Sunday, January 23, 2011

Two Minutes to a Quieter Mind.

Yesterday, a good friend and frequent cycling partner sent me a link to a website that quite surprised me. When the site loaded, I saw a beautiful image of a sunset over an ocean, accompanied by the sound of waves and sea birds. A digital clock began counting backward from 2:00, 1:59, 1:58...

“Do nothing for two minutes...”

I don’t think ten seconds had passed when I began counting along, barely able to wait until two minutes had passed. 1:10, 1:09, 1:08...

I had been introduced to Meditation several years ago by more than one friend at roughly the same time. The serendipity of that was enough that I took a closer look at the idea. Some suggested lighting a candle and focusing on the flame; others suggested listening to soothing music. I tried them all. I looked into various Meditation techniques, from following my mind’s wanderings, (without trying to control the thoughts that arose) to pushing those wanderings away and vowing to deal with the things that came up at a later time.

I discovered that by following my mind’s wanderings, I made many discoveries about my mind and the way it works. It “took me places” I would not ordinarily go in terms of the kinds of thoughts I would have during that time. By attempting to hold thoughts away, and focus only on my breathing, I became aware of the influx of thoughts and holding them off was very difficult. I tried to follow briefly and then push away the thoughts and once I started pushing, other thoughts would come to replace them.

Regardless of the method I used, regardless of the results, I began to feel like I was making some progress. I was able to calm my mind during times of stress and confusion, and I was feeling less frustrated and angry with everyday living. I was able to extricate myself from the darkness of depression that had been my companion for so many years.

Slowly, over time, my confidence that I had succeeded in Meditating myself into a better mental state led me to let longer periods of time pass between Meditations. Sometimes two or three days would pass, sometimes a week. Eventually, I was Meditating only once a month or so, and finally, about a year ago, it stopped altogether. Moving from Fredericton back to Cape Breton, and all the details of that move, made such demands on my time and the state of my mind, that I quite literally forgot to take that personal time to tune the world out for a few minutes every day.

To be fair, I think there were some times when I was cycling that approached Meditation in its simplicity. The up and down stroke of the pedals, the non-conscious shifting of gears, the lack of other stimuli all seem very Meditative in retrospect, yet the heightened awareness of my surroundings; the sound of traffic, the avoidance of obstacles in the road, the “knowledge” that a dog’s body language indicated that it wasn’t going to give chase, all resulted from a Meditative State of Mind.

So when I received the link to “Do Nothing For 2 Minutes” I was alarmed at how difficult it seemed. It came as a cold, cruel reminder of just how out of touch with my inner self I have become lately. In following e-mail conversations with my friend, we both stated how much we would like to make this a regular part of our respective days. I had even mentioned to him that doing it a few times daily would be helpful. After all, unlike medication, Meditation truly DOES work on the principle that if a little is good, a lot is better!

Here, in case you missed it above, is that link for those of you who would like to try it.

I encourage you to share your experiences, either in the “comments” section below, or directly to me in a personal e-mail for those of you who have my e-mail address.

Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti...

~Still Wandering…


  1. Lonnie - As always I read your blogs and I have gone to the website to see what the 2 minutes was all about.

    When we were in Tai Chi we often did meditations, and I found I could attain some (small) degree of peace, but then the thoughts popped in and it was difficult to ignore these insistent intrusions. I did however gain some benefit, but certainly not complete silence nor stillness. The candle was useful as a focal point.

    With the 2 minute website I found I too was distracted and not able to sit through the two minutes....the first time.

    I think we are a culture so strictly bound by the obsession of time...get to work..don't be late..get there before the store/post office, bank closes...our lives completed governed by time.

    The second time, I found I was focusing on the timer...come on...hurry up....get to the end......and not on the background. I did not see the beauty of the picture, nor on the sound of the waves.

    I closed my eyes and just listened to the waves. The sound evoked a memory of sitting on a beach and doing nothing.

    Our culture has such a negative view of "doing nothing" - it is such a bad thing. Not to be productive.

    After listening for a short while I opened my eyes all I could see was the timer. I partially covered my eyes to block out the timer, so I could really "see" the picture. I focused on the sunlight on the waves, and the colors in the clouds. Without the counter in my face it was an easy two minutes. My breathing began to become more regular. And I began to be more observant..more present...more in the moment (or two). But was it a conscious relaxation? (Is that even possible???) To have to consciously relax? Are we so driven that we no longer know how to do that? We have such busy lifestyles, and we are expected to multitask on a daily basis.

    I think we need to redefine the definition of "doing nothing". Last weekend I took a do-nothing day. But I classified it as a resting up day, a time to regenerate. That is health oriented and addressing the needs of self. And I don't have to justify it. It was what it was.

    We need to go to the beach (mountain, forest, stream). Have a campfire, hear the waves and watch the sunset.


    Feel the warmth of the sun,
    The smell the salt air,
    Listen to the babbling brook,
    Hear the wind in the trees,

    .....and be present.

    I think we yearn for stillness....we have just forgotten how to take the time to do it.

    Take the time, go to a place...and sit still. Be present.

    "The Quiet Art of Standing Still"


  2. Thank you for this lovely observation Barb. Yes, it's difficult to maintain focus and I think perhaps the timer actually works AGAINST us in this case. Next time I get to New Brunswick, I plan to set my video camera on the tripod and aim it at the river until the battery dies. Not only will have the image of one of my favourite places, but I'll have a relaxing video to play when I want to "tune out" the world.

  3. Another great read, Lonnie. I always seem to read these at the right time. I really enjoyed Barb's words too.

    A couple points really hit home for me, Lonnie. Especially where you said that it was a sobering reminder of how out of touch you had become with your inner-self. How many times have I had that dread wash over me, when some friend who is clearly in a more serene mental state at the time sends me a link to something inspirational, something I would normally enjoy. Thankfully this is not one of those times. Peace has been a more frequent visitor this winter than I would have expected.

    I've had quite the same experience with meditation as you, Lonnie. Ups and downs. I started trying meditation when I was young and first starting to recognize signs of encroaching depression. In retrospect, it was such a sad and desperate attempt to flee from my sadness. Suffice to say I did not experience much, if any, peace. It actually caused more suffering because I realized how little control I had over my thoughts. I could not achieve all the things I had heard in my spiritual dabbling about emptying your mind and becoming one with the universe. Not even close.

    For a few years I plunged myself into Christianity, searching for the reasons for all the suffering in the world (though probably mostly my own). Prayer became a very therapeutic thing for me during these years. Endlessly I spilled my heart and soul to Something, Anything that would hear me. When I look back now, I see just how much self-reflection, examination and meditation was involved in those prayers.

    At one point, during prayer, I unexpectedly found myself praying without words, just sitting there in silence. It was almost as if I no longer needed to use words because I realized the folly of asking for anything other than what God or Life would do on its own (it's not like I could give it good ideas). hehe. More often I did this. It was so refreshing to just lay my heart before God and not ramble on and on about my desperation.

    Wow, this is getting too long. Sorry.

    Long story short. Years would pass. Depression would come and go. I would plunge into spirituality one minute, the next I would be distracting myself with some form of entertainment or another until I was running from myself and my sadness again.

    Eventually, I would find Eckhart Tolle's work. His way of putting it really struck home with me. For the first time I was reading someone say what my heart knew all along, that there was an undying realm of peace that could be enjoyed if only we tuned into it. This is where I started to understand the true nature of this thing we call meditation. Started. hehe. Let's just say it took me awhile to learn how to be present without letting the IDEA of being present get in the way.

    I guess the morale of my story is of the nature that I eventually realized how ordinary meditation is. Sure there can be mystical experiences involved, but they are not necessary to meditation. Meditation for me can be as ordinary as simply admitting to myself that I am sad when I am, and it is ok.

    Thanks again, Lonnie. I can't say enough how much I enjoy getting up in the morning and reading one of your blogs. Especially ones like this.


  4. David, I am surprised at just how similar our stories are. I think this deserves to be discussed further and in greater detail over a coffee or Chinese food! lol

    Peace to you my Brother.

  5. coffee and chinese food it is. ahha. just reading this again. by the way, my life has changed drastically since we met at New Moon last. me and my girlfriend found a way to make tofu chicken balls and we buy the red sauce. we are vegetarians, but if there exists a way to simulate our favorite meaty dishes, we will find it. hahaha. also, over the past year i have taken up drinking coffee and am thoroughly enjoying myself. haah.


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