She shared a story she liked about the pianist Artur Rubinstein. When asked how he managed all the notes, he replied that he didn’t manage them any better than others. But oh the pauses.
Tara then went on to discuss how we could include pauses of less than 30 seconds into our day and how we resisted doing even such a short time. I’ve watched myself and others waiting on the phone for someone to answer. We’re managing with one hand to complete all kinds of tasks during that waiting period.
Just for fun I set the timer for 20 seconds and waited. I became conscious of an urge to have it finished so I could carry on writing this. Like a knot in my stomach it felt. It’s this fight we have between doing and being. As if we don’t exist, unless and until we indulge in some activity.
During the Christmas period I spent long stretches of time with no external stimulus from sounds. No radio, TV or online activity. But I was conscious that there was this fidgety impulse to do something. Read, knit, complete puzzles. Even when I felt content with the lack of sound, still there came the urge for activity. Dropping down into a deeper silence took time and what emerges from that level of non-activity can surprise and sometimes alarm.
For me it’s a continuing process to strip away my mastery of distraction techniques and stop. It’s surprising and alarming because I don’t do it enough. It doesn’t become familiar enough for my logical mind to accept it as a valid ‘activity’. I’ve sometimes wondered how I can convince it that doing nothing is the one thing to keep me safe, since keeping me safe is the flight or fight’s instinct.
Perhaps it might work to co-opt its help in staying silent, still and deeply breathing, to avert any ever present danger. We’ll see.