Margin and Meditation.

I set this picture as my desktop today:

This will come as no shock to you, but I've been dwelling on this one thought for the past several days: Americans do not understand margin. We do not make time for time. We may think ourselves disciplined when it comes to prioritizing work, school, family, and finances.

We're not.

In fact, several studies have shown that while Americans are making less time for vacation and more time for work, the rest of the world is working and playing and moving forward at a steady pace. Meanwhile, we're running ourselves into the ground.

This is not a plea to my employers to let me have a couple weeks off. This is just an observation, made more pertinent by the fact that I'm getting nostalgic for my Euro-trip in '08. I long for that time when time was all I had to think and reflect and let go.

Also, I was struck by the realization of how Christians in particular view meditation. While we knock other religions for the beliefs they are founded on, we give no regard to the fact that many other religions are much more disciplined and devoted to the act of meditation, or a time set aside for prayer and reflection. We're encouraged to pray on the go, while we go about our work day or running errands or standing in line at Starbucks. Is that true devotion, though? Is that making your meditation the sole priority and focus of your consciousness at that moment?

Meditation - to think, to ponder, to consider, to deliberate, to reflect.

Margin - leeway, latitude, room, room to maneuver, space, allowance, extra, surplus.

Meditation and margin - two things we don't understand and therefore don't do.

I have a lot on my plate with work and projects and home. Before I let this blog and my life become one big rush towards "making it" in a career, I need to stop and take a moment. I'm past the point in my life where my time is my own and I can wander to my heart's content. But. We become less and less effective the more we accumulate on our to-do list. Getting caught up in the rat-race won't make us successful.

I put this picture on my desktop this morning in part because of my nostalgia for my favorite place on earth (Salzburg, Austria) and in part as a reminder to give myself margin and meditation. I need to give myself that leeway, that allowance of time to reflect and consider my life and the world around me.

This is a reminder for you, dear readers, to take what moments we can each day and walk and wander and reflect and pray. You'll be surprised to see what blessings God lays at your feet when you do it.


Ted Schnell said...

Well said, Bethany. I might add that the things we accumulate are much like the to-do lists you mentioned: the things we gather represent the time we spent gathering (or working to gether) them. Right now, I am really appreciating my youngest children, whose notion of time is that minutes seem like hours. Oh to be living in moments like that!

Bethany said...

Too true, Ted! I was reading a book this morning, and the author discussed this very idea. What I found interesting was her comment that Americans love entertainment, but they hate the thought of "doing nothing." As evidenced by our rampant consumerism for products like tvs, dvd-players, computers, and our incessant TV consumption. We're filling our lives with things that deter us from seeking solace, quiet, and time where our thoughts can be independent of outside influence. So interesting! Thank you for your thoughts - read my latest post on writing; I was talking about this very thing.
Hope you have a wonderful weekend with your fam.

Bob Bittner said...


If you haven't seen "Eat, Pray, Love," yet, I'd highly recommend it. It's not a *great* movie, but it does deal pretty honestly with all of the points you touch on. (Haven't read the book it's based on.)

Bethany said...

I just went to see it last night actually! I started reading the book last week and I'm only about 100 pages in. It is actually a big part of what prompted me to write this post. That, and the fact that a pastor I heard speak recently had exactly the opposite view of meditation and kinda bothered me, haha.
The book, like the movie, isn't the greatest. I think what readers/viewers (namely women) really like about "Eat, Pray, Love" is how much it resonates with the daily struggle to confront our shortcomings and to make peace with ourselves and others.

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