Get on Down
by Paul Wolf
A frosty beer and a bag of chips may taste good, but they're empty calories that offer your body zero nourishment. Similarly, downtime frittered away is like empty calories for the mind. Your experience doesn't contribute to your tranquility and well-being.
Downtime is about a mental pace, not a physical one. To make the most of your leisure time, you have to understand that the distinction between passing time and true relaxation is like the difference between dancing the waltz and shaking your groove thang.
Consider these five downtime favorites and how they can ruin or rejuvenate you.
1. Channel-surfing vs. selective viewing. Despite what some would have you believe, TV isn't inherently evil, nor is it always a waste of time. But mindless channel-surfing is always a bad idea. Tune into only those programs that you love and don't bother to rummage around for the remote.
2. Making love vs. having sex. If Saturday night is sex night, you might want to reconsider your trash-day attitude towards sex. A rigid schedule for lovemaking can leave you feeling empty and scattered. Try mixing things up and treating yourself and your partner to a few surprises.
3. Eating a meal vs. savoring it. "Don't just eat the food," writes Marc David, in an essay called Conscious Eating. "Eat the ambiance. Eat the colors. Eat the aromas. Eat the conversation." In other words, don't be out to lunch when you're out to lunch. Gulping down your food won't relax you. Take every meal with friends and family, and savor it as if it were a special feast.
4. Searching for stimulation vs. looking for experiences. Have you ever had a Sunday like this? You go from café to café, then onto the park and from there, to an art gallery opening. You realize your weekend is winding down, and you begin to feel depressed. You're not getting down.
Filling your spare time with a thousand activities doesn't rejuvenate your mind or your body. Spend your weekend connecting with one or two real interests — see an old friend, play your favorite sport or indulge your love of gardening.
5. Grasping at good times vs. letting go. Downtime is about shoring up the foundation, not shaking it. If you're always looking for new highs, you'll never learn to love the lows.
"We rarely let ourselves simply have our experience," writes John Welwood, in his introduction to a collection of essays called Ordinary Magic. "We are usually resisting it instead — trying to manipulate it and make it something other than it is."
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