A beautiful skyAn interesting thing happened to me on Saturday. I was cleaning the pool for the second time this season. It got away from me as I was trying to switch from chlorine to Baquacil and it was the only option I had. Usually I have help when I drain, scrub, rinse and refill the pool, but I decided to tackle it on my own instead. I guess it was penance for having to clean it for a second time, I don’t know, but having to do it by myself meant that I had a little bit different routine. This new routine led me to a very interesting discovery about myself.
Normally when cleaning the pool, I keep busy when I take a break. I’ll bail water with a bucket for awhile and then when I stop to rest my back, arms and legs, I’ll do other things instead of just stopping. I’ll push the muck around with the pool brush, or prep some tools, or cleaning products. It’s not busy work per se, but it only incrementally helps at best. Having to do all the work by myself was completely different. Since I was the only one bailing, I would do 100 bails and then have to take a break. I estimated that every 100 bails was the equivalent of approximately 50 gallons of water and after moving that much volume I definitely needed to rest. So instead of busying myself with other activities, I rested my muscles and caught my breath.

It was a really nice afternoon, the sun was out and the temperature was in the 70’s. With water still up to my ankles, sitting down really wasn’t an option, so I stood at the edge of the pool, leaning against the top like I would a high fence. I just stood there. My mind wasn’t occupied with any tasks, or even thoughts for that matter. I just looked at the trees, the flowers, the grass and thought about absolutely nothing in particular. It was awesome. 🙂

Surprisingly, as I stood there thinking about nothing, my mind started coming up with all sorts of interesting ideas. I wasn’t trying to come up with ideas, but they came anyway. Three home projects, some I had never even thought of, came into crystal clear focus. Granted, I don’t have the money to bring these projects into reality, but I was put at ease with the fact that these three projects were somewhat, I don’t know, resolved. My mind was at ease over the fact that these three projects had been thought out from beginning to end. This of course happened over a series of breaks, not all at once in some sort of sonic cerebral deluge. I would go back to bailing and after another 50 gallons were removed from the pool, I would go back to doing nothing. Then along would come another thought, or idea. It was really quite fascinating and caused me to step back a bit and examine what was happening.

I often have ideas when I’m in the shower, or cycling down the road, but most of these ideas, are really solutions to problems that I’m trying to resolve. I’ll have a particular piece of code that’s giving me trouble and it’s not until I’m in the shower, a head full of shampoo and covered in soap that a solution will present itself like a bolt of lightening. This type of event is different from what I experienced on Saturday. My shower/cycling experience is more about problem solving. On Saturday, I wasn’t trying to solve a problem and it wasn’t solutions to problems that were coming to me. I was getting fully formed ideas, which is something completely different. It also felt different too. It felt like I was listening.

As I pondered this experience, I was reminded of one of Mike Rohde’s entries regarding “reflection” entitled “Reflecting and Digesting in an Info-Overloaded World“. Mike’s points hit the nail squarely on the head. I’m inundated with information overload, heck I’m even in the business of Information Technology for pete’s sake. Every day I’m bombarded with 1000’s of e-mails, 100’s of RSS updates, technical documentation to pour over, phone calls, Instant Messages, chats, television shows, magazines, and it goes on and on and on. With all this information flooding my day, I’m constantly “in motion” moving from one task to the next and all the while keeping busy. With my mind constantly occupied, I never take the time to just sit still and let it relax.

How much of what I do each day is nothing but busy work? Instead of allowing these things to dominate my life and occupy my brain, how hard would it be to just stop for a moment? It sounds trite, but when was the last time I “stopped to smell the roses?” I don’t. Instead, I’m building task lists that involve trimming, watering, feeding and taking photos of the roses. I fill myself with so much busy work, I don’t take the time to just smell. Yet that’s exactly what happened on Saturday and look at what a surprise it was. 🙂

I’m not 100% sure what to call this experience anyway. Is it meditation? Reflection? As I look back on how it felt, I have to say that it was simply being quiet. I have to laugh reading those words, since I’m world renowned for my gift of gab, (I didn’t just kiss the Blarney Stone, I Frenched it.) so the thought of being quiet makes me laugh – but that’s beside the point. I’ve often attempted to be quiet in the past, but now that I’ve actually experienced it, I realize that I’ve missed the mark. Writing in a journal, or a weblog is just another type of occupation. Even the guided meditation done in my yoga class isn’t the same thing, since the focus is more on relaxation and on channeling the energy created in class.

Being quiet is just that – being quiet. Doing nothing. Just sitting still and observing the world around you without interruption, or focus on all the many distractions in your life. It’s not as easy as it sounds and I’m happy that I’ve stumbled upon how it works. I’m hooked. I want more.

So I guess I should add a recurring event to my Palm Pilot and set an alarm so that I’m reminded 5 minutes before that I need to stop what I’m doing and “go be quiet”.

Or better yet, every so often, I’ll just stop.