Monday, May 10, 2010

Two Exercises for Stopping Time

In Anthony Bloom's book Beginning to Pray, he offers two exercises to help with what he considers the necessary task of learning how to slow down time.  Or, rather, to be more precise, learning how to slow ourselves down so that we let time move at its own pace without trying to hurry it along.  He gives the image of a person on a train "who ran from the last carriage of the train to the first, hoping that the distance between London and Edinburgh would be shortened as a result."  If we just stay where we are, right here in the present, the future will come to us all on its own; we need do nothing to hasten it along.

And yet we do.  We live as though we have to hustle from one thing to the next, as though we have to move things along, as though the turning of the world was up to us.  So here are two exercises Anthony Bloom, who was a Metropolitan in the Russian Orthodox Church, recommends for learning to slow yourself down.

First, when you have nothing else to do, sit down and say "I am seated, I am doing nothing, I will do nothing for five minutes."  And then, do that.  Nothing.  For two minutes, or five minutes, or ten minutes just sit there and allow yourself to sit there, noticing that you're just siting there, wherever it is that you are, surrounded by whatever it is that's around you, in whatever state or condition it's in, doing absolutely nothing else but being there.  He notes,
"There is, of course, one more thing you must do:  you must decide that within these two minutes, five minutes, which you have assigned to learn that the present exists you will not be pulled out of it by the telephone, by a knock on the door, or by a sudden usurge of energy that prompts you to do at once what you have left undone for the past ten years."
This is a relatively easy exercise, as you're doing nothing when there's nothing else going on.  It is, of course, actually extremely difficult, and if you've never tried it you'll quickly discover what a myriad of things are going on within you when "nothing's going on."  But be that as it may -- this is a relatively easy exercise.  For his second exercise, Bloom suggests learning to "stop time . . . at moments when it rushes, when it puts forward claims."  He says this:
"The way to do it is this.  You are doing something which you feel is useful; you feel that unless this is done the world will falter on its course; and then if at a certain moment you say 'I stop,' you will discover many thngs.  First, you will discover that the world does not falter and that the whole world -- if you can imagine it -- can wait for five minutes while you are not busy with it."
He recommends setting a clock, while in the midst of some task you consider tremendously important, and when the alarm goes off you simply stop right there, wherever you are in your work, and take five minutes, as in the previous exercise, doing nothing.  Bloom says,
"In the beginning you will see how difficult it is, and you will feel that it is of great importance that you should finsish, say, writing a letter or reading a paragraph.  In reality, you will discover quite soon that you can very well postpone it for three, five, or even ten minutes and nothing happens."
Could you imagine doing these exercises for one week?  I intend to do them both this week.  I bet the world will keep spinning just fine.

In Gassho,

RevWik Print this post

No comments: