Something Delicious & a Breath Between Each Task

Something Delicious & a Breath Between Each Task November 10, 2022

Photo by Anna Zaro from Unsplash

A breath between each task

For a whole month now I have managed to find a home for writing in my days. Writing has always been important to me. It performs a vital function in my system, even if the exact mechanism is a mystery to me. When I’m writing regularly I feel like I’m living the life the Buddha wants me to be living.

Writing is also the thing that gets squeezed out of my diary first. It is easily shoved aside by work appointments, boring admin, my social life or the times when I’m recovering from busy-ness and need to hide under a blanket for a while. When there isn’t enough wiggle room in my diary, or enough space in my head, I find that I just can’t write.

My friend Utpaladhi stayed last weekend and shared with me her intention of writing for half an hour a day. This simple idea was a magic key that unlocked a new possibility. I could manage half an hour, surely? I started on Monday, and have spent a happy half hour tip-tapping away on my laptop every workday since. I’ve got so much done!

A bump in the road

Before I started to write this morning a feeling descended on me – a mixture of muddled-ness and slight resistance. I opened my current writing projects one by one and felt nothing – no interest, no juice. I could have just started on one of them and wrote myself into a different place, but instead I paused.

At the moment I am studying with the Bright Dawn Center of Oneness – the legacy organisation for the Buddhist teacher Rev. Gyomay Kubose. One of the things Rev. Kubose says is that we should do one thing after another all day long, putting all of our attention onto each thing, and that in between each of these tasks we should take a pause. In his words, “There must be a vacant space or time, an emptiness, between one thing and another.” *

He says that if we don’t take this mini time-out, we’ll remain tense and get tired. We should forget the last thing completely, and then after this rest, move onto the next. We should find our rhythm, like waves. It is a simple piece of advice, but a good one.

What emerged from the emptiness

I inserted this pause before I began writing because something in me wasn’t quite settling. I looked out of my office window at the autumnal vegetable patch, which is now mostly spinach gone to seed and weeds. Two pigeons were pootling around, pecking at the spinach, breakfasting. I let my mind rest, like leaning back into a hammock. As it idled, the idea of my own breakfast arose. We have a banana that is almost past its best… and some maple syrup in the fridge. Oooh, pancakes!

Once I’d made this promise to myself, I returned my attention to my computer. Here was my theme for this morning – the danger of diving from one thing into another, especially when something doesn’t quite feel right. Instead, we can allow our brains a chance to catch their breath and sit by the roadside for a little while.

Something delicious

Later this morning I’m getting the train to London to join the climate protests outside Downing Street. I’ll be sitting in meditation on the cold roads, possibly for many hours, whilst the police circle us and make arrests. I have food prepared for later, but pancakes would definitely be a good start to such a day. This is one of the things that can slip into pauses – answers to the question, ‘what do I need?’.

I think that pauses also allow us to uncover answers to another two important questions – ‘what do other living beings need from me?’ and ‘what does the world need?’ As we recite in our closing verse here in the temple, our vow is that we care for ‘all living things and the holy Earth’. When I crash headlong through the appointments in my diary as if they were a jungle and I am a machete, it leaves me little space for this connection to tenderness, this connection to compassion.

I will pause here, because I need to leave enough time for pancakes before my train. I hope that you might do the same – before you move onto your next task, close your eyes and take a slow breath. Allow your busy mind to put everything down for a minute. Let your thoughts wander wherever they want to wander. Maybe something delicious will seep into your pause too.


* Quote from p12 in ‘Rhythm in Life’ from the Center Within


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