Creating Mental White Space – Insights from the Wilderness #234

shun-piking“Ok,” he said rolling his eyes, and looking off into the distance as if he could care less, “what the heck is mental white space?”

This was pretty much the response I’d expect from him given his tendency to make fun of my insights. But I also knew that his curiosity would nag at him until he knew. So I pretended indifference, threw another log on the campfire, leaned back in my camp chair, and waited.

“Well,” he said, annoyed that I’d out-waited him, “are you going to tell me or not?”

“Only if you’re interested,” I said as if I didn’t really care.

“I’m not,” he said, “but I know it’s bugging you to tell me.”

I chuckled. He’s known me for a long time. “It’s the idea behind the new website my wife and I are working on called”

“You’ve got to be kidding! You already have a million websites”.

The bantering continued for a few moments before we got around to talking about the meaning and importance of whitespace.

Mental white space is my metaphor for a mind that is contemplative, quiet, listening, reflecting, and open to new ideas. It’s a mind that is not seeking continuous, never-ending stimulation from the outside world. A mind that doesn’t need to rush from one frenetic input to the next. A mind that resists moving at light speed from point A to point B. It’s a mind that has learned to slow down and bend the beam of its attention inward.

I believe a hurried and busy mind is a form of self-inflicted violence on ourselves and our soul. Mental white space is the cure.

When my wife and I began to intentionally slow down and focus on creating more mental white space in our brains, our life improved. Our lives were no longer based on compulsively rushing from one distraction to the next. Our world was so driven by sound bites and the never-ending demands of multi-tasking, TV, phone messages, emails, home and work responsibilities, it was almost impossible for us to be creative. We realized that we needed to distance ourselves from the never-ending “input” distractions long enough to let our brains actually day-dream and creatively mull over new ideas. Instead of filling our brains with one distraction after another, we created white space in our brains by slowing down and spending more time just “being in the moment”. Taking the time to be more present to the experiences we were having.

“So what did you do? I wouldn’t have a clue how to slow down other than fishing” he said jokingly.

“One big change was turning off the TV and spending more time out camping and hiking with our camper trailer.”

I explained that it was increased travel in our camper that got my wife and I thinking about linking the concepts of “white space” and “Shun-Piking”. Instead of rushing from point A to point B on high-speed interstate highways, we decided we would slow down and “shun” the interstates. We began the practice of using back roads whenever we traveled.

Over time, we realized that we were actually “seeing” the world around us in a new way. We were beginning to experience the towns and country we were traveling through at a much deeper level of awareness. We began meeting interesting people along the way, attending local festivals, and stopping for lunch in small local restaurants. We began staying overnight in forest service campgrounds, local Elk’s Club RV camp sites, and intentionally sight-seeing, hiking, and exploring the attractions on our travel route.

Our motto became “never take an interstate or major highway when you can take a back road”. When we drove from point A to point B in the past, the trip always felt like a goal to be achieved. Something to be achieved as quickly as possible. Taking the back roads turned every trip on the road into a journey; an adventure. Today we try to more intentionally embrace the idea that life is a journey, not a race.

We have RV travel friends who use the rule of “2” whenever they are on the road with their camper. The rule of “2” is defined as never drive more than 200 miles a day. Be in your next campground by 2 pm. And stay in that campground for two days before getting back on the road. We are now adding the rule of “2” to our “shun-piking” approach. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for us to only drive 15 to 20 miles a day when we’re on the road. Shun-piking and adopting the rule of “2” was so helpful in creating mental white space for us, we decided to create the website to encourage others to create their own mental white space using the rule of “2” and “shun-piking”.

The “rule of two” and “shun-piking” to create mental white space in our lives has enabled us to enjoy traveling in our little camper at a whole new level. From the feedback we are getting from the website, it’s clear that others are also discovering the benefits of more “white space in their lives.

We sat and watched the fish cooking on the campfire for a while. A frog croaked down by the water.

“That’s an interesting concept,” he said thoughtfully. I think my wife and I are going to take a page out of your “travel” book. What was the name of the website again?”

One Response to Creating Mental White Space – Insights from the Wilderness #234

  1. Imkelina July 22, 2015 at 6:43 am #

    Dick – this is a great synopsis of mental white space. When I decided to retire a month ago, many friends asked me, “What are you going to DO now?” And my reply was, “I am shifting from doing to being!” Well, let me tell you, after years of doing, I am VERY SLOWLY slowing down to be more present and being. Your nugget came as a very timely reminder!

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