The mind avoids getting trapped by loosening constraints in a safe environment. This is what I concluded after trying to observe myself fade into a dream-like state earlier today at the park when it was nice and sunny.
There is actually very little detail I remember about the content of my mental activity in that state, because every time I tried to hold on to any of the snippets that were being strung together without my active participation, they shied away from my grip. With a swift motion, they would glide into safety, skillfully bypassing my attempts to analyze and memorize them. Every interference with the process would immediately disrupt it and I would need to wait for something new to start.
At the cost of preventing one particular thread from following through to its end, I managed to capture a peculiar thought snippet. During what felt like the construction of an explanation or argument of some sort, I noticed that one element was oddly ambiguous: it was both “15 minutes” and “15 meters”. It hadn’t been determined which of those two it needed to be in order for the constructed result to make sense. Interestingly though, I remember feeling that it did make at least enough sense just before I stopped to take a closer look at it, at which point the whole thought deflated into what seemed like a useless, chaotic mess. Minutes, meters, who cares what unit it is as long as it starts with ‘m’ and we know we need 15 of them, am I right?
I demanded coherence, order, sense! And all I could find were ambiguous snippets freely floating around and associating with one another in some kind of careless space.
And then I realized, as I reflected on my own judgmental attitude: the snippets were right not to trust me. They were right to be shy, to hide from my analytical, memorizing eye, my grasping, sense-making hands. They needed this space to be free from the constraining influence of enforced coherence, consistency, order, purpose. They needed a break from me. That’s why it felt like my mind was protecting its floating snippets from me. “These are not for you. In fact, you are not really meant to be here. It’s okay for you to stay, but don’t touch anything.”
It had a point. And maybe there is something to learn from it.
If the mind knows to periodically protect itself from the strict demands of purposeful thinking, maybe we could support it, support ourselves, both as individuals and groups of people working together, by making sure we reserve enough time away from otherwise useful constraints.
Time to let go — to get ourselves ready to attach ourselves again, possibly to something different.
Time to forget — not just remember.
Time to enjoy nonsense — one of the most fertile grounds for sense.
Time to explore unchosen directions — doing the opposite, and then again the opposite.
Time to play — so that reaching a goal is only ever a small stretch away from what we do all the time anyway.
And also, more radically: time to completely let go of predefined ideas such as goals, progress, and productivity. Time to float.