Some more thoughts on “breathing space”

Written by on December 7, 2010

I came across a question today from a few weeks back: “Where is there breathing space in your life?” And my mind ended up thinking about Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s little book Gift from the Sea. Amidst the seemingly endless distractions of our lives, she asks, how do we remain attentive to that which matters most? She offers no easy answers, but instead suggests that we find some sort of alternate rhythm of life from the one our culture offers. Over the Christmas holidays…


…this short little classic may be well worth your time and reflection. Consider the short excerpt from Lindbergh’s 1955 classic book and ask yourself, ‘Where might I need some “retreat and perspective” in 2011 from the hectic everydayness of my life?’ Lindbergh writes,

The problem is: how to remain in the midst of the many distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull off centre; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel. What is the answer? There is no easy answer; no complete answer. I have only clues—shells from the sea. One answer, and perhaps a first step, is in the simplification of life; in cutting out some of the distractions. But how? Total retirement is not possible. I cannot permanently inhabit a desert island. I cannot be a nun in the midst of family life. I would not want to be. The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes: a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back to my worldly life. One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few; and they are more beautiful if they are few. My life at home, I begin to realize, lacks this quality of significance, and therefore of beauty, because there is so little empty space. The space is scribbled on; the time has been filled. There are so few empty pages in my engagement pad, or empty hours in the day, or empty rooms in my life in which to stand alone and find myself. Too many activities, and people, and things. Too many worthy activities, valuable things, and interesting people. For it is not merely the trivial that clutters our lives, but the important as well. We can have a surfeit of treasures and excess shells—where one or two would be significant. Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Gift From the Sea, 1955)


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