A special kind of break: Heartfulness

It’s common to hear people give advice such as, “Take a break, it’s good for you.” It sounds convincing and appealing and most people do take breaks from whatever they’re doing, on weekends and more specifically on holidays. I’ve come to recognise myself as a workaholic and for long periods of time in my younger years I didn’t take breaks, so I didn’t know much about weekends except that it gave me more time to work. I used to imagine people spending time on weekends pursuing their hobby or making time for family or simply resting, none of which I could bring myself to do. Over the past two months, nature forced us to take a break from our daily schedules. Whether we continued to work from home or were furloughed, it presented us with an opportunity to reorganise our schedules, be flexible and innovative with our time, and even allow for more breaks during the work day. For some this was indeed possible and they are feeling very fresh and rested. I know that some are not feeling that way. The collapse of a daily schedule has left the work week unstructured and many have been working more than usual, feeling tired and stressed.

The forced lockdown at home due to the COVID pandemic got me thinking about the meaning of time management, when to work, when not to, when to take a break especially when you’re working from home, and more importantly the concept of a break. Taking a break is very much a part of time management. The typical idea of taking a break involves doing something else with your time that is definitely not work-related. In a basic sense it involves replacing one activity, that of work, with another, usually that of leisure. Thus our activities do not stop. Imagine a scenario where the challenge was to take a break for a day by doing nothing. I say challenge because in most cases it would indeed be a challenge to sit around doing nothing over a break. A person could easily get bored, feel lazy and unsatisfied with their day off, or worse still, feel tense and restless with all the vacant time available and nothing to do. My understanding of why one would feel this way is because of the way we lead our lifestyles in current times, with no time for reflection, let alone introspection. We lead activity-driven lives where the sum of all that we do and that which is deemed worthwhile is measured by outcomes. There is nothing obviously wrong with this way. However, having nothingness as an outcome, in keeping with the example of doing nothing during a break, would not measure up favourably in most cases.

The first time that I heard this line of thought being challenged was by our previous guide of Heartfulness, P. Rajagopalachari, also known as Chariji, who gave the example of the importance of gaps and the full stop in a sentence. By this I naturally understood that a sentence full of words was all activity which was only given meaning by the gaps (seen as breaks) between the words, and the sum total of the sentence obtained its full meaning when it ended with the full stop (period). This important punctuation mark, the full stop, also allowed a fresh sentence to begin, thus allowing the meaning of the previous sentence to carry on and mature into another sentence. This analogy brought a depth of understanding in the meaning and value of pauses in my daily activities.

This concept of a pause may sound wonderful and we may get inspired to lead our lives in more meaningful ways by taking breaks. However, it may still pose a challenge as to how a break should be taken without cluttering it with other things to do, or the risk of getting bored with nothing to do. An amazing way of taking such a break is by doing meditation. Being a former compulsive worker with traces of it still lingering in me, and thus being very conscious of not wasting time, I can vouch for Heartfulness meditation being a superbly dynamic activity while allowing the luxury of taking a real break by doing nothing. It gives you that much needed pause, allows you to collect yourself, go within, and emerge, recharged with energy and creativity.

Now, to expand a bit more on the concept of activity, breaks, and how meditation fits into it, I am going to go back to the analogy of a sentence. Imagine a sentence as a day in your life. The words are all the activities that you do during your waking hours, and the full stop at the end of the sentence is when you go to sleep. Some words are long and some are short. Regardless of its length, each word enhances or reduces or simply supports the value of the sentence, depending on the skill of the writer in delivering its meaning. Likewise, we may fill our day with worthwhile or useless activities or simply things that need to be done to support the day. Whatever the nature of these activities, a break to punctuate them is needed to make the day bearable. These breaks can be seen as the spaces between the words. Without the spaces the sentence would not make any sense – and a day full of constant activity without any breaks can feel equally meaningless.

The Heartfulness practice offers many opportunities for taking breaks which make life more meaningful during the day, such as doing a short relaxation, or doing a 30 minute meditation with a trainer in real time, both of which are available for android and iphone through a free HeartsApp. Other aspects of the practice include making sankalpas (prayerfully heart-willed affirmations) which can work wonders, doing a few minutes of spot-cleaning, or a 20 minute thorough cleaning in the evening, joining in with the 15 minute universal prayer for global peace and harmony at 9 pm, and connecting with your inner self before bedtime. Various detox practices for managing stress, anger and other emotions are available too.

There is one final aspect to meditation which makes it a unique break where we seemingly do nothing, and yet it provides us that much valued gap between the day’s activities. To explain, I’ll refer to Chariji again where he gives an example of when something is being recorded onto a tape, it is actually recorded only when the stop button is pressed. Even though the activity of recording starts right from the beginning of the recording session, the outcome can be had only when the activity is stopped. Similarly meditation, apart from being a break, is an activity too where the real meaning of it is obtained at the end of each meditation. This happens when we come out of it naturally and end it ourselves, or when a Heartfulness trainer conducting a session ends it. It is up to each one to experience it.