Solitude

I’m very excited to be on the eve of my first month for Embrace / Refrain. ¬†I am a little sad that it falls on New Years Eve, since as I am writing this it feels like a New Years Resolution. ¬†That is not what this is at all. ¬†The whole idea has been rattling around in my head for awhile now, and it’s pure coincidence that my first month is January. ¬†But since I initially wanted to try this for a year, January works well enough.

My first project is to spend 20 minutes in solitude a day. ¬†It can be more, but I’d like to make it through the 31 days of January without it being less. ¬†My ground rules are simple: ¬†No screens, no people, 20 minutes. ¬†It almost sounds too easy. ¬†Yet, as I look at the last month, I have maybe done this intentionally once or twice. ¬†I will try to use this time wisely, but I don’t have a prescribed way to go about it. ¬†Some days I might journal, others I may just spend the time in silence. ¬†I don’t plan on using the time to read, but I will likely use it to reflect on passages of scripture and poetry.

I used to spend a regular amount of time in solitude and reflection. ¬†It wasn’t¬†necessarily¬†daily ¬†time, but it was definitely much more than I currently do. ¬†I hope that this month helps me rediscover the beauty of that time and redevelop a habit of spending time regularly in quiet.

 

Refrain Ideas – 1

I’m settling in on what I’ll do for January, but thought I’d post some ideas on refrain beforehand. Interestingly, ideas for things to refrain from come much more easily to me than ideas to embrace. Here are some possibilities for things to refrain from for a month:

  • Information Technology: This is the big one, and probably the idea that started me down the path to creating this blog. I heard a story about a journalist who took a month away from modern information technology. She picked an arbitrary date in the 1950’s as a baseline for what types of technology she could use. No computer. No color Television. No cell phone. No iPad. Since I heard the story, it has vanished! I have scoured the internet to find even a mention of it without any luck. Did I imagine it? Either way, the idea stuck with me… and now finds itself first on this list.
  • Automobile: I live in the suburbs, so this would be almost as big as information technology. What would life be like without using a car for a month? I love my bike, so it would be nice to actually use it for most of my transportation needs. I would also need to learn the public transit system. So many of the things I just jump in my car for would have to be thought through in advance. Fun!
  • Any beverage other than water: I am amazed at how many things I drink other than water. Juices, coffee, pop, beer… Not all of them are bad for me, but I think it would be interesting to limit to just water for a month. Not fun, but interesting. Would there be any beverages I wouldn’t go back to? Would I feel better overall?
  • Sweets / Sugar Foods: I love cookies, candy, cake, etc. But lets face it, this stuff is just plain terrible for me. I don’t eat a ton of sugary foods, but I think it would be good for me to take a month off entirely.
  • Buying Stuff: Of course I need to buy groceries and toilet paper and such, but what would it be like to only buy things I need for a month? I would have to put some clear parameters on what is a necessity and what isn’t, but I think it’s safe to say that I buy a lot of stuff every month that I don’t really need!

I purposely listed huge category ideas. I think much of what I’ll do is take one or more from some of these bigger categories. I could refrain from computer use, or cell phone use instead of all things information technology. Or I could just do coffee, pop, or beer. Some of these ideas would dramatically change how I currently live on a day to day basis! If you have any ideas of things to refrain from for a month, feel free to leave a comment.

Embrace Ideas – 1

Here are some ideas that I have for the months where I embrace a practice:

  • Write a letter a day: I think writing letters is almost entirely lost in our culture. I was at a wedding recently where the sister of the bride referred to a recent letter that the bride had written her, and that is when this idea popped into my head. It would be cool to think of 30 or so different people that I could write letters to!
  • Wake up at 5:30 every morning: For some people, this wouldn’t be a big deal. If I am left to my own devices, I will go to sleep between 1 and 2am, and get up between 9 and 10am. Lets just say I avoid being awake before 7am if at all possible. Yet, I wonder what benefits would come from getting up early every day for a month? What would I use that time for?
  • Ride my bike everyday: This wouldn’t be a huge stretch for me, since I love being on my bike. Yet, I certainly don’t ride everyday, probably not even 3 times a week. So it would be a challenge, and it certainly would be good for fitness.
  • Practice the daily office: The daily office is a practice of morning, mid-day, and evening prayers. I’ve been thinking about setting up a spot in the house that is conducive for quiet reflection and prayer, which I think would work great if I chose to embrace the daily office for a month.
  • Do an art project everyday: This would be mostly sitting down with my kids and doing art with them. Usually, I just encourage them or tell them how much I like their art, but I don’t often do anything artistic myself. It would be a good practice, and fun to do with my kids.

I’ve got to settle on January’s practice pretty soon. If you have any ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Introducing Embrace / Refrain

Over the next year I am going to take each month to embrace something new, or refrain from something that is a regular part of my life.  I am going to embrace 6 new practices for a month, and refrain from something 6 times for a month as well.  I will do alternating months, starting this January with my first practice to embrace.  Let me explain a little more:

Embrace:

I often have these ideas of new practices that I think might make my life better, or healthier, or something along those lines.  I often make plans to put those things into action.  However, I am apparently not all that disciplined.  So, I put these things into action once or twice, and then I have another idea that comes along and I move onto that.

My ideas for these kind of practices can be pretty varied;  flossing (I actually was successfull in making flossing a habit about a year ago!),  a daily practice of prayer or meditation,  exercise of some sort, etc.  Some ideas could be pretty intense to do for a month, while others would be beneficial, but not all that difficult.  My hope for any of them is that they would help me see the world in a new way, get in better shape, or just simply accomplish something new.  Ultimately, I hope they help me grow as a person in some way.

So, for six months over the next year, ¬†I will choose a something to practice, and embrace that practice as fully as possible for one full month. ¬†During that month, I’ll blog occasionally about my¬†progress, and what I might be learning in the process.

Refrain:

On the months that I am not embracing something new, I will choose something that is a regular part of my life and refrain from it for the full month.  Awhile back I did a fast (from food) for about 3 days.   During that fast, I realized how much I love food, depend on food, and I missed it during the fast (obviously).  I also could see ways in which my life was negatively impacted by some of my habits around food.  I had a new appreciation for the place that food had in my life.  Afterword, it occurred to me that I could take the process of fasting beyond food and get the same type of perspective on whatever I might refrain from.

Just like with embracing new practices, I could refrain from something simple like not drinking pop.  Or, I could do something something much more difficult  like a technology black-out (not sure how I will blog about that if I choose to do it).  Most of my endeavors will fall somewhere in-between.

So there you have it… this is what Embrace / Refrain is. ¬†Six months where I embrace something new. ¬†Six months where I refrain from something that is a regular part of my life. ¬†I invite you to follow along, join me in my endeavors, or do your own alongside me.

Ideas

I specifically didn’t get too much into ideas of what I might actually embrace or refrain from. ¬†I’ll do a few of posts over the next couple of weeks exploring some of the possibilities. ¬†I’ll try to settle on what I’ll do for January, well…. sometime before January.