It is not simply that we share with each other a common humanity, but that individually we have no humanity without each other.
- Sara Maitland
If I had to grade myself on how well I have been doing in finding quiet time for myself, time to become centered, calmed and rejuvenated, I would give myself a D+. And that’s being generous.
It’s all too easy to skip those moments for yourself, yet the benefits of quiet time are dramatic: improved focus, energy, creativity, sleep, sense of humor, purpose.
My grandmother Ruth Stafford Peale was a big believer in making space and time for thought, prayer and creativity. Grandma did this for herself. I like to think of her as a pioneer in mindfulness. Grandma saw one of her greatest roles and privileges to be carving out space and quiet for Grandpa, creating the optimal conditions for him to think, read, study, write. That’s why I see her as a tremendous partner in all that Grandpa shared with the world through his writings, speeches and sermons. Grandma gave Grandpa a gift of the mind space he needed to create messages of hope and inspiration to share with millions. What a gift to us!
These days it is much harder to separate ourselves from all of life’s stimulations, interruptions, commitments, pressures, needs and demands. But that shouldn’t keep us from caring for ourselves in the ways that make us better able to navigate and prioritize those stimulations, interruptions, commitments, pressures, needs and demands. Sure, there are hundreds of yoga classes, meditation techniques and mind-body-soul classes we could try, but those are not always a reality, or even our cup of tea. Still, no matter what activity gives us the time to center ourselves, to be our best selves, that’s the activity we need to “gift” ourselves, like the gift Grandma gave Grandpa.
In my practice as a clinical social worker, I use a number of breathing techniques to help clients combat uncomfortable states of anxiety and depression. I use them myself when needed (some days more than others), but as my D+ grade shows, I have not been using the techniques I tout as effectively as I should.
Like so many people, I spend a great deal of time in the car, to-ing and fro-ing, tending to the needs of my family. I love it when I see a bumper sticker that makes my mind click on and out of to-do mode. “Kindness matters,” “CoExist,” “Breathe,” “Plant a Tree,” “eARTh,” to name a few. These simple words make me stop (not my car) and take in the message. These moments are refocusing, re-leveling for me. Nothing profound, but often just what I need to ease my racing mind. A gift of a bumper sticker... a far cry from a week at a retreat center, yet something of benefit all the same.
I am going to put more effort into creating time and space for myself, just as Grandma did for Grandpa. I know I will not be as successful as she was, with three children and a puppy in the mix, but I have never been satisfied with a D+. Why not do something that will allow myself to feel as tuned-up as possible? Who knows what I might be able to accomplish? Look what Grandpa was able to do. He always told us to “shoot for the moon.” Hey, that would make a great bumper sticker, don’t you think?
Katheryn (Katie) Allen Berlandi is the seventh of Guideposts cofounders Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Ruth Stafford Peale’s eight grandchildren. She is a clinical social worker with a private practice focusing on children, adolescents and families, and a consultant for Guideposts and the Guideposts Foundation. Katie lives in a small town in Connecticut with her husband, two daughters and son.