A sponge is just as valuable dry, as it is wet.
When it’s dry, it’s ready to soak up a spill. When it’s wet, it’s holding the spill. There’s an ebb and flow to the process of using a sponge. You soak up the spill, you wring it out, you soak up some more spill, and continue until it’s dry.
Our brains and bodies are much like sponges. We experience moments of feeling full and empty in energy, information, and emotion. We absorb and we wring. We receive input and we broadcast output.
However when it comes to the soaking and wringing process for our emotional minds, it seems we are trying to outsmart this simple process.
I have known many workaholic friends who define productivity simply from the act of constant output, often with low concern for what they consider ‘meaningless input.’
Many can’t fathom how going to the zoo could make them a better manager. Or how planting a tree could teach them anything about accounting. What if spending afternoon tea with your grandma could be the key to your project? It all seems like a waste of time.
By spending all your energy and focus on transmitting output, you can’t stop long enough to receive input. It’s like the person who never lets you finish your sentence or fills the silence with words; they end up just missing out on the sage of advice that you or some contemplation has to offer.
To many, conversations about sleeping eight hours, working out, a good diet, creative outlets, or just taking time out to disconnect from stimulus and stimulant are often seen to be luxuries to be enjoyed by either those who don’t need to work, are lazy, or who ‘have nothing better to do’.
They aren’t considered to be critical components to producing quality work even though they are continuously proven to improve creativity, brain activity, alertness and general decision making skills.
Sadly, there’s a significant social disconnect between activities for regeneration and fabrication. As a result, we often miss the gift of life’s wisdom hidden in our resting activities, too busy consumed by the guilt of ‘not working’.
The idea of resting after working isn’t supposed to be considered as a bonus. Resting is the opposite of working, designed to restore equilibrium and perspective. Without it, our work becomes distorted and even counter-productive.
Similarly, all play and no work can also create a disconnect with productivity. We can get stuck inside introspection, unable to produce.
If time and rest are key to healing a broken heart or a broken body, what makes you think that your mind is any different?
Challenge: Wring out your sponge every day for at least two hours.
Ditch any environment that you’ll be tempted to broadcast output. Put down your phone, close your computer and close your mouth.
Instead, take your dog for a walk and observe him/her closely, sit to watch people and the world go by, watch the sea crashing or the flicker of a flame, prune the garden and feel the sun, listen to some music and hear every instrument or call a friend but be there only to listen.
Whatever it is, stop intentionally to observe and absorb the world around you. You must only receive input and resist the urge to output.
Let go of the need to prove your knowledge or abilities. Be happy and open to be taught what you think you already know.
Do something other than sleep to rest your mind. Listen intently, watch carefully and remain silent. Every day, honour yourself by allowing the world to come to you.
You might be surprised what you might see, hear, feel, learn and experience if you just took the time to empty your sponge.