Today has been a day of reflection for me. Without effort I came up with ideas for various aspects of my life. While covering books with contact this afternoon I pondered on why this has been such a productive thinking day for me.
It started with my shower in the morning. This is not just important to me for reasons of cleanliness – the running water has always been conducive to producing good ideas. I feel rather guilty at times that my showers are not as short as they could be but I find it difficult to make them any shorter without eliminating an important source of the ideas that enrich my life.
I was in an introspective mood today. I don’t know why – perhaps it was the overcast weather? Whatever the reason I felt slightly mouldy and didn’t feel very communicative. If I was in this mood all the time it would actually hamper my creativity. We need balance in our lives and a few days like this is good for us, but only a few. Communication with others is vital in order to generate ideas, but there also needs to be time for reflection.
The third element that was conducive to my thought-generation today was the fact that I had no deadlines to meet today whether for work, for personal reasons or even pressing mundane chores. I didn’t have to contact the books. It is something I do when I have time (and because I am rather pernickety with my books and won’t read a book that I own without contacting it first).
Covering books with contact requires concentration, but very little brain space. I put it in the category of what I call a meditative activity. I believe that meditation is as essential in one’s life as breathing. If we don’t do some form of meditative activity in our lives we become highly stressed.
When I moved to Sydney I noticed how highly stressed people were and the poor concentration spans of adults and children compared to those who live in Far North Queensland where I had moved from. I missed my weekly three-hour lawn mowing session (we lived on a couple of acres in Far North Queensland and even with a ride-on lawn mower this is how long it took during the wet season).
I realised that the lawn mowing had been a meditative activity for me. I think of a meditative activity as one where the mind has to focus on one thing and one thing only for a sustained period of time. Meditation is not restricted to sitting still with eyes closed.
In Sydney I started to weed the lawn – by hand. As with many lawns we had oxalis throughout the it. Instead of getting a commercial poison to deal with it I got down on my hands and needs and plucked it out one by one by the roots. I was not doing this to avoid using poison, I did it because I find that focussing on identifying the weed, searching for the root with my fingers and the triumph of uprooting it and adding to my pile very good for the well-being of my mind.
Likewise I find lap swimming very meditative. Up and down, focussing on the black line, concentrating on the movement of each arm, the position of my body, doing the same thing over and over. A meditative activity leads the mind to concentrate on simple things that are repetitive. Generally the mind is not allowed to wander or worry during a meditative activity but at times during the activity a random thought may intrude as it did when I was having a shower this morning. What is a meditative activity for one person may not be for another. What makes the activity meditative is the fact that it induces a meditative state in the person.
The activity of covering books was clearly meditative for me this afternoon. A shower is also – though I don’t think that we can have showers long enough to meet all our meditative needs. Having a ‘slow’ day allows us to accommodate meditative activities as they don’t work if we are stressed by needing to fit them into too brief a period of time.
Meditation is a vital aspect of our lives. It is absolutely crucial for writers. This is one thing I found I didn’t have enough time for last year while writing my thesis. Consequently my writing tended to be functional rather than inspired. This year I hope to have more time for meditative activity.
This post is not just a product of today or written in isolation from the thoughts of others. It is thus appropriate to finish with one of my favourite quotes:
…there is a sign (from God) in every phenomenon: the sign of the intellect is contemplation and the sign of contemplation is silence, because it is impossible for a man to do two things at one time—he cannot both speak and meditate.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 173.