In recent times (I feel like I start a lot of posts with that phrase or something similar, but I suppose it makes sense to be writing about recent happenings), I’ve been reflecting about my “moments of stillness”. After seeing this post on what is probably one of my most favourite blogs, Campari & Sofa (which may be unexpected because I’m not necessarily in their target demographic, age-wise, but, then again, I have been called an “old soul” before), I decided it was time for a post on this.
The article in the post that really caught my attention was number three, which is about the Time Wasting Experiment conducted by Alyson Provax. The Experiment involved recording/documenting all the ways in which she wasted time each day, including for how long she wasted time doing those things. Sounds like a lot of work to me, but also quite fascinating.
It seems that “there’s not enough time” has become the mantra of the modern world. Often I’ve had conversations with friends where we discuss how much better life would be if we didn’t have to waste time sleeping/eating/waiting/etc – if we could take every minute from each lot of 24 hours and use them for something productive, enjoyable, memorable, worthwhile.
(Note that I do not agree that eating is a waste of time (unless the meal is bad), even though I have been known to eat incredibly slowly. If I could actually eat more (and not gain weight), I’d be qutie happy. Sleep is also good, but it’d be nice to be able to survive on, say, four hours of sleep every night. I’m not known to sleep in – even on week-ends – but any less than six hours of sleep, and chances are I’ll be struggling a bit the next day.)
Back to my “moments of stillness”: This is the term I’ve given to those random meditative day-dreams I have each day, sometimes several times a day. In these moments, I feel like my mind is both perfectly still and also wandering, searching, drifting. Often I’m also physically still – maybe lying in bed, sitting on the bus, standing in the shower, or pausing somewhere to gaze at clouds – but I reckon it also happens a lot when I’m running or walking. Even so, “moments of stillness” just feels like the best term for it.
I wonder if this is what it’s like to meditate, except that I’m very aware during these moments.
In these moments, I know that I’m not doing anything: I’m not progressing toward an obvious goal, and there’s no measurable outcome for what I’m doing. Yet, I continue to have these moments of stillness, and then later lament that I don’t have time for this or that. Unlike Provax, I’ve never timed these moments, but I reckon they last anywhere from half a minute to… well, who knows…
But they’re not a waste of time; I don’t consider them so, anyway. Perhaps they’re not essential for my mental well-being (there have undoubtedly been many times when they’ve helped, but certainly many times when they’ve hindered) but I’m yet to experience any regret post-MOS. The items on Alyson Provax’s list all seem to carry an element of regret, and I suppose that that might be a key determinant of whether something is a waste of time or not.
Another factor seems to be displacement: whether you actually get somewhere, or whether you end up back where you started. Yeah, I suppose a lot of the time my thoughts are the same fears, worries and anxieties being rehashed, so these moments seemingly provide zero displacement. But if I’m re-visiting a fear to allow my mind to return to a state of ease, that’s justifiable, right? Other times, though, my mind wanders to the day ahead. In these moments, I kind of psych myself up for what’s to come. (That probably makes my life sound way more dramatic/traumatic than it actually is.) Sometimes my moments of stillness give way to lightbulb moments.
And going back to the “no time” lament: I once read somewhere that if you really want to do something, if you really want to get something done, you will make time for it. I can’t remember where I read it (probably on someone’s blog, actually) but it is so true. I mean, you probably can’t apply it to everything (practicality and logistics enter into it too) but certainly for small things – reading, writing, baking, exercise, catching up with friends – you can organise your day/week/month to allow yourself time for the things you really want to do (and still have time for some moments of stillness).