Commentary

February 14, 2014

Thinking of nothing

This year has opened with cutbacks in defense spending as well as cuts in benefits and personnel. You may be overwhelmed with the additional work you are responsible for, or maybe stressed and wondering where you go from here because you were one of those cut.

Before you get to the point of not being able to take it anymore, I urge you to try this. Stop thinking. Take 12 minutes, five days a week to clear you mind.

How? First, sit up in a comfortable position and think about nothing. It’s helpful to sit up because if you lie down, depending on how tired you are, you might fall asleep and then this won’t work. Choose a place where you can almost assure you will not be interrupted, and set a timer for 12 minutes. If you can be interrupted, the effectiveness of this will drop significantly.

If a thought creeps into your mind, and it’s important, make a mental note or an actual note so you will remember to think of it later, then get back to thinking about nothing. If a thought enters your head and you can tell that it is of little value, just let it pass through. It is not necessary to keep the mind completely clear for this to work, but that is the goal. It is more important to show up – i.e. be there for the 12 minutes every day and engage the process.

Some choose to wake up early when family members are asleep. Others find a quiet place where they work and use the time some might use for a smoke break. Others will take an evening walk alone. In the past when I worked at a hospital, I would go into the chapel prayer room, sit and think about nothing.

If you’ve never tried this before it will be arduous to try to keep the mind clear. You’ll think that this is not something you’ll want to commit to, but in order to give it a fair shake I would recommend doing it in one of two strategies, light or full on. And, I would give it at least two months. If you do it lightly as I have, you can schedule it two to three times per week and not worry if you miss a few sessions now and again. If you go full on, you’d choose to do five days per week at a set time. This has the most impact. For ease of implementation this could be paired with a workout or Fit 2 Fight routine.

As you learn to love this, you may develop code language with family and coworkers so they know, when they hear that code word, you need to take 12 minutes for yourself.

Some will read this and might ask, “Why in the world would anyone want to waste time doing nothing?” I hear you.

But recent research has shown that through a holistic assessment, including physiological and general quality-of-life measures, that there was a marked improvement in all areas when using this technique. It turns out that taking care of your spiritual body is measurable. Who knew?!

Researchers tested blue collar workers, those who do and do not have a strong religious connection, etc. They sampled a cross section of society, all of whom had never done anything like this before. They tested participants’ overall health before and after a few months of daily practice of thinking about nothing.

I did my own study. I tried it and although I wasn’t able to completely slow down my mind, I found that after a few minutes of thought suspension, those thoughts that occurred to me were more creative than not. Solutions to daily concerns appeared. I felt more at peace. I saw people in my life from a more compassionate vantage point – I saw the bigger picture. I have grown to love my 12 minutes of thinking about nothing.

The biggest surprise to me regarding this study was that Christians equally gained from the practice. The Bible speaks to the importance of prayer and meditation in a number of places. Yet it seems many of us don’t exercise our meditation muscles.

Let’s flip the script on this situation and make 2014 substantively more amazing than it would have been otherwise. Let’s grow our spiritual muscles and take care of each other. Let’s learn to stop thinking!




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