The talk drones on and on. The presentation is not as interesting as you had hoped. You don’t notice when it first happens, but you’re bored by the speaker and are spacing out.
We’ve all been in this figurative outer space within our inner space. One might call it monkey mind or daydreaming on steroids. Right in the middle of a lecture about nineteenth century life in rural Kansas, you have tele-transported to colonial life on the Moon in the twenty-second century. Perhaps instead of a scholarly lesson, you could be relaxing with your favorite music at home. Mentally, you’re sitting in a sunny meadow contemplating clouds.
It seems like our cluttered minds simply need to detoxify and take a breather for awhile. Sometimes this happens when we feel overwhelmed. Sometimes this happens when we feel underwhelmed. Spacing out might be the mind just chilling out and puttering around. Spacing out feels good because feeling stoned without drugs and alcohol is the best type of high there is.
Sometimes we get new ideas when daydreaming or spacing out. Maybe spacing out leads to grasping concepts we could never fully understand before the daydream. If you’re really bored, the spacing out can be quite vivid. That’s when having paper and pencils nearby is helpful. When you return back to Earth, you can jot down the outline of the daydream while it is still fresh in the mind. Many writers and research scientists have learned to cultivate this practice.
Spacing out was something that often happened to me during spring time phys. ed. classes in high school. I was a terrible athlete, so the baseball coach always placed me in outfield. Balls were very rarely hit there, so I had plenty of time to imagine being a star player at the World Series. Maybe these daydreams were the foundation later for my college intramural position as catcher for our team. That’s when daydreaming went on hiatus.
Fantasies of World Series stardom didn’t monopolize my daydreams in outfield. There were the usual adolescent mental journeys to exotic countries, attending concerts of favorite musicians, or obsessing over my latest romantic crush.
Spacing out can be more entertaining than blockbuster movies, or popular novels. On the other hand, sometimes movies and books can help transport our minds to amazing places. Perhaps the best films and books come about when the writers were spaced out. If that is the case, more of us might develop lucrative writing careers. Then again, isn’t such a notion just fodder for more daydreaming?
Now that this is mid-August, spacing out happens more frequently. The hot, humid weather is not conducive to mindfulness. We feel more languid and out of it in August. This can simply cause us to stop thinking and daydreaming altogether. There are more minutes spent blankly staring at the ceiling or becoming mesmerized by nature. It is this type of spacing out that can be quite restorative. It’s sort of like rebooting the hardware of your brain. This disengagement feels healthy and necessary when we notice it happening.
The beauty of this state of mind is that when you cannot physically get away, spacing out takes you away from it all.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this thought from screenwriter, producer, director Mark Waters: “Daydreaming allows you to play out scenarios where you miraculously save the day. You play out scenarios in your head that are kind of crazy, and then you personally, heroically resolve them.”