Before I got up yesterday morning I mapped out my day. Easy to do since I decided that I would do nothing (except maybe read and rest). For two days straight I had run from one event to another from early morning until bedtime and exercised more strenuously than usual. I was tired and I needed to slow down. So I decided to skip a class, not visit my mother and stay home all day. My resolve lasted for the hour I read the morning paper, ate breakfast and showered. Then I remembered that I hadn’t practiced piano during the two days I was running around, so I made a small alteration to my proposed agenda of doing nothing. But after an hour and a half of practice, I remembered that I had promised to make someone a homemade greeting card, so I worked on that for an hour or so. At that point I realized that the cupboard was bare, so I went to the store, which meant that I had lost all pretense of doing nothing. When I got home, I returned to my things-to-do-list and completed several projects I had volunteered to take on, though felt remorse for one not yet begun. That’s just the way I am, I thought. I’m incapable of doing nothing.
What a surprise when later in the day the topic of taking time out came up in a blog I subscribe to called Daily Good. It contained a link to a video of British comedian John Cleese who talked about time out and creativity. Here’s what Cleese said: “If you’re racing around all day, ticking things off your list, looking at your watch, making phone calls and generally just keeping all the balls in the air, you are not going to have any creative ideas.” Clearly he has my number. His recommendation was to hole up and think without interruption, let ideas simmer, and do nothing. This advice is quite compatible with being alone, the advice in my last blog post. And it would work well with another recommendation that has followed me for several weeks in blogs and emails from friends. Originating in HarvardScience, the article advises us to meditate 30 minutes a day for eight weeks in order to induce changes in our brain’s gray matter. Specifically, “The analysis of MR images, … found increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.”
The beauty of all this is that by following all three recommendations simultaneously, that is, meditate alone and do it away from distractions, which is a lot like doing nothing, you’ll be able to check off three things on your to-do list while only using the time allotted for one.