My newsletter reflection next week is going to be about fantasy, dreams, whimsy, imagination, and play, and how necessary they are for the human mind to be a healthy place. And two of the things I tend to do for myself in this vein is to block out time for reverie, and for reflection.
Reverie is that squishy brain time when we can let our fantastic minds just make connections and solve problems for us without forcing anything. It’s a little like meditation, in that from the outside we don’t seem to be doing anything, but it isn’t quite meditation. It’s a little like quietly staring at the wall, or a tree, but there’s a bit more to it than that, and it’s not about taking a walk, or being in a place.
I usually do it after I finish my silent meditation in the morning because if I can manage actual silent meditation, reverie is a snap. So, I’m sitting, I’m quiet, and because I’ve also just done all my morning martial arts and myofascial release exercises, my nervous system is deeply in parasympathetic mode and my mind is really quite quiet. The silent meditation is when I purposefully do not engage with my thoughts, just letting them float by as if on a river that is flowing past me, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with me. And when I’ve done my portion of that, it’s like I take one step closer to the river and engage in some reverie; I purposefully do engage in some of my thoughts, leaving aside worry, fear, or other emotions about the future as well as negative emotions about the past. When negative emotions come floating down the river with their attendant thoughts, I don’t engage. I let them float past. (Full disclosure: sometimes I can’t help but to grieve and cry, or feel deeply angry – but I feel the emotion, and then let it go again, and keep going, continuing to watch the river of my mind.) But if a thought with a joyful emotion floats by, that I allow myself to engage in. I ask it questions and let the answers float down the river toward me. I let those thoughts grow and flourish in my mind and let them go when they’re fully grown and wait for the next one. And that is how I engage in reverie.
But why bother?
A lot of my work, both as a parish priest, and as a writer, is deeply creative and imaginative, making connections and listening very deeply for the presence and thoughts of my deity. Reverie is, essentially, part of my mind training that helps me to do that well and with integrity, and when I don’t engage in it regularly, it shows in my writing, in my sermons, in the spiritual direction I can offer, and the pastoral conversations I have. (This is true, even though most of what I think about during reverie has zero to do with work of any kind.) But reverie, as I have just described it, is sitting quietly and doing nothing but thinking happy thoughts, which some would label (quite judgmentally, perhaps) as entirely whimsical and unnecessary for life. As I consider Joy literally a fingerprint-level clue as to the presence of my deity, sitting around in my jammies every morning thinking happy thoughts also counts as professional development and morning prayer. But what it feels like to me is Play.
Oh, if only I could console my six year old self, ‘don’t worry, sweetie; when you grow up, you’re going to write books, talk to god, and sit in your jammies and think happy thoughts.’ Six year old me would have been thrilled with that life plan.
And for reflection, which I do along with reverie… well, that will be a blogpost for tomorrow.
What do you do to rejuvenate the soul? What works for you, or what have you tried and moved on from? Tell me in the comments below!