I am writing this from my bedroom in Chicago. It’s a little after ten in the morning and there is nobody home other than the two dogs and the cat curled up inches from where I am sitting. The laundry is folded. The dishes are put away. The kids are out of the house. The only sounds are the cars rushing by outside my window. I hesitate to admit that I have yet to get dressed. For the first time in forever, I have time to slow down. You would think this would be a welcome indulgence.
I spent years never having enough time. I raced from my kids to my work to my mat to my home without giving much thought about slowing down. I talked about it a lot. My practice certainly gave me a small taste of stretching time long enough to feel my feet on the ground, only to offer a quick namaste and off to the races again. I know I am not alone. Recently, a friend after he was told to take it easy because of an injury he sustained responded with, “I am not good at resting.” Once I was teaching a class and after asking for any requests a student piped in, “Just don’t kill us.”
Sigh. When did our practices become another part of our day where we beat ourselves up for not working harder? Doing more? Why do we expect that to produce the greater result?
Not too long ago I would have killed for time off like I have now. It took a while for my nerves to stop twitching and cowering from the glare of doing nothing. I remember my first silent meditation retreat. I spent the first three days obsessively checking the message board at the front entrance of the retreat center. It made me feel like I was doing something even when my only job was to do nothing, to go nowhere.
I am no stranger to pushing through pain or discomfort. I question, have I spent all these years using my practice as crisis management? A place to replicate “getting through the tough stuff?” Admittedly this worked for a while. I was good at crisis. I was good at seeing how our struggle is our opportunity.
But what of being soft? Of lowering the pressure gauge? When did it get more uncomfortable for us not to do so much? How is that we put our hands in front of our hearts and wish for space only to treat our practices like another task to check off of our to-do list? What is all this busy-ness we call living?
I get up and walk into the silence of my kitchen. The sun changed position in the sky and its rays stream through the window onto the floor. The dogs are smart and impressively fold their bodies in a perfect coil and lay down in what is now the warmest spot in the house. There are less cars passing by and as I stand there feeling strangely out of synch with the world racing around me, it does not go unnoticed that this stillness, this aloneness is probably the most nourishing time of my life.