Five Minutes of Nothing

I want to talk with you about the power of nothing. Five minutes of it.

A few weeks ago, on a bench on an island in New York Harbor, I did five minutes of nothing. It’s a practice my mother told me about. Try it when you feel anxiety or stress or can’t find your balance, she had said.

Well, check, check, and check, I thought as I sat down on the bench. I’ve got all that tight as a jack-in-the-box about to blow any second.

I set the timer on my phone, sat back on the bench’s wooden slats, and for five minutes, I gave myself nothing.

It began uncomfortably. I should be doing stuff, I thought over and over. There’s so much stuff to do. Everyone else is doing stuff.

And the thoughts kept on thinking. But slowly and gently, other things started to happen. I noticed this wisp of a breeze coming from the right. There was sunlight, huge generous rays of it, covering the sidewalk in front of me. I heard the low thump-thump, thump-thump of a couple walking along the sidewalk.

The experience, if I had to describe it, was like opening the door a little wider – just wide enough to let in new air and create some breathing room between me and my anxieties and stresses. Which meant I could hold them with a lighter, kinder touch. Maybe even do something about them, rather than be sucked joyless and lifeless by them.

And who knew you could get so much from nothing?

So, when my alarm went off five minutes later, nothing – which is a simple and generous thing to give ourselves – was all I’d gained.

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