A Room of One’s Own: Creating space for the mind.

Be mindful of choice. Be conscious of pain. Let in the deluge of thought.

The virtue of one’s own company is a forgotten therapy in today’s society. Spending time alone is something that is feared, rather than embraced. The demands of daily life – crippling work schedules, relationships, finances, the modern necessity to be sociable – reduces our ability to spend time alone and, in my view, restricts our ability to be objective about our lives. There is much to be gained from solitude.

To crudely quote Virginia Woolf, having ‘a room of one’s own’, having space both mentally and physically, is absolutely essential within my daily life. I would go as far as to say that my mental health absolutely depends upon it. Since moving to Berlin, I have been privileged enough to be temporarily distanced from the anxieties of modern life. My brain has finally stopped ticking. I walked along the pavement this morning with no real destination in mind and felt myself increasingly aware of my surroundings. For once, I could hear the birds sing.

I like to see spending time alone as a time to put myself back together, to declutter the space in my brain. Psychologically clearing away residual thoughts in the mind is as necessary to me as chucking out old, unused possessions in my home. Solitude has long been associated with loneliness where it should be associated with freedom. Solitude can be a practice for long-term mental health.

My most productive musings have often occurred when I have been alone in unfamiliar surroundings. Perspective on life can sometimes be found by taking a step out of our usual environment. Empathy was often described to me as a child as ‘understanding what it is like to be in another’s shoes’. Perhaps having empathy with ourselves involves stepping out of our own shoes once in a while and stepping back into them with renewed clarity.

Psychologically switching off

The mind is a muscle. It needs to be exercised, stretched, challenged, but it also needs time to rest. The brain is the same.

When we are so used to being permanently stimulated, it can be hard to sit still for too long.

My mum often reminds me about the fact that, unlike most babies, I learned to stand before even learning to sit up. She uses this as an analogy for me now. I never complete one task without starting another. I flit from one thing to the next. I anxiously worry about the future rather than the present.

I never give myself time to just be.

And this is what all of us do. We stand before we can sit. We run before we can walk.

We are the generation of immediacy. Things happen at the click of a button. If only it were just as easy to click ‘off’ in our minds.

Unplug and live for now

When I am restless I like to walk, aimlessly. This reminds me that I don’t always have to have a plan. Perhaps my message is entirely banal, but I speak with the sincerity of experience.

I highly prize the virtue of being disconnected.

Tiziano Terzani cherished self-reliance, writing that ‘The only real teacher is not in a forest, or a hut or an ice cave in the Himalayas. It is within us.’ He preached of finding meaning and value in adversity and personal experience. Having time alone to mentally declutter has often proved to be the best antidote for me in periods of high anxiety.

Perhaps having a conversation with yourself may be the only therapy you need.


Finding my balance: My thoughts on temporarily uprooting.

‘And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away from wherever you are, to look for your soul?’ – Mary Oliver, ‘Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches.’

I came across this poem recently and was intrigued by the wistful tone of its words. All the questions I’ve ever contemplated about life, the future, seemed to be encapsulated in every stanza. It seemed to dispel every negative thought I’d ever considered on these themes. And then, this line:

 ‘Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?’

Breathing. So natural. So necessary. Sustaining. Comfortable. Second nature. With the calling of ‘Listen’ I physically halted. Perhaps I was only breathing just a little, and not even noticing. I had become so comfortable in my life that every thought and action was undertaken completely independently of my mind. I had switched to autopilot.

Monotony, routine, is a killer to the creative soul, but is also the antidote to a person who, like myself, lacks in confidence. That’s not to say that I knock routine. I need it, in fact. But having too rigid a structure provided me with too much of a comfort blanket. My best ideas and decisions are often bred in the most unsettling of circumstances.

It got me thinking that a lot of people consider life to be linear. There’s only a certain time and place where things can be done. Travelling can only be done in your gap-year. Job changes can only occur once every decade. Children come after career. Years roll on. These are perhaps bad examples. Perhaps I sound like too much of a young vigilante. But why must we all walk this undeviating line? Surely there is room to stray from the path, go forwards, backwards, upwards, downwards.

My masterplan was to take a strategic sidestep.

Instead of just breathing a little I decided to inhale a whole host of dreams and ideas. I wanted to travel, but I realised that I was never going to be the backpacker to Thailand. Instead, I have arranged to live in Berlin for six months, perhaps longer. It was art, lifestyle, language, literature that I was craving, and what better place for this than an international hub of culture like the German capital.

I’ve always been an over-analyser. I drive myself and my friends mad with my tendency to kill every good situation with my scrutinising eye. I realise that a lot of this sense of caution has been cultivated in me since I was a child.

Things can get heavy when too long at home. After graduating from University and moving back to the family home, I found myself becoming embroiled in circumstances that I could not change and it weighed heavily upon me. We all have our shackles and it is hard to know how onecan shed them, or even if we should. I found that I was always wearing the name of someone else upon my lips which prevented me from forming any articulate idea about my own future plans. I don’t want to escape, I just want to carve out a little mental space for myself.

I decided in the New Year that I no longer want to live a life poised in fear and apprehension. I titled this blog, ‘Finding my balance’ and this is what I intend to do to move forward. Help to relieve the burdens of others without being crushed under the weight of them. Acknowledge negativity but not be overthrown by it. Be disciplined, not obsessional. Labour for love of others, and for myself afterwards, but then learn to relax.

Berlin is about me fashioning my own narrative and taking control of my own circumstances. I needed something different, something inspiring. This is me seeking out the extent of my strength and capability, learning more about myself in the hope that I’ll be more certain of my future by the time that I return.

I am blessed every day for the life I lead and for the people I have around me, and this is what will bolster me for the months ahead. I hope to find myself in six month’s time with a renewed sense of positivity. My faith in life is still unfaltering.

I am still searching for what it is that truly motivates and excites me. My blog is called ‘Finding my Muse’ because that’s what I am doing: in life and in words.

#lifestyle #culture #personal