even practiced meditators only get to a true meditative state for maybe two minutes out of a 30 minute session… if they’re lucky. The other 28 minutes is struggling. So you’re probably doing it right.

    Second, he said that he wished he could tell all the anxious and depressed and distractable people in the world that their brains are doing exactly what they were designed to do – protect you. Our brains are designed to be vigilant about predators and ruminate on threats to keep us safe. So we shouldn’t feel bad about it. And the good news is that we can change it.

    He’s designed and researched a new form of meditation in which participants focus ON something rather than trying to let go of everything, and he’s finding the same positive results as traditional meditation. That’s the “2.0” part of this.

    Check out his website, stressfree.org, or his book, “The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress Free Living.”

    If you’re looking for quiet-space alternatives, perhaps try out a library? Some university libraries are beautiful and the quiet areas are actually quiet. Or just go to a church you like with your doodling pens in hand. I doubt they’ll turn you away – they’re always looking for more members – and they should be receptive to supporting your spirituality in whatever form it takes. If you say, “I don’t believe but I want to be here” they’ll probably say, “Great! That’s what this place is for!”

    I haven’t read your blog before; my wonderful sister-in-law sent it to me last night. I’m a huge fan of bullet journaling and doodling, though, so I’m going to have to start running and reading this blog. 🙂

  5. I too use my commute for quiet time and reflection. Although, I find I also occasionally need quiet time lying on my bed with my eyes closed. And yes, I do tend to fall asleep. BUT! Something with not having all of the visual stimulation helps me work through things in my mind. Also helps with my creativity. I do think my husband just thinks I’m napping so it’s not always welcomed.

  6. I too long to find the time to reflect and think. Sometimes it happens in the shower (if I am awake enough), sometimes on the short drive into work (if traffic isn’t insane), sometimes when I run (if I get distracted), and sometimes randomly throughout the day. I wish I could do it everyday and with purpose, but I just can’t seem to find a consistent time that I can stick with. I try to zendoodle, but I tend to get too caught up in wondering if I am doing it right and why mine aren’t as pretty as the ones you post (see a familiar them?). Maybe I will just try coloring in a coloring book. In fact, I am going to bring one to work and each morning try to color for 5-10 minutes. Now I am excited to try this! Thanks for the idea!

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