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Your Brain is a Bird

By: Michael Blankenship |

“I think 99 times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me.” 

~ Albert Einstein

Most people think they’re wasting time when they’re just looking out the window. In our hustle culture, you’re expected to always be doing something, checking things off that never-ending to-do list, or mastering a new skill. No one ever says “My day was amazing, I stared out the window for 10 minutes.” 

Our society considers daydreaming as unproductive. But is that true? 

Plato had a metaphor for the mind. He said — “Our ideas are like birds fluttering around in the aviary of our brains. But in order for the birds to settle, we needed periods of purpose-free calm.” 

History is filled with instances of thinkers and artists who created great works of art while they were doing nothing. 

Virginia Woolf, the iconic writer believed deeply in the value of introspection and observation. In her work “A Room of One’s Own,” Woolf mentions how sitting by a window and watching the world outside led to profound insights. These instances connected her more deeply to her surroundings and influenced her writing.

One of the most successful writers of all time, Agatha Christie often mentioned how many of her best plot ideas came to her not while she was actively writing, but during moments of rest, such as during baths.

When one gazes out of a window, the mind is given a break from its constant churn of thoughts and tasks. It is an invitation to simply be – to observe, to reflect, and to let the mind wander. It is more open to making novel connections, & imagining possibilities. 

The constant overload of information, notifications, and demands for our attention keeps the “birds” in our mind forever fluttering. They rob our minds of a few moments of respite. 

So, here’s something to think about — How can you integrate these moments of purpose-free calm into your daily routine?

What I’ve found most useful is to go to a local cafe. I leave my phone behind or put it on airplane mode. I order my favorite tea, sit and observe. As a bonus, holding a warm cup of tea and feeling its warmth is a calming experience. When I don’t go to a cafe, I stand on the balcony of my house and look at the clouds shifting their shapes, floating around. It literally makes me lose track of time, and feels like my brain took a mini-vacation. 

Give it a shot — even if it’s just for one day in your week. 

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