Micro Zen: A return to the self
Getting stuff done, fulfilling the big tasks, fitting it all in. They’re all important. But it’s so easy to get overwhelmed, to keep going even when our minds and bodies are tired and to think that taking a few moments to rest is a time-wasting indulgence. So often, even when we believe we are resting, we are reading, planning, scrolling through social media (guilty as charged!)
Long-distance runners often discover that a voluntary or enforced break in the running schedule – known as ‘passive recovery’ – results in a better performance later. As counter-intuitive as it seems, taking a short break from activities to re-synch mind and body can actually be time-effective and can ultimately help us get more ‘doing’ done.
We often think of rest in terms of the physical self, but it’s just as important to cut our minds some slack from the thinkathons we subject them to and to re-synch our body and mind. I think of this re-synching as a kind of ‘control-alt-delete’ for the busy, doing self. It doesn’t require a long hiatus in the day. Nor do you need a bed or sofa or even a yoga mat! We can find our quiet place within us – at our desk, sitting at the bus stop or waiting in a queue. (Just not while driving a vehicle or landing a plane please!) The sweet spot of re-synching is a return to the self in this one moment, and, importantly, to truly notice that return.
There are two lines written by the poet, Ryōkan – an 18th century Japanese monk – that sum up for me that feeling of a moment’s return to the self:
I stretch out both feet and lie down.[Tr: John Stevens. One Robe, One Bowl
What is there to think about? What is there to doubt?
If you can, sometime today, take a moment to yourself.
Stretch your feet out – actually notice your feet stretching out.
Experience it, feel each bone and muscle responding.
Perhaps point and flex your feet. Feel your ankles respond.
If it feels okay, shut your eyes.
Say to yourself,
In this one short moment, no one needs anything from me.
No need to struggle to clear your head of thoughts –
no need to engage with them either –
just let them flow past you.
Then, when you feel ready, slowly notice the sounds around you, scents, the air moving.
And open your eyes.
A moment to re-connect and ‘re-boot’.
You absolutely deserve it.
This poem is about nothing…
How difficult nothing can beD Sloan
How being in nothing is being
How ‘is’ is everything in nothing
How everything folds into nothing
How nothing returns in the unfolding
How in unfolding we make the universe
How from nothing the universe makes us