Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Not knowing what to do with myself

I know that for some people there is no more shameful state of being than not knowing what to do with oneself. If you have really absorbed the idea that the devil finds work for idle hands to do, you may run to a crossword puzzle to keep busy.  You may benefit for puzzles or knitting or fishing or woodcarving and that is fine.  But sitting in neutral for some minutes can pay off, too.

Here is Prof. Peter Vishton:

You start by relaxing—calming yourself, willfully placing yourself into a state of as complete a relaxation as possible. Not everyone is very good at this, by the way. It sounds easy—sit still, do nothing, focus on your breathing,focus on relaxing all of your muscles one at a time. But if you're tense,especially if you are plagued by fears, this can be a challenge all by itself.Regardless, with practice, almost everyone can get good at calming their mind and body.

Vishton in another passage:

OK, here's my first tip about what to do when you're having trouble getting started working on a project, how to break free of the grip of a particular bout of procrastination: sit quietly and think for 15–20 minutes about what you're going to do. This is a counterintuitive tip. If you want to get started doing something, doing nothing doesn't seem like it would help, but it often does. Usually, procrastination doesn't involve doing nothing. When I don't want to get started on writing a new lecture—just a hypothetical here,of course—I don't sit and do nothing. On the contrary, I find something that will engage me so I don't have to think about the thing I'm avoiding.I clean the kitchen. I organize my closet. I walk the dog. I alphabetize my bookcase and straighten all of the piles on my desk. Maybe I respond to some emails. Put this all together, and now a few hours have passed; I'm tired. The workday might be winding down. Maybe it would be best to get a fresh start on that lecture tomorrow. And voila, I've gone another day without working on the one thing that, ironically, is most important to me.

As becomes clear in retirement, without the structure and needs of a job, one comes face to face with oneself, the raw you.  The basic you may be confused, tired, stressed, overexcited, torn between alternatives. Whether you call it "sitting quietly to check out body and mind and feelings" or "meditation", doing nothing for 15 or 20 minutes can go a long way to clarifying what you most want to do and when and how.

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