Claiming the Bliss Station

Last week I wrote about Joseph Campbell’s thoughts on the essential role of the bliss station in a happy, productive life.

The bliss station is a special place where the artist (or any individual) can go to dream and work uninterrupted for a special time each day.

When I first wrote about the idea of a bliss station, I was working on the couch and dining room table of my apartment. After I wrote that article last week, I had a good hard look at my setup and decided that my work space simply was not adequate. I did not have space to sprawl out and leave stuff, and I did not have reliable hours of uninterrupted time.

So, I spent the better of this week claiming a real bliss station in a storage room on the ground floor of my building. I wish it had natural light, but it is fairly large and away from distraction, so I am pleased. The space is now mostly clear, and I spent the better part of the day resuming my activities.

There is still work to do to organize the junk in the storage room so that the whole room is more comfortable and functional, but now I have a couple work tables and few shelves in a fairly large, quiet space. I believe this is more of a true bliss station, and I am already feeling better about my promise for focusing, reflecting, and working. So, I think last week’s article has precipitated a positive change in my work setup.

This is the small work table I set up for writing, drawing, and typing.
I have a couple shelves for storing supplies and reference materials.
I have a dedicated table that I can use for painting, paper-crafts, and sculpting.
I picked up these doors/drawers/shelves at a used furniture store a couple months ago. My portfolios don’t really fit, but the storage is good enough for now to store my portfolios according to day of the week that I use them.
There is still a lot of junk in the room, but once I straighten it up and move most of the junk to the loft that is above this view, this should be a nice, quiet, productive bliss station.

Moving from Sleep to Creativity to Bliss Station: My Thinking Brain Needs Quiet Time Most

I find that my brain needs excessive amounts of down time in order to get any significant creative work done. When I was an academic, I found that this seemingly idiosyncratic requirement of my particular brain a hindrance. The successful academic is always moving. They move from classroom to laboratory to public service settings each day. Somehow in those brief moments when the academic is not physically moving, the real work, the writing, is meant to happen. When I was working as an academic, those moments of down time begged for daydreaming time. It was difficult for me to find enough time to do the hard work of making significant thought output because I seemed to need more time than others to allow the ideas to marinate. I could never get enough rumination time!

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters by Francisco de Goya

I am a huge fan of the mythologist Joseph Campbell. It was through his work that I finally arrived at a satisfactory comfort with the conflicts among the religions and with the conflict between science and religion.

Campbell ruminated on many things, and one of his more famous recommendations for a rewarding life was to create a “bliss station.” The amazing philosopher and blogger, Maria Popova, has summarized Campbell’s musings about daydreaming. Campbell recommended a special space of retreat for each day. The writer and artist Austin Kleon has concluded that a special time for reflection is what is required. In my experience, both space and time are required for quiet reflection but there is no real requirement for a specific space or time. All that I need is a quiet space and ample time. In fact, it is best if the time doesn’t just come at a specific time of day. It is best if I get a lot of quiet time at random moments throughout the day.

I also require a lot of sleep. I find that sometimes I will run with remarkable creativity for a few days on ordinary amounts of sleep, and then suddenly I will crash with a need for extraordinary amounts of sleep. With my schizoaffective/delusional disorder, I find that if I don’t get enough sleep, the monsters begin to sneak up on me.

Science is beginning to recognize that sleep plays an essential role in the creative process. The debate used to be over whether REM or non-REM sleep is most important for creativity, but some scientists now conclude that non-REM sleep extracts concepts, and REM sleep connects them.

Whatever the science, I find that I am healthy, happy, creative, and productive only when I have ample time for both daydreaming and sleep. What are your daydreaming and sleeping habits?