Quiet Mind: One-Minute Retreats from a Busy World [NOOK Book]

Overview

More than a meditation book, Quiet Mind is a series of reflections that can illuminate every aspect of life. It offers readers guidance on using the moments between activities -- which the author calls "stillpoints" -- as opportunities to focus on becoming more fully awake to who they are. "These times are the 'spaces in between' the events of your life," writes Kundtz, "spaces often lost, or worse -- filled with anxiety. And these spaces in between are just waiting to bring you the calmness and clarity that an ...

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Quiet Mind: One-Minute Retreats from a Busy World

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Overview

More than a meditation book, Quiet Mind is a series of reflections that can illuminate every aspect of life. It offers readers guidance on using the moments between activities -- which the author calls "stillpoints" -- as opportunities to focus on becoming more fully awake to who they are. "These times are the 'spaces in between' the events of your life," writes Kundtz, "spaces often lost, or worse -- filled with anxiety. And these spaces in between are just waiting to bring you the calmness and clarity that an over-demanding schedule steals from you." A welcome respite for anyone whose gear shift is perpetually in overdrive, Quiet Mind is an invitation to rest, find peace, awaken, and remember. It offers deceptively simple wisdom to help readers sharpen their senses and make room for life.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609250065
  • Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
  • Publication date: 1/1/2003
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 642,328
  • File size: 382 KB

Meet the Author

David Kundtz, author, speaker, and licensed psychotherapist, is also director of Inside Track Seminars, which offers courses on spiritually based stress management and emotional health for the helping profession. He has graduate degrees in both psychology and theology and a doctorate in pastoral psychology. David is also the author of Quiet Mind, Stopping, and Moments in Between, among others.
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Read an Excerpt

Quiet Mind

One-Minute Retreats from a Busy World


By David Kundtz

Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2000 David Kundtz
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60925-006-5



CHAPTER 1

Still Moments in Busy Days

Taking Time to See

Nobody sees a flower, really—it's so small—we haven't time, and to see takes time....

—Georgia O'Keeffe


These are the days of the time famine," says Odette Pollar in her newspaper column aimed at helping people work smarter. She cites some interesting statistics. According to a Harris survey, the amount of leisure time enjoyed by the average American has shrunk 37 percent since 1973. In the same period, the average work week, including commute time, has jumped from fewer than 41 hours to nearly 47 hours, and in some cases up to 80 hours a week.

I like the term time famine, and starvation is certainly an appropriate analogy for our situation. Many of us are starved for time and we have a passionate desire to be fed. We are starving for those moments of solitude when we can just hang out, cleaning out a drawer or looking through old letters, with no pressure or guilt. Our starvation deprives us of the nutrition that those in-between times used to give us: a feeling of centeredness in our lives, of awareness of our spiritual needs and those of our families, a confident sense of self-knowledge.

Georgia O'Keeffe's words ring authentic as you look at her paintings of flowers She spent many hours "doing nothing" with a flower. No time famine for her. Her artistic life in the desert was a statement against that idea. And we continue to benefit from the results.

In a famine—at least in the best of situations—those who have help those who have not. Thus a question presents itself: Where are you in the time famine, among the haves or the have-nots? Sometimes one, sometimes the other?

For have-nots: Today, stop and really look at a flower (or an O'Keeffe rendering of one).

For haves: Help someone else to do the same.


Rat Race

The trouble with the rat race is even if you win, you're still a rat.

—Lily Tomlin


The metaphor of the rat race as a way to talk about the nature of contemporary life is instructive. I wonder about its origin. And just what is a rat race? I picture a maze in some scientific laboratory with a dozen rodents scrambling in all directions, trying with great frustration to find their way to freedom. Is that a rat race? Did anyone tell the rats they were in a race? Is there really a winner in a rat race?

And that we should choose this metaphor as a way to talk about the way we live our lives is ... what? Alarming? "Well, we've got to get going and join the rat race." We do?

The metaphors we use not only reflect the way we live, but create the way we live. If we call life a rat race, it will tend to become one.

So let's change metaphors. Here are a few suggestions:

Life is a cat prowl. I envision slow and careful steps, a calm awareness of what is going on in my neighborhood, and a pace that suits my needs.

Life is a dog walk. I move now with lively interest, with stoppings and goings, encounters with other dogs, trees, and people, always ready to respond to a friendly petting.

Life is a fox trot. Here is a bouncy-stepped way to dance through life. Find a partner! You can always sit the next one out.

Life is a monkey march. Life is a pony canter. Life is a whale breach. Life is a swallow soar. Life is a pig parade. Life is an elephant lope. Life is a bear excursion (the one I'd pick).

Spend a quiet time today and pick your metaphor for life's journey.


Sounding Well

Rests always sound well.

—Arnold Schoenberg


Rests, as I understand them, are those moments in a piece of music when there is a passage of time but no sound. There is nothing. So Schoenberg, the composer, says that "nothing" always sounds well.

Hmm. Sounds like a trick, or a riddle. What's wrong with this statement? Buddhists might call Schoenberg's words a koan, a paradoxical riddle with no answer, used for discussion and teaching.

What can we make of it?

What gives life to the music is the feeling that jumps in during those pauses, during those sometimes incredibly quick split seconds when one note is just finishing its last echoing vibrations, but before the next one takes up the progression. The feeling slips, quick as a wink, into the gap and brings soul and life to the music. It is first felt, then expressed, by the composer. Then it is reborn with a familiarity, but also with the somehow new and unique contribution of each performer.

The feeling lives in the rests. And not just with the rests in music, but with the rests in bus driving and kindergarten teaching and homemaking and managing and selling advertising and cooking supper and picking up the kids and phoning customers and writing reports and on and on. The feeling lives in what you put into the rests. And the rests always sound well!

The quiet moments—rests—in your day make your whole day sound well.

As you go about your day today, notice the rests in the rhythm of the day.


Short Attention Spans

Modern life conditions us to skim the surface of experience, then quickly move on to something new.

—Stephan Rechschaffen, M. D.


Most of us spend our days staring at the huge Mountain of Too Much. Because most of us have too much of everything in our lives, it's easy to become overwhelmed.

One of the results of the Mountain of Too Much is that our attention spans get shorter and shorter, simply because there is less time for everything and we have to move quickly or be left behind. And our culture accommodates this pace.

The format of this book is an example of that accommodation: short sections, easily read in a brief time. So also are the ideas behind this book—ways for busy people with full lives to become spiritually awake and recollected, to relax, and to manage stress.

The challenge is balance. Do we have the ability to pay attention for only a short span of time? Or can we still call upon the often-needed skill of concentrating for long periods, with ongoing attention? Can we stay with a good process even though it is long or old or out of style?

Or are we compelled to "skim the surface of experience, then quickly move on to something new" just because it is new? For if we only skim the surface of life, we will, necessarily, become superficial.

Time spent doing nothing is an antidote to superficiality. It encourages and develops the skills to focus and pay attention for both the short and long hauls and helps us to probe below the surface, not just skim it.

Identify a project that requires ongoing attention and ask: What kind of quiet time do I need to support and encourage my ability to stick with it?


Every Day

One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.

—Goethe


These are the things Goethe wanted in his day, every day. What do you want in yours? Here is a snippet from a conversation I overheard in a busy downtown store between two middle-aged women:

"It's so good to see you. We just don't seem to get together as much any more, and it seems so many of us are saying the same thing. Why is that?" said one.

"I know exactly what you mean," said the other. "It seems that there's always just too much going on."

I'm convinced we all really do know what is happening to the way we are in the world, compared to the way we want to be. As the woman said, there's always just too much going on. The problem is not what we don't know; it's that we somehow feel powerless to change it.

When you have begun dealing with the problem of too much going on, you can start to identify just what you want to include in your "every day."

Even when you get together with your friend, you might discover that Goethe wasn't far off the mark. With your friend you might hear a little song (listen to some favorite music), read a good poem (discuss an article you recently read), see a fine picture (visit a museum or show a photo of your grandkids), or speak a few reasonable words (have an enjoyable conversation, catching up on each other's lives).

Today take some moments to decide what you want your "every day" to include. Repeat every day forever.


Going to the Post Office

In proportion as our inward life fails, we go constantly and desperately to the post office.

—Henry David Thoreau


You may depend on it," Thoreau continues, "that poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters, proud of his extensive correspondence, has not heard from himself this long while."

I think I know the cause of our cultural, spiritual, and social problems today, just as Thoreau knew 150 years ago. Our inward life is failing.

Many of us know this, of course, and just knowing it doesn't change things. But what if someone—maybe you—could convince ten or twenty people to stop going to the post office for their information, and instead to stay quiet and recollected for a few minutes or even an hour a day to attend to their "inward lives"? What if I could do the same?

I used to think that what we needed was a saint or a prophet: a modern-day Francis of Assisi who would call us to our senses by the power of his example and love; or a Joan of Arc to inspire us with her disdain for the acceptable, her single-mindedness, and her devotion to her voices.

But we have saints; we've always had saints, canonized or not. We've always had prophets who are well attuned to their inward lives, who have voices of passion and love, voices of virtue and wisdom, who live lives of example and service, and who call us to the same.

And still many of us keep on stumbling to the post office.

Today, find a way to redirect your trip to the post office to a journey to your inward life.


Permission to Stop

The only way we could justify sitting motionless in an A-frame cabin in the north woods ... was if we had just survived a really messy divorce.

—Ian Frazier


The author's words are a complaint that he had to have justification for doing nothing. He and his friends could not do nothing just because they wanted to; they had to have a very good reason, such as divorce. Then they could justify taking time off, or "wasting valuable time"—they had an excuse. They had just gone through something painful, and people would be hesitant to criticize them. Their guilt would be minimal.

But then he wisely throws out that kind of thinking and gives himself permission—no justification necessary—for doing nothing.

Unnecessary self-restrictions and false guilt burden many of us and keep us from the peaceful times we yearn for. Quiet time to be alone is not an optional nicety; nor is it just for the retired, the lazy, or those naturally inclined. It is for all of us. It is valuable time well spent.

And above all, it needs no justification other than its own noble purpose: to become more fully awake and to remember what you most need to remember about yourself and your life.

Do you need permission for doing nothing? Here it is! Use it today.


Finally Getting It

Thanks for Nothing!

—A young seminar participant


Often I find it difficult to get across the idea of doing nothing. I first discovered the resistance to the idea in myself. I continue to discover it in other people as I speak on Stopping.

We are just not used to doing nothing. It sounds and feels and seems wrong somehow. We want to fill up the time with something.

At a recent mini-seminar at a bookstore, a young man, about seventeen, entered late, wearing his hat backward and carrying a skateboard. He sat down in the middle of the front row and paid close attention to what I was saying.

Midway through the presentation he raised his hand and said, "What you're saying is that we should spend a lot of time just thinking about the really important things in life, right?"

"Nooo," I answered, "I'm suggesting that's something we should not do! Just do nothing, don't try to think about anything!" My answer was met with a vexed and quizzical look. The look remained, and as I continued the seminar his attention stayed focused on my answer to his question, and not on what I was saying.

After a little while, he stood up quite suddenly, smiled at me, gathered up his skateboard and backpack, and began to leave.

"So long," I said, interrupting my presentation. All eyes were on him as he took the opportunity to say, "So long! Oh, and thanks for Nothing. I appreciate it!"

I think he meant it.

Today, consider the question: What is my understanding of doing nothing?


Reality Check

It will never rain roses: When we want to have more roses we must plant more trees.

—George Eliot


Occasionally someone will say to me, "Just sitting and doing nothing seems to be running from the real world, hiding from what you don't want to face." My response is to reiterate that intentionally doing nothing is indeed the opposite of running and hiding. This is because it brings you face-to-face with—even to the point of embracing—the most important and challenging aspects of human life, those based on your meanings and values.

As Eliot says, if you want roses, plant trees. What doing nothing can do is help you know what you really want—is it roses, or gladiolas, or redwoods, or none of those?—so that you don't end up with a beautiful garden of what you don't want.

The English novelist quoted above, George Eliot, speaks these words from personal experience. Born Mary Anne Evans into the male-dominated Victorian world, she led her rich and complex life successfully competing in the theological and literary worlds of her time. Her masculine pen name increased the power she needed in order to be all she wanted to be, not running and hiding, just embracing life as she saw it, and in the era in which she saw it.

No waiting for a rain of roses for her.

Today consider if you are waiting for a rain of roses.


New Eyes

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

—Marcel Proust


A significant challenge to any seminar presenter is the problem of follow-up or continuity: What is going to allow the participants to keep their new insights fresh and accessible? What would keep the information from fading into the fog of forgetting, which the passage of time seems to engender? It's typical for participants to leave the seminar with the best of intentions and enthusiasm, and just as typical for participants to lose them in a few weeks.

One response to this challenge is to base the seminar on the skill of having new eyes. If you leave with new eyes, the follow-up problem takes care of itself; everything you see from now on will be a new discovery.

You will have a new and different way of seeing something that you have been looking at all your life.

Something such as "doing nothing": Today I am going to use new eyes with which to see "doing nothing."

For today, please see time spent doing nothing not with your old eyes, not as a waste of time, not as boring, not as unproductive, not as guilt-ridden laziness. Now, please see it with new eyes, as very fertile time, as urgently necessary and life-giving time, in which to wake up and remember who you are.

See it as the most important time of your life.

The problem of follow-up disappears when you have new eyes.

Today bring new eyes, rather than new landscapes, to what you want to discover.


Road Rage

There is no class of person more moved by hate than the motorist.

—C. R. Hewitt


I wonder if you have the same experience that I sometimes do. I'm driving along, thinking that I am in a fine mood, when the driver waiting at a stoplight in front of me puts on his left turn signal just as the light turns green. The reaction is immediate and strong: I am absolutely furious! I struggle not to lay on the horn and do a few other things as well.

How can I go from serenity to rage in an instant? And because of such a thing as a left turn? Can't I really afford the thirty seconds or minute that I'll have to wait? What happened? What's going on in me?

The only answer I can come up with is that the car has become a symbol of so many of the societal frustrations we experience today. The classic symbol of our independence now often thwarts our progress and becomes an inconvenience and a limit on our freedom, not a means to it.

For a serene life, we need to pay a lot of attention to driving automobiles, whether or not we actually drive.

I propose spending some time getting to know your car—well, not your car, really, but getting to know yourself in your car. Think about how you want to react to other drivers, talk to family members and friends about your common experiences while driving, and perhaps change your expectations of what driving will actually be like for you—more traffic, more delays, more jams.

And if the rage hits you anyway, remember to take a deep breath or two—always do that. Then see what you can come up with to restore serenity. I try to think of the fact that I'm only one of many trying to get somewhere. And if I'm feeling particularly honest, I recall that sometimes I am the one putting on the left turn signal just as the light turns green.

Spend some time with your car today.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from Quiet Mind by David Kundtz. Copyright © 2000 David Kundtz. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Foreword by Steven Harrison          

A New Way of Dealing with Life          

one Still Moments in Busy Days          

two Making Room for Life          

three Remembering to Take the Time          

four Finding Your Balance          

five The Spaces in Between          

six Creating Opportunities for Serenity          

seven Defining Your Values          

eight Finding Peace at Work          

nine Embracing Life          

ten Paying Attention          

eleven Knowing Thyself          

twelve Awakening to Wonder          

thirteen Connecting with Others          

fourteen Giving Back to the World          


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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2009

    Gives you something to think about...

    It's a great book that opens your mind to new ideas and cultivate mindfulness.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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