I’m waiting for a friend to come pick me up so we can go out to dinner tonight. There’s a special at a local restaurant. As I read through some posts on FaceBook, the phrase “killing time” popped into my head. Like an annoying neighbor, it decided to stick around, its voice echoing in my mind. “Just killing time…… killing time….. killing time.” Then I started thinking. Why is the phrase so important or is it just another trick of my damaged neural circuits?
Killing implies a premature ending. When killing time, we are waiting for something better to arrive. Life today is hectic. People rush to and from activities. Often, life is left on the sideline as people focus on activity. Life is leashed by activity. Our creativity and souls are bound by busyness.
Productivity and enjoyable recreational activities are both important factors in healthy lives. We all strive for meaning, to make our mark in the world. Without productivity, that will not happen. Relaxation allows our minds, souls, and bodies to recharge. It brings fun and laughter.
That brings the point: why do we “kill time?” Recreation is vital to our well-being. The concept of mindfulness teaches to be present in life. Instead of going through motions, we are active observers and participants. Mindfulness brings richness into our lives. “Even” downtime can be lived fully.
Imagine taking a walk in the woods. What will you experience? Will you feel the breeze and smell the crispness of a spring morning? Do you notice the buzzing and flight of an early bee? Do you see the green buds on the trees and the flowers just poking their heads out of the ground? Or are you in a hurry to exercise? Or perhaps distracted by conversation and work worries? I enjoy trail running. Being in nature is calming and renewing to my soul. However, when I run, I often missed the experience for the activity. I usually hiked the trails where I run in order to experience nature in a connected manner. Then, I started to experiment with mindful running. It took practice but as I grew in proficiency, I was able to notice much more. My most memorable run was seeing several does with their young in a meadow, next to the river. A hawk swooped down on some unlucky rodent hiding in the grass. I had never seen a hawk successfully “strike” before. It was awe-inspiring. Since my injury, I don’t run hard trails in the mountains anymore. Every day, I notice the mountains and hills to the east of town. I watch the snow melt, then return, and melt again. I see them hiding in the clouds and later appear. I hope to return to the trails this summer. I will see how I feel.
Mindful running was a practice I was just learning at the time of my injury. My runs now are mindful in a different way. I have to pay attention and be present to my body in order to keep balance and prevent injuries. I try to notice the scenery as I run now. Just down the road from me is a small farm. I have watched a young goat grow in the past weeks. As the trees started to bud, he grew in size and confidence. Now, he is no longer staying right beside his mother. He explores the yard. The last time I ran that direction, he was proudly standing on a log near the fence. His stance was stable and he looked over the pasture. His mom ate grass nearby. Had I not “tuned in” to the world around me, I would have missed seeing this adorable young animal grow.
My injury was a startling and painful lesson about the fragility of life. So much changed in just the one second it took for the car to spin out of control. Instead of “killing time,” embrace it. Downtime can feed our souls, minds, and bodies. Life is good. Embrace it.