Emptying Your Time

Doing nothing is a very important part of cult recovery. Doing something is important too (reading, research, therapy, talking about our experience), but doing nothing is equally important.

What do I mean by “doing nothing”? Exactly that. Martha Beck, my favorite life coach and Mormon Church survivor, says that emptying our time is as important as emptying our bladders. We couldn’t and wouldn’t go a day without emptying our bladders, yet we often go days and weeks without emptying our time.

Only when we have some empty time can the healing process we’re going through in cult recovery be fully effective.

Here’s an analogy. Maybe you’ve been to a yoga class which ends with a practice called Savassana. Savassana happens at the very end of the yoga class. All the participants lie down on their backs on their mats, eyes closed, practicing stillness of mind and body. I used to have a yoga teacher who said, “If you don’t have time to stay for Savassana, then don’t come to class. It’s that important.” The theory in yoga is that after we’ve bent ourselves into pretzels and practiced the poses with great attention, our bodies need time to process what has happened.

Just as in yoga class, in cult recovery our bodies, minds and souls need time to process what has happened to us. And we can’t do that if we are constantly filling up our time and our bodies with new information, to do lists and activities. We need to be still, be quiet and be with no obligations, no pressure and no expectation of results.

Yet at times in cult recovery it can be difficult for us to be still. That’s ok. We can be still and mobile at the same time. Any repetitive motion that does not require us to think about what we’re doing can support us to be still in mind and soul and counts as empty time; for example, walking, running, swimming or rollerblading.

The cult I was involved with emphasized meditation as a spiritual practice. Needless to say, when I first left the cult it was impossible for me to meditate given all the negative connotations I had with that practice. And yet, instinctively I knew I had to have some still, quiet, empty time in my life to allow my soul to heal. So I took to the woods. I drove myself, almost every day, the half-hour or so to a huge rainforest park in the city where I live and spent an hour or so walking in the blissfully quiet, soothing, healing woods.

This empty time required nothing of me. I couldn’t do or say anything wrong. I didn’t need to be afraid of judgment or recrimination (as I had been in the cult). I could just walk and let my body and soul repair and grieve and learn to live again.

Empty time is important in every life, I believe. I think it is one reason we get so excited about vacations; they are a chance to have the empty time we crave so desperately.

On your journey of cult recovery, I encourage you to create even 10 minutes each day of empty time. If you are able to sit still in quiet contemplation, great! If not, walk or run or swim. For years my empty time practice has involved staring out the window, letting my mind unspool and my body and soul relax and process what the day has held.

Think of it this way: You can’t fill a glass with new, fresh water if it’s already full of the filth that was poured in their by your cult leader. Strategies we use to empty that glass of the dirty water are therapy, writing, talking, and crying. Emptying your time is another, very important strategy for healing. I invite you to give it a try.

…now that I’ve shared all that, I’ll go have some Empty Time myself!

(Photo courtesy of dan and FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

4 comments

  1. Alexandra – this was just the post I needed to read this morning. Since leaving the cult, I still feel that compulsion to fill every spare moment with something “productive.” I need to schedule in some Empty Time…hubby would agree. :)

  2. alexandra says:

    Hi M.E.
    Thanks for your comment…I apologize for the delay in responding. It went into my sp*m file.
    It’s tough learning to have empty time – I work on it all the time, but have found it so valuable I know crave it. ;-)

  3. Silence and empty time has been so hard for me to learn. I was taught to fill every moment with something productive or I would be shamed.

    But now I know that listening to my mind and body while being in silence is some of the most emotionally productive time I can spend.

    Time and silence are so healing, thank you for your post.

  4. alexandra says:

    You are so welcome Suzi! I agree that what we consider to be ‘unproductive’ time can be our most healing (and therefore productive) time of all. But it’s not easy to learn to make it a priority – especially after a cult or spiritual abuse situation. I still find it difficult and often have to talk myself into sitting quietly. (Bribing myself with chocolate often works ;-)

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