“I ask for a moment’s indulgence to sit by thy side. The works that I have in hand I will finish afterwards.” – Rabindranath Tagore, A Moment’s Indulgence
Learning the hard way
In his beautiful poem, A Moment’s Indulgence, Rabindranath Tagore takes a moment from his “endless” work to sit quietly, alone with God, so he can catch his breath and regroup. I’m going to encourage you to do the same.
I know! I know … in a culture that thrives on productivity, in which the mantra of success is even ingrained into our footwear with the “Just do it!” slogan, the idea of not doing is not only nonsensical but frightening.
I can almost hear the responses: “What do you mean, ‘Stop and be still and quiet?’ Do you have any idea how much I have to do and how much I have to get done? The world will fall apart around me if I indulge myself in a moment of not doing! Such airy-fairy idleness is reserved for poets like Tagore or yogis and Buddhist monks … not for people like me who actually have deadlines! Get real!”
I can relate to that response. I was one of those people who felt I had to “do,” and expected others to do the same. I pushed myself to accomplish, to achieve, to own and to succeed in all realms of my life. I was a highly motivated “go-getter” who never seemed to get enough. One accomplishment led to another goal, then another and another and another. I pushed myself to do, do, do. And guess what? I never got done what I wanted to get done, not really, but I did get sick.
There’s little doing for me now. I’ve been forced to take more than a moment away from my work as a nursing educator, which I used to define myself by; away from my role as the perfect, propeller-equipped Mom; and away from the fitness and educational pursuits I pushed my body and mind through in order to do more. For me, “Just do it!” suddenly became “Just rest!”
Did the world fall apart around me when I stopped “doing”? In a sense, yes. My body continued to fall apart, my house fell apart, my financial stability fell apart, my “control” over what my children were doing fell apart, my relationships fell apart and my “social image” fell apart. The world as I knew it did fall apart—but I, amazingly, didn’t.
The “me” I always was, beneath my need to do and appear a certain way, didn’t fall apart when everything else crumbled to dust around me. In fact, the real “me” emerged from those ashes and I got to meet this person for the first time.
I was totally surprised to discover, upon our long introduction, that I wasn’t a human doing after all. I was a human being! I finally knew what Tagore was talking about in his beautiful poem. I stopped resisting the moments of indulgence that landed with a thump on my lap and started to embrace them instead. I took the imposed break from doing and I woke up!
Take a break before life intervenes
You don’t have to get sick and your world doesn’t have to fall apart before you realize the importance of slowing down and living more consciously. A break from doing is something that we not only can afford, but actually need for the sake of our holistic wellness.
The proverbial break is just a moment of mindfulness taken every now and again. It’s a moment to sit quietly and be; and if you’re so inclined, as I was, to reconnect to the Source of all life. The break is a reconnection to who we really are, behind all the masks we feel we need to wear in order to succeed in this fast-paced world. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be you. You can take one moment to be yourself, can’t you?
Your “Self” is that which sees and knows all. It’s the part of you not fed by the egoistic need to do, own and succeed. It knows that life doesn’t really exist in any activity or future goal you set out to achieve. Life is right now, right here, in all its perfect simplicity. It’s here where you’ll find the joy of being, a joy you can carry with you into all avenues of your life.
According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there are only two directions to go in life. We can move towards the Self and truth, which can be found in those precious moments of stillness and silence, or we can go towards those activities and lifestyle choices that take us away from the Self and truth.
If we can move towards truth or away from truth, why do so many of us walk away?
We don’t need to be yogis to become aware of the truth. We don’t have to spend countless hours in an orange robe meditating on Mount Everest, either, to know who we are. But we do need to stop our “busywork” from time to time so we can go inward where the truth is found. We hear and understand much better when we’re still and quiet, at least for a moment.
The truth of what Life is and who we really are constantly cries out to be heard, but we often smother that voice of wisdom with our activity and our doing. Truth, however, will be heard one way or another. If we silence its screams with busywork, they’ll only get louder through sickness (as in my case) or circumstances that stop us in our tracks.
We will stop eventually, but we have a choice to stop involuntarily or willingly. Which would you choose?
How do we indulge?
So how do we take a break before we’re forced to? It’s so simple, really. All we need to do is stop every now and again. We need to stop what we’re doing and sit quietly somewhere, preferably alone.
When we’re still, we look around in an attempt to see everything clearly. Then we close our eyes and breathe. We concentrate on the breath going in and out. We listen to the world going on around us as we breathe.
Being outdoors, where we can hear the bees buzzing as Tagore did, or even the traffic humming, makes this process so much easier. We want to hear life vibrating all around. Next, we need to listen to what’s going on inside us, still trying to hear the breath going in and out. Can you hear your heart beating? Can you feel it? Know that life is vibrating inside you and through you.
Now, you may ask, who is observing all this?
The Observer is the Self—who you really are. Knowing this is consciousness. Knowing this is awareness. Knowing this is freedom and joy. For one moment, indulge in the joy that comes with simply being. You can afford to do that, can’t you?
Putting the joy of being into the doing
It’s obvious that we can’t stay in the quiet, still moment forever. Most of us have lives to get back to. We have jobs, families, social responsibilities, obligations and duties to attend to. We do have something to do. However, while we may not be able to take our doing into the quiet, still moments we indulge in, we can take our moments of stillness with us into the doing.
Eckhart Tolle tells us, in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, that the heightened sense of awareness we embrace in our indulgent moments will bring joy to whatever we do when we get back to the business of doing:
Be absolutely present in what you do and sense the alert, alive stillness within you in the background of the activity. You will soon find that what you do in such a state of heightened awareness, instead of being stressful, tedious, or irritating, is actually becoming enjoyable. To be more precise, what you are enjoying is not really the outward action but the inner dimension of consciousness that flows into the action. This is finding the joy of Being in what you are doing.
Making life easier in the long run
The more breaks we take from doing, the better off we’ll be. The more moments we spend building our consciousness through meditation, mindfulness and reflection, or simply getting to know who we really are, the more our minds will expand and the less we’ll have to do in the long run.
Deepak Chopra writes of the physical Law of Least Action that implies that nature will always take the route that requires the least amount of action to achieve its goals. He applies this to the mind and purports that this law works better in a mind that’s aware. So the more moments we spend in quiet stillness reflecting on Life and the Self, and the more aware we become, the faster our problems will be solved, with greater ease. Whenever we get back to doing, the less we’ll actually have to do.
We can learn a lot from Tagore’s poetic wisdom. We can put aside our busywork and indulge, as he did, in a few moments of peace each day. We can take a break from doing and go inward to hear the truth. We can experience life fully in those moments and bring our learning back to our doing when the time comes.
Take a break. How can you afford not to?