Back in the ‘80s, when I was a tennis coach and an avid player, I made a life-changing discovery.
I found that if I used the time between points to relax and be in the Present, I enjoyed the points a lot more and consistently played my best.
In tennis, there is generally only 15-30 seconds between points, so this was great practice in quickly letting go.
When I left the tennis world to start and run a nonprofit, I quickly noticed how easy it was to go from one task to the next for hours on end without taking a break.
On the tennis court, you don’t have to choose to take a break between bursts of activity. The gaps are woven into the structure of the game. You do have to choose to use the gaps between points wisely.
In the office, and really in most life settings, we must make a conscious choice to stop doing from time to time and instead, drop into being/non-doing.
Making this choice regularly can make all the difference between getting stressed out and seeing your performance drop versus enjoying all your activities, while naturally performing up to your potential.
Here are three simple ways to begin to take more breaks throughout your day:
- Develop the habit of pausing after you finish a task (phone call, email, meeting, doing the dishes, etc.)
- Set your cell phone alarm to go off at regular intervals.
- As the great Master, Thich Nhat Hanh has taught, every time your phone rings or makes any kind of notification sound, pause to take at least one conscious breath before interacting with the phone.
The next step is learning to use the breaks optimally. The idea is to shift out of doing mode into being. There are countless ways to do this. Some simple ones are watching your breath, looking at a tree or other natural object, feeling the sun against your skin, and focusing on something you’re grateful for.
You’ll find that creating regular brief gaps will keep you fresh throughout the day. The more you practice this, the more you will learn how to quickly shift from doing-mode into being. You’ll feel the peace and joy of simply being and that will carry over into your next round of doing.
The short gaps (anywhere from 10 seconds to a few minutes) are great, but you’ll still probably need some longer breaks. Taking a relaxed lunch break (ideally in a natural setting) is a good idea. If at all possible, don’t eat at your desk while continuing to work.
I’m also a big fan of taking a Sabbath Day. If you spend six days a week primarily focused on doing, how about taking a day for self-renewal? Make it a day with no to-do list or “shoulds”; just follow your heart, rest/relax as much as you like, and only do things that are fun and nurturing. If you can’t devote a whole day to this, take a half day, or as much time as you can.
Then, from time to time, carve out a bigger chunk of time and take a spiritual retreat, whether it’s with a teacher/guide or self-guided.
Ideally, get away from home (even if you love where you live) and go someplace with easy access to nature. If it’s self-guided, follow your heart with no “should” like on selected sabbath days.
Finding a healthy rhythm between doing and non-doing/renewing activities will change your life for the better. You will enjoy life more in ’24 – and beyond!
Andrew Oser offers guided retreats and sacred site journeys on Mount Shasta and Spiritual Life Coaching by Zoom/phone. For the past 17 years, Andrew has lived in Mt. Shasta and served many thousands of visitors in receiving the profound gifts of the mountain. Prior to that, he was a tennis coach and Founder/Executive Director of the nonprofit Joy of Sports Foundation. He is the author of several books including How Alternation Can Change Your Life. To contact Andrew, please click here.