I am a mother of three now-grown people, all of whom – when they were little – were amazing at asking the question, “Why”? Mummy, why is it raining? Mummy, why does it get dark? Mummy … and on it would go. I made it my practice to answer as often as I could and when I didn’t know, I’d say so.
However; like many parents, at times I also made the rather grave error of saying, “Because” and leaving it there.
The fact is that the question “Why” is the basis for all scientific processes. It’s the motivating question for research. So, what happened that we fail to ask the question these days? Perhaps it’s a lack of time on the part of busy parents, or the lack of patience. The modern education system was developed in the midst of the industrial revolution and failed to provide stimulation to excite inquisitive minds. It was designed to prepare people for factory work rather than groom scientists. Certainly some things have changed, but the basis remains.
A poll done a few years ago found that children at the age of five had a 98% creativity level, but by the time they hit ten years of age it had dropped to 20% and by the time they reached the age of 25, it was a mere 2%. Now, that’s sad.
So, how can we fix it?
I think the answer lies in the ability to reflect, specifically, self-reflect.
Isn’t it interesting that we spend most of our time thinking about everything but our own inner lives? We are usually more concerned about what others are thinking about us than we are about what we think of our own behaviors. By the way, what someone else thinks about me is, in my opinion, none of my business.
Throughout our daily lives we are in a constant state of observation and analysis – be it work related or something someone texted to us. We have become masters of obtaining data and examining it for deeper meaning or an explanation. We can think critically about all kinds of things, but not especially about ourselves.
Introspection involves examining one’s own thoughts, feelings and sensations in order to gain insight. Being introspecitive is often a rare quality in many lives, particularly young adults, and with good reason: it requires slowing down and taking a breather from the craziness and busyness of life and that isn’t always easy.
In a society fixated on fast-paced environments and a “go, go, go” mentality, it’s difficult to find the time to sit down and reflect. However, setting aside a small portion of your day for self-examination can be a lot more helpful than you might expect.
Something I learned along the French Way
During the 14-day period walking the Camino, I was faced with many periods of silence. It was during those times that I was left entirely alone with my own thoughts – with myself. I had an opportunity to watch myself as I reacted to various things presented during this time. I saw how I conducted myself and heard how I spoke.
Some of it was wonderful and some of it needed change. Being alone with myself was revealing, enlightening, sometimes disturbing, but definitely educational.
Did I emerge a different person? Probably. I know for certain that I am more quiet and resolute inside than I’ve been in ages.
It’s not that I’ve never practiced introspection – it is that it was for a very extended period of time and, when you’re walking 25 km per day and not talking a lot, well, it’s a lot of time for thinking.
You don’t have to leave town… or, maybe you do.
Introspection doesn’t have to mean leaving town. Taking a few minutes every day to reflect on life – your life – is often as good. On the other hand, if you can’t possibly find a few quiet minutes in your life, maybe a little break in a very quiet environment will be just the ticket.
Regardless, whether you start your day with quiet meditation and self-reflection for a few minutes, or find yourself in the woods or a lonely beach, self-reflection can be the best way to make the changes you need to have the life you really love to live.