By Kurt Aschermann, Leesburg
Nobody can find anything good about people getting sick and dying. Nobody and no way. But the measures being taken to control, slow down and prevent the virus can be a positive coming from this terrible disease.
We can use this time of isolation to learn to slow down and do nothing.
If you go to Barnes & Noble, or a pharmacy, where the only magazine racks still exist, you will find a variety of issues dedicated to everything from the Civil War to sports to cigar smoking. But no shelf has more variety than the so-called “self-help” rack, the place where magazines teaching us to slow down and be mindful are. Heck, there is even a magazine called Mindfulness. Now you would think that with all these tools, all this information, the world would have slowed down and smelled the flowers a long time ago. Instead, the world speeds up and runs to the nursery to buy more flowers.
The art of slowing down and doing nothing isn’t that difficult and frankly as a subscriber to some of those magazines that all say the same thing over and over again, I can tell you slowing down and doing less is done when we—wait for it—slow down and do less. Truth is you can sit still and not do anything. Not watch TV, not read a book, not order something on Amazon. It is possible to just sit. (It’s also possible to reorder our lives so we don’t have to buy books, tv’s and everything Amazon sells, but we’ll leave that to another self-help article, leading to magazines, books and seminars).
Sitting and doing nothing isn’t in our DNA. Not just American DNA, but the world’s DNA. But with a little effort and taking our time increasing the amount of time we sit doing nothing, we can become “nothing doers.” The world—you know the people without the right DNA—calls this meditation when it is formal. We call it just sitting and doing nothing.
The Taoists call this wu wei, “doing non-doing” and while it would be good to explore this concept in theological complexity, let’s just leave it at this: do nothing a couple times during your day. You can learn by just one or two times a day, sitting still in a quiet place and finding comfort in your chair without doing anything else at the same time. Not reading your phone, not drinking coffee, not watching Oprah. Just sitting.
In our “just sitting exercise” you also don’t have to worry about meditation cushions, finding the proper posture (though sitting upright with hands on the thighs would be good), or burning incense. You simply have to sit quietly in one place without sound. You can close your eyes if you want, though you don’t have to. You can rest your hands as mentioned above or cross them in your lap. The key to learning to “sit” is to just start sitting. Don’t worry about all those magazines and books spend ridiculous amounts of words so you can learn to be a yogi sitting on a high mountain. We’re learning to sit quietly; not trying to solve the world’s problem.
If you commit to this exercise, I promise you will find some peace of mind that didn’t exist before. This simple form of meditation works. It works because it’s simple. After all, when you learn to ride a bike you don’t head out on your two-wheel racing bike on day one? You start with training wheels. Sitting and doing nothing is meditation on training wheels.
Now, each time you sit, increase the amount of time you do so. Start with one minute. I mean it, one minute. Sit in silence for one minute. Then make it two, three etc. If you can start with five, do it. The important thing is to just continually increase the amount of time you sit doing nothing.
What you will find is the amount of time will increase and the amount of peace of mind will add up over time. If you keep at it, you will find you miss your time in silence. That is when you know you have made this simple exercise a part of your life. Heck, someday you might buy one of those magazines and learn to meditate so you can go to a high mountain and solve the world’s problems.
This awful virus is just that-awful. But our isolation can be turned to good if we make use of the required separation from the rest of the world. Learning to just sit can be an ancillary benefit to a terrible time in all of our lives.