Friday, March 13, 2020

Doing nothing

A good friend of mine received a link from her son about doing nothing.  It was a program on NPR and part of his campaign to urge his mother to avoid crowds, groups and the virus that is getting all the attention.  

As is often the case, whether or not one is doing nothing depends in part on what one means by the phrase.  Even after dying, you might find me lying there. When I have stopped breathing and my heart is not beating, am I doing nothing?  

Normally, when we sit or stand or lie down but are not reading or talking or playing with our phone, we might say we are doing nothing.  I have read that there is some evidence that "senior moments" happen to seniors partly because their heads are already full and the brain processes can't find that name, at least until later.  In a related way, when an elderly person, over say 70 or 75, appears to be doing nothing, they may well be running memories or questions or reviewing evidence or doctrinal positions or any of dozens of other mental processes.  They may appear to be "unoccupied" but just as their heart and liver and lungs are quietly at work, so their minds and emotions may be processing.  

It does make sense to take time out, to stop reading, phoning, working on the manuscript or paying bills, to just sit, doing as little as possible.  When we consciously come to a pause, suffering our itches and drives and panics and just watching over the internal and external ranch, we often benefit.  When I am on pause, I like to take maybe ten quiet breaths. I have read that inhale is often fast while exhale is more work and is better slower. But I am getting to like just normal, everyday casual breathing, efficient or not.

I am driving around town and I see that the traffic light down the street ahead of me is already green. I know that it will be red by the time I reach it.  I already speed too much and I am not going to floor my accelerator. I arrive at the light as it turns yellow. Wonderful! A good chance to do nothing but appreciate my surroundings, my life, my friends.

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