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Alone With Your Thoughts, What Do You Think?
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I'm reading
Alone With Your Thoughts, What Do You Think?
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I'm reading
Alone With Your Thoughts, What Do You Think?
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
28 November 2022

Alone With Your Thoughts, What Do You Think?

Lean into the quiet, uncomfortable expanse of being alone with your thoughts.

Caitlin Stanway

This story originally ran in issue #71 of Dumbo Feather

The airport used to be a space of deep ritual. Find a coffee in the morning, a beer after 12 pm, and sit with a book, undisturbed and anonymous. On the flight, my mind would wander. A folder on my phone titled Plane Ponders is the guardian of many a mid-air epiphany: poetic ramblings and questions to collect an answer for at the baggage carousel, when reception is in reach.

The ritual started well over a decade ago, when it was harder to stay plugged in during transit. I got into the habit of sitting and learned to bring a journal on the journey. There’s something about the liminality of transit that unlocks space where my mind can roam freely. Flights and showers and long silent drives: the ever-dependable conduits for deep and original thought.

At some point the pre-boarding book was replaced with a laptop. Emailing and Dropboxing and spreadsheeting until it’s time to board. Slacking and WhatsApping and Instagramming until the wheels are moving and the attendant is saying it’s time to switch to flight mode. Then it’s on with an audiobook or podcast. Can’t waste this precious time, you see, there is knowledge to absorb. The rise of podcasts and audiobooks has collided with the incessant pressure of hustle culture, and the glorification of girl-bossing and change-making and self-optimisation. I’ve found myself caught in a cycle of desperately seeking paths to self-improvement to cope with plaguing thoughts of not doing enough, being enough, achieving enough. Thoughts fueled by social media and how-to content that inevitably manifest as insurmountable self-development to-do lists.

Until a few months ago, not a single moment outside of meditation was spent in silence. I played music in the shower, podcasts in the bath. Wireless headphones became an extension of my body: in while walking to get coffee, trekking the isles of grocery stores, waiting at the doctor, waiting at the tram stop, while cooking, cleaning, eating.

In the race to self-realisation, we’ve become deeply uncomfortable with physical and metaphorical liminal space and the uncertainty that accompanies states of transition. The space in between what was, and what comes next.

Who we were, and who we are becoming.

Instead of allowing space for wisdom to arrive from within, we fill our time and minds with the thoughts of others. Yet our minds need space and time to transform knowledge and experience into wisdom. We need to play with our own ideas, leaving space and quiet for creativity to emerge. Time for our reflections to take form and deliver the learnings about ourselves and the world that we so often seek from outside sources.

Recently, while walking through a park at the break of spring, quiet and observing and thinking, a poem began to form. I’d left the headphones at home, having just finished an audiobook on optimising creativity. The irony was not lost on me that in all the time I was learning how to be creative, I had left no space to create. In the time we spend being told who to become, we leave little space to get to know who we are. Now I lean into the quiet, uncomfortable expanse of being alone with my thoughts. Because I know, given the chance, they will show me how to grow, show me who I am.


This story appears in Issue 71 of Dumbo Feather, Beyond Ego, pick up a copy online or find us at your local independent retailer. 

Caitlin Stanway

Caitlin Stanway is our Marketing Manager, working across both Small Giants Academy and Dumbo Feather. Caitlin is an impact, strategy and word nerd who passionately believes in the power of impact-led businesses to change the way we live, work and relate to each other and this wonderful natural world.

When she’s not at Small Giants you’ll find her working with other for-purpose businesses and leaders through her business The Formative, studying and practising somatics, writing, hiking or back in her hometown of Adelaide hanging with her family. She’s also a water baby who can be found in Port Phillip Bay most mornings (yes, depths of Melbourne winter included).

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