3 Ways to Relax Your Agenda
Written by David Nichtern
More and more these days, our minds are actively engaged and stimulated, both with actual events going on around us and with data constantly streaming in and out. It’s like we have become a gigantic I/O port with a fantastically high baud rate and no down time. Like any machine that is running all the time, there is the danger of overheating and wearing the moving parts down!
The idea of regeneration, of a receptive cycle following an active cycle, occurs everywhere in nature. Even our own human structures of week and weekend, work and holidays, being awake and then sleeping, career and retirement — all follow this pattern. In our modern world we are increasingly in danger of driving in fifth gear all the time, never downshifting, never coasting in neutral, let alone parking the car at a rest stop and turning the engine off.
Gehlek Rinpoche has pointed out that there are two forms of laziness — one kind in which we are sluggish and procrastinating, and another kind in which we are so busy that our world becomes completely gapless. Within that speed, we shut down our awareness of ourselves and our environment.
Meditation practices are meant to be so that our habitual patterns don’t take over our existence and choke the life out of us. These practices are comprehensive and have many different facets. There are meditations to cultivate compassion, insight, mindfulness, awareness, even those that will stimulate our energy and vitality.
Perhaps the most basic meditation practice is simply allowing the mind to take a break from its hyperactivity and relax and rest in present awareness. This approach can be seen as the most fundamental meditation technique, but also in some sense it is the most advanced.
When we practice yoga, meditation, qigong, or any kind of relaxation/regeneration, sometimes we even make a project out of that. We create an agenda, schedule, goals and objectives, and all kinds of expectations regarding the practice.
What we are recommending here, is a kind of meditation that could be called non-meditation. It is based on the barest kind of instruction orienting us toward downshifting and relaxing our very active agenda-driven existence.
I am suggesting a 30 minute per day regimen (if you could even call it a regimen) that we can try for one week of our very busy lives, as a way of slowing down, easing back and seeing what a little space feels like. This assignment might seem simplistic and maybe even a little bit corny, but I think that many of us have lost our ability to slow down and re-connect with the direct, natural and basic quality of being alive. These exercises are meant to help us find our way back to simplicity and contentment:
1. Rest in Silence and Natural Awareness
Sit, be still, breathe naturally, and do not have any project whatsoever, even meditating. Do not meditate. Just be there with whatever arises. Whenever you make a project, in your mind, for your life, or about the meditation itself, just release it and allow whatever arises in your mind to simply come and go. Notice that you are not in danger, nothing harmful will happen to you — you have simply stopped creating agendas for a brief time and are resting in noble silence and natural awareness.
10 minutes per day.
2. Take a Walk
Go for a short walk. You are not allowed to be going somewhere to do something! There should be a kind of spontaneous quality to it. You do not have to have a particular route or any objective or agenda at all.
15 minutes per day.
3. Have a Cup of Tea or a Glass of Water
Just sit and drink the tea without any other agenda at all — no conversation, no internal project management, no reading, no internet, no tweeting! Just enjoy a nice cup tea as my grandmother would have said.
Five minutes per day.
All told that’s a half hour a day for one week. To make it workable, let’s do it for only five out of the seven days of that week, taking off two days to relax even this agenda.