beyond the natural mind – a 21 day manifesto
“Today I will give my body a rest from the strain I put it under every day. Today I will allow myself to rest.”
“Rest? How have I got time to rest! I’m too busy to rest. I’ve got a job to go to, I’ve got to pay my rent, buy food, put fuel in the car, pay my insurance; only rich people have time to rest! Even when I’m on an official day off I’ve got things to do. There’s always something that needs doing.”
Busy, busy, busy, faster, faster, faster…
Even god, if you believe the story of the creation of the world, only took one day off. That means if god took a year to create the world he would only get fifty three days off a year.
“Fifty three days?!” says you, “what I’d give to get fifty three days off!”
But of course, most of you are forgetting that time off is broken into two areas, weekends, and paid holiday. So based on a weekend being two days, and the average company holiday being 14 days, you have (assuming you don’t have sick days) a whopping 118 days a year off! Sounds like a good deal to me!
Oh, if you work for yourself, are unemployed, need to work to bring in some money just to live, or live in a country where these rules do not apply, please accept my apologies.
Let us now look at your day, and assume that you work for 40 hours a week.
Assume you work from Monday to Friday from 9am until 5.30pm, with half an hour for lunch. Is that all the time you are working? What about the time you have to get up and the time it takes you to get to and from your work? Depending on your location from your work, you may spend at least one hour commuting time each day.
Assuming you work from 9am, that means leaving at 8am, and getting up at 7am (conservative estimates). At lunchtime you don’t really have time to do much so you might as well sit and eat your food at your place of work. 5.30pm comes, and assuming you don’t have to work late, get home about 6.45pm. Is that a fair analysis of your day?
Written on paper it seems like not too bad a day! But we have asked someone who has a life like this to write down a diary of their day. Peter works in an average job in the accounts department of a large company in the south east of england. He is 36 years old, is married to Jane and has two children, James, 10, and Isabelle 7. He lives approximately one hour away from his job and catches the train. Over to you Peter!
“I got up late today. I was so tired after the weekend. There were delays on the train on Friday and I didn’t get back until after 8pm. The kids were still up so I spent a bit of time with them, then had a glass of wine, something to eat, then crashed out.
Saturday, I had to be up early. James had football practice at 9am so, after a quick breakfast, I dropped him off then came back to pick up Jane. She was dropping Isabelle off at her music lesson, so I grabbed a quick coffee, and when she got back we rushed down to the supermarket to do our weekly shop. As usual the shops were so busy and parking was a nightmare! Conscious of the time, we rushed round and managed to get everything we needed.
We got home, unpacked the shopping and I went to pick up James. He was hungry so we stopped at McDonald’s for a quick snack.
Both kids were going to birthday parties in the afternoon so Jane had to make sure they wore something smart. Of course, neither of them wanted to wear what she had picked out for them, but several tantrums later, they were clothed and delivered to the party. I forgot to take James’ present so I had to rush back pick it up and drop it off.
Saturday afternoon was usually my day to watch sport but Jane had some jobs around the house she wanted me to do. A quick visit to the local DIY centre, and I was back.
I mowed to the lawn, and put together a new chest of drawers which had been delivered in the week. It was now 4.00pm and I had to pick up the kids. Jane was out having her hair done and buying some new clothes, as we were going out for dinner with some old friends that night so it was up to me to feed the kids and make sure they were ready for the babysitter at 7.00pm.
After what seemed hours, Jane got back, made me a sandwich and I got ready to go out.
Of course, I had way too much to drink, but it had been a stressful week and I needed to let off steam, but by 12.30am we were in bed.
Amazingly, I got a lie in on Sunday, well, till 10am anyway. Jane had been up with the kids since 8am and had made me breakfast. I read the papers, showered, and got ready.
We were having her parents over for lunch and it was down to me to set the table, and do a general tidy up whilst making sure the kids were amused. Isabelle and James were fighting over the nintendo, and it took all my strength not to shout at them to be quiet as I was still feeling fragile from the night before.
At 1pm, the parents-in-law arrived, and although I get on with them, the idea of having to entertain them all day was a bit too much for me, but we had a good lunch.
In the afternoon we all went out for a walk in the park, and by early evening all I wanted to do was crash in front of the television. At just after 11.30pm we retired to bed. I was exhausted and not at all looking forward to work the next day.
Sorry, where was I? Oh yes. Monday. Well, as I said, I got up late, fifteen minutes late to be exact, which meant I didn’t have time to have breakfast.
I jumped into the car, and drove to the train station, fortunately it’s only ten minutes away and the traffic wasn’t too bad. I found a space, but by the time I got a ticket from the parking machine I only had two minutes to catch the train and had to run! I just made it, but of course there weren’t any seats, so I had to stand for almost fifty minutes; then a five minute tube ride, followed by a five minute walk and I was in the office.
The first thing I did was grab a coffee, well, two to be exact. I hadn’t eaten and I needed to wake up.
As usual my boss David was on my case for the morning reports, and by 10am I was in a meeting for two hours. I couldn’t wait for lunch I was starving. Unfortunately we don’t have a canteen so I just ran out the office at 1pm to grab a sandwich.
The afternoon was quite slow, just a bit of work on the computer, and no real stress, well until 4.45pm when I was called to another meeting to discuss some accounts discrepancies. All I could think about, was I was going to miss my train if I didn’t leave on time.
Fortunately the meeting ended just after 5.30pm and I grabbed my coat and ran for the tube which was solid as usual, meaning I had to run to catch my train home.
No seats again, so I had to stand, but the train got in at 6.50pm and ten minutes later I pulled into the drive. I had arranged to meet my friend for a game of squash at 7.30pm at the local gym, so it was a case of get changed and go.
I like squash, it’s really fast moving and takes my mind off the day, and helps me unwind. I lost the match, but it’s all a bit of fun, and after a quick shower, had a quick beer with my friend and went home for dinner.
The kids were in bed but I read Isabelle a story, watched the late night news and was in bed just after 11.30pm. That was my Monday.”
Thanks Peter, for sharing your weekend and your day. Would any of you like Peter to tell you about his Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or the next weekend? No, neither would I. There isn’t enough space on the paper for that!
So what did we learn about Peter’s work day, and his rest period at the weekend? Did any of you see yourselves in his story or was it all a bit too unbelievable for you?
Well, apart from the kids part that could have been me twelve years ago, constantly on the go, constantly in demand, where the idea of a rest day couldn’t have been further from my mind.
“Young people should be busy!” my father always used to say, and whilst I agree with him that sitting doing nothing is a bad thing, we are never taught how to rest.
“You get plenty of time to rest when you’re asleep” said a friend of mine, but sleep is essential and not a conscious decision to rest.
So how do we rest? Should we sit and watch television? Should we read a book? Should we go to a spa? Should we take an extended holiday? Should we meditate? Should we spend time in prayer?
Unfortunately, everything we consider as rest is actually an activity. We have been conditioned by the society we live in that “Work Is Good! Work Is Beneficial!” And of course people would say that. It benefits the employers to have you believe that, and it benefits the government to a. get your tax, and b. keep you occupied so you don’t come up with any notions of overthrowing them.
Your parents want you to work because they say it is only right for people to go out to work and pay their way, and your peers want you to work, because, well, they’re doing it, and so should you.
But we are not questioning why people work. We know the reasons. If we don’t like work then we’ll just have to find some other way to feed, clothe and house ourselves.
What we are trying to uncover is why we are driven to move at such a rate, even during our “official” rest periods.
Could this have something to do with our hunter gatherer heritage; the need to be on the go at all times in search of food, water and shelter? And if this is so, could our need to be constantly occupied be a trait left over from early Man that we haven’t let go of?
I would like to see early homo sapiens trying to cope with the madness we call modern life! Sure, they were always on the look out for food, but compared to the mental and physical stress our friend Peter was under during his weekend of rest, I think our ancestors would be happy to stay right where they were!
We keep going under incredible physical stress on the body, but are we biologically equipped to deal with it?
We are at heart a simple species, with the potential for complex problem solving, and complex social relationships, but the system that runs the complex system is the same one that was powering our hunter gatherer ancestors.
Even if we did have a system that managed the stress perfectly without us having to resort to alcohol, and spa retreats, what is the point of having an incredibly complex mind, without using it to contemplate the beauty and diversity of the world in which we inhabit for but a short time?
So in case you thought this would be a topic on meditation or how to breathe deeply to rest or sleep more soundly, it isn’t.
We are here for but a short time. We have the ability to appreciate, to watch, to listen, to understand, to love, instead we fill it with children’s music lessons, trains, reports, meetings, football, parties, shopping, holidays…
Rest in the silence of your own mind, give yourself time to rest. You are here to experience life as you, not to spend time in a constant rush just to tell everyone how busy you are. You aren’t. You would like to think that rushing and being busy are someone else’s doing – the children’s, your boss’s, your wife’s, your friend’s, but alas, it is of your own doing.
Sit and rest a while…
by alan macmillan orr