Walking Away to Come Back

Have you noticed that there is only so much problem solving you can do before you just have to walk away for a while to have any chance of coming to a solution?

It doesn’t really matter what the specific topic is, or the task at hand, there is something about the way the human mind works that we reach a point where we get stuck and are unable to see things from a fresh perspective. When I did field service on diagnostic ultrasound equipment I learned that if I found myself repeating the same steps over and over again it was time to go for a cup of coffee or something to eat – and to do my best not to think about the problem while I was taking my break. I also learned that my ability to problem solve pretty much ended after nine or ten in the evening. In my world, there was no such thing as a new insight into things technical at two in the morning – though I since have learned that my most creative times visioning and writing begin around nine in the evening.

I believe all of us have these experiences, though the details may vary from person to person. I find it mystifying that some people just love rising before dawn and find it the best time of the day, for example. Seriously – there is something wrong with you people! Whatever our personal physical and mental rhythms are, we do well when we learn to respect them because doing so allows us to function much more efficiently and waste less energy.

Have we ever considered the same is true of the spiritual path? I am a voracious reader, but there are times when I just need to stop my spiritual reading and allow what I have taken in to steep for a while. I love to listen to spiritual podcasts, but there are times when they, too, need to be set aside. I enjoy participating in spiritual groups, meetings, and discussions – and there are times they make me want to scream!

Visiting places and ideas that we haven’t visited for a long time because we thought they no longer fit sometimes surprises us because we thought they no longer spoke to us when what we really needed was time away – sometimes years – to allow them to speak to us anew. Renewing old friendships can often be pleasantly surprising for the same reason – a little distance affords us a fresh perspective. It could just be that there is profound truth in the old saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder!”

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