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From Without, From Within

I've heard many people say that they don't have time to do the things they want to do. Either life consistently takes them away, or others interrupt during the precious time they've carved out for themselves, as in the following example:

Jean is in the room she's designated as a study. She would like to call it her fortress and have a moat and a drawbridge that could be pulled up against those who interrupt her.

Maybe she's going to college, graduate school, or taking any course that requires study. She could be a writer, painter, or musician. She might just need to get away from her family for any number of reasons, including the desire to read more than two pages of a book without interruption. She settles in, wondering when the first interruption will come. It doesn't take long.

  1. Her spouse comes in to ask her how to spell a word.
  2. A child wants to know where his summer shorts are. (It's winter, and snow is falling.)
  3. Another child tells her she has an important telephone call.

As it turns out:

  1. She finds the dictionary, a large, hard-to-miss volume on a shelf, and throws it at her spouse.
  2. She tells the child to look out the window.
  3. She takes the phone call. It's a telemarketer.

She goes back to her room and closes the door a little harder than is absolutely necessary. The outside world is no longer bothering her, but she's lost her connection with whatever she was doing before the interruption. If she was in the zone, she's now so far away from it that she can't even see its borders. They are so inconsiderate. They don't care about her rights to privacy. The precious time she has to herself is ruined, and she sees little point in trying to return to the zone, because they'll only interrupt her again.

When They Are Us

Recently I posed this question to a group of creative people: "What disrupts your creativity more, being interrupted by family members or the feelings of resentment and thoughts of revenge that plague you long after they've stopped interrupting you?" They all agreed that their own angry thoughts disrupted them far more and for much longer than the actual interruptions. They also observed that sometimes their thoughts interrupted them far more regularly than any human intrusion.

This inspires a different scenario. Jean is alone in the house, with several glorious hours of free time available. Does she zoom into the zone? No.

She remembers a bill that she thinks she didn't pay. She surfs on the internet, exploring the mating habits of the aardvark. She worries about an upcoming medical visit or worries that at her last one her doctor didn't tell her the truth. She really has a terminal disease, and the doctor was trying to spare her mental anguish. He probably told the truth to her spouse.

She'd prefer a physical interruption so that she could blame someone besides herself.

A World of Distractions

The distractions of modern life train us to reach out for the next source of stimulation in a restless search for satisfaction. Life also trains us to need instant gratification. If the mental or emotional food we're currently eating doesn't immediately yield flavor, we toss it and reach for something else.

Emotional blockages can aggravate difficulties in focusing.

Anger. I mentioned this above. Anger keeps us unfocused long after the physical interruption has ended.

Guilt. "I should be with my family. They need me. It's wrong for me to be selfish and take time for myself." Guilt practically invites a parade of interrupting visitors, whether they are members of a family or a monkey troupe of disorganized thoughts. It can also connect with

Self-Esteem Issues. "Do I really need a room of my own and time to myself? What am I doing that's so important?" Again this viewpoint tends to create an open-door policy.

Worries. Often people keep themselves too busy most of the time to sink down and have a good worry. They avoid relaxation because it isn't relaxing when their minds turn into trampolines on which worries rise and fall.

Building Focused Minds

Anger: Fight Fire with Fire

When interruption strikes, your first need is to restore balance by releasing angry thoughts. Forget about what you were doing before you were interrupted and pick up a pen or go to your computer. Write down everything you're angry about regarding the interruption. Write down how inconsiderate they are. Go into details.

Keep going until you've exhausted that emotion. You will eventually get bored with it and be ready to return with a relatively untormented mind to what you were doing.

If the fires of anger refuse to die down, consider the Bach Flower Remedy, Holly.

You Deserve Peace and Privacy

If you have issues about deserving time to yourself, repeat after me: "I deserve quiet time for myself, however I choose to use it." Make this your mantra, and see the helpful flower essences described below.

You may also find certain questions helpful. When you find yourself thinking you really should surrender your private time to help someone else, ask who told you this. Whose needs were they thinking about? (Not yours.).

Sometimes a transitional belief is helpful, e.g.: "Time for myself refreshes me. It means that when I'm with others, I can be fully present for them. My time alone benefits everyone."

Pine (BFR) works well in releasing guilt and feelings of imperfection.

Larch (BFR) is for enhancing self-esteem.

Citrine, a warm golden crystal, also works with self-esteem. This stone belongs in your private space for easy use. Hold it in your hand and repeat the mantra.

Wave Good-bye to Worry

I've found it helpful to say, "I'll worry about that later." In some situations, if five minutes taken to write a check to pay a bill relieves the situation, I'll take that time.

Chamomile (FES) can be very helpful in relieving worry and anxiety. Chamomile oil is also useful for this.

Rhodochrosite, a coral-toned crystal, is your best friend in dissolving worry.

I've written longer articles devoted to each of the emotional conditions listed above. I will list the urls at the end of this one.

Developing Focus

Some people recommend meditation, but it's not easy to meditate when your thoughts won't stay still. With mental exercise, like physical exercise, you can benefit from starting small, a few minutes at a time. During a two-minute interlude (which, I admit can seem quite long), you don't need to vacuum thoughts from your mind; just don't squirt glue all over them so that they get stuck.

Imagine thoughts as the view from a fast-moving car. It always changes. Keep your attention on the journey and gradually lengthen it.

The more you practice this kind of focus, the more you can apply it to thinking in general. If you have a problem that requires logic, especially "First I do this, then I do this . . ." you'll be able to direct your thoughts in sequence. If you have a problem that calls for an intuitive leap, you can train your mind to develop the patience to allow the answer to come.

White Chestnut (BFR) is the best remedy for taming unruly thoughts, especially when you feel like a hamster in an exercise wheel.

Otter (Wild Earth Animal Essences) can help you develop a sense of playfulness about the whole business of monkey mind.

All grounding stones-smoky quartz, black tourmaline, onyx, obsidian, hematite, and red jasper-can be helpful in grounding one's thoughts, but the best of these is tiger's eye, especially for patience before the intuitive leap.

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