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Brian Arsenault: Pause for perspective

Other Voices
Brian Arsenault

Many of us are finding that sheltering in place comes with what may be a somewhat challenging new reality. More free time.

Maybe we’ve lost our jobs or maybe we’re now creating our own remote work schedule that leaves space in our day. Maybe, like many of us in Nevada County, we’re already retired and suddenly without a multitude of activities that we usually sign on to.

Everyone’s situation is different, but how we navigate this new reality comes with many choices to which we can open ourselves. There have been many wonderful suggestions for “keeping busy,” from doing major house cleaning, more cooking, organizing clutter, exercising, reading books you never thought you’d get to and, especially, reaching out to loved ones.

All these activities are great, but how about engaging in doing nothing?

Everyone’s situation is different, but how we navigate this new reality comes with many choices to which we can open ourselves.

That may be quite challenging for many of us. Really … doing … nothing. Taking the increasingly spare moments in your day and just sitting; taking the time to experience the stillness that’s always available.

Yes, I’m talking about meditation. There are many techniques for instruction you might want to explore on YouTube. Find one that suits you or make up one of your own. The point is, it’s really OK to do nothing at all. And there is enormous potential for inner growth and a sense of peace when you allow yourself into just being. If you have a cat strategically placed on your lap, you’re already ahead of the game. If not, just notice how pausing for moments at a time creates a space for you to re-center. Just look around with gratitude at this amazing environment we all share.

Perhaps you’d like to experience stillness with your eyes closed. From that perspective we move into an internal reality of facing the unknown. This comes with a new set of challenges and also potential for a more expanded sense of being. Looking into a deeper sense of the unknown can be scary, or maybe you’ll find it blissful and confirming, with a sense of being grounded in this new reality. Every experience is unique.

We’re all so used to accomplishing tasks and being involved in a multitude of projects. When all that stops, people start to talk about “going stir crazy.” Why do they feel this way? What is it about not having anything to do or place to go that gets people anxious?

It generally manifests as a sense of resistance to what’s happening right now. It may be when things slow down with nothing to occupy our mind that we start fearing the future. We’re all dealing with that right now, fearing the unknown outcome of the virus. But that long-term outcome is just that — in the future. It doesn’t have to be our present moment. When you give yourself permission to really relax in the present moment, ideas of the future will most likely diminish somewhat, maybe even for just an instant, once you get used to it.

Granted, with children in the house, even more attention is required. But why not look at this time as a sort of mini personal retreat? Being on retreat has an aspect to it that requires letting go. Letting go of the way your life usually progresses day to day and embracing a different way of experiencing things. Putting your usual life on pause, to get a new perspective and explore a deeper sense of what this universe may be all about.

There’s an entire world of experience available when you give yourself this free time. Maybe slowing down to meditate could give you an even deeper sense of connection to everyone on the planet sharing in this pandemic. It can often open us up to feeling a sense of compassion for our fellow human beings, some who are now battling on the front lines of this disease.

By all means, continue to delve into all those suggestions for activities, but maybe with more of a sense of balance. Adding some daily meditation time can bring out even more creativity for other activities.

You might even write an “Other Voices” column for the first time in your life. I just did.

Brian Arsenault lives in Grass Valley.


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