Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Keeping the multitasking out of the moment

It's not easy to do nothing, but I'm trying.

The tea is on the tray, hot and steaming, and I'm finally stealing a half hour — OK, maybe an hour — to enjoy it. My life is increasingly harried of late, and I could use this time to read, to catch up on my journal, to do personal tasks that I enjoy but are still tasks. The pile of magazines. The poor, ignored novel.

But, no. This isn't a moment for multitasking. Just sit and drink the tea. That's all that's required now, in this moment. Sit, think, maybe chat with company. All the work being done, the tasks executed — they will be better for this tea time, this downshift, this empty space. I read an article a while back about how the mind requires empty time like this to process the thoughts from the busy time. It cited President Obama, saying he and his advisers are aware of this kind of thing and that he makes an effort for empty mind time during the day. (Go ahead, riff on a joke there.) Balance and moderation in all things. It's how the world works.

I do allow myself a notepad. The thought bubbles that arise sometimes need jotting down; if I pin them to paper then I won't worry about remembering them, and my mind can stay loose and free.

One of my favorite stories is about the poet Allen Ginsberg at a meditation retreat. He kept a notebook and pen by his side, scribbling thoughts that occurred and felt like keepers. Later, sitting around a fire with other meditation students, the leader asked Ginsberg what he'd been writing. "Little thought bubbles," he said. The leader asked to see his notebook — and promptly threw it in the fire. He was missing the point.

But this is tea time, not strict meditation. It's mulling. It's mindful. It's a rare moment — to breathe and relax and reboot. We'll return to the world and the work soon enough.

Nothing on my knee but my tea cup.

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