If your inbox is anything like mine, you might be receiving a lot of emails from people these days suggesting how to fill the new spaces in your schedule to be productive.
Read more books. Take a new course. Get a new certification. Sharpen your business plans so you can be ready to hit the ground running when this is over and when things return to normal.
These messages play on your fears of missing out — the fear that if you don’t fill those spaces with new skills and books and podcasts that you will miss out on opportunities when everything ramps up again.
I’d like to invite you to consider a different approach: what if you did nothing to fill those empty spaces?
Every day we are being asked to step up our efforts to lay low and hunker down. The message here is not just coming from the CDC and the incredibly heroic doctors and nurses on the front line.
This situation we are in is a message from nature herself.
The way we have been living is unsustainable. Our relentless drive to increase productivity and grow exponentially is destructive to the environment and to us.
What if this were an invitation to explore a different way?
We are receiving a clear message here: pause. It’s even the name of the “shelter in place” order in New York State: New York on PAUSE.
Be in the Emptiness
Instead of filling the space, I invite you to simply be in the emptiness that we so often run from.
Notice what shows up there. The fears and worries, the grief and anger, the insight and awareness. Allow whatever arrives, and listen for its message.
Listen to the sound of your own heart beating. Luxuriate in your heart space, and in the miracle of your breath, if you are lucky enough to breathe without effort or assistance.
I don’t want to give you the illusion that this is easy. In many ways, this is more difficult than the typical things we do. I’ve been practicing for years and I often struggle with it.
But I can attest that this way of being, of committing to periods of stillness and silence, pays bigger dividends than the old normal — if you commit to the practice.
I invite you to try this.
You may find that the most productive thing you can do right now is not a doing at all, but to simply be.