What can happen in 15 minutes?
When I was in grad school and had a day to myself to get something other than school work done, I spent most of that time in a panic state of indecision and fear. I didn't know then how to work in increments. And now, after experimenting with this for a while, I am able to transform myself (which is to say my experience) in fifteen minute increments. Writing the heart into its next dimension. Getting the soul on paper. Remembering the thousand ideas that I have forgotten and will forget again. Sometimes I expect miracles, and sometimes what I get is just the uprooting of weeds in the brain. Clearing out isn't always sexy or productive. Sometimes it's just clearing out. But it makes space for the next plant to grow. Other times a revelation can happen.
Last summer, after a lot of careful reflection, I decided what elements in my self-care are non-negotiable, things that need to happen every day for me to feel balanced and alive. I came up with these: Music, Exercise, Writing & Sitting (meditation). The letters made a very appropriate acronym: MEWS. I knew that my mind, body, spirit & soul would be fed by these activities--and that even if I spent only fifteen minutes a day with each, I could feel balanced. I don't get to all four every day. But I usually get to at least 3 out of the 4. What have I noticed from this practice? That fifteen minutes is enough time on the productivity side for me to create something valuable, and on the being side, it is enough to transform me from the state of sleepy avoidance to the state of inspired awakening.
I teach this idea to my students in Art Journal Lab, in the form of timed writing or art exercises. Using quickness in this way can have the beneficial effect of outwitting the inner critic. We get our work done before the critic has time to notice what's going on to swoop in and comment. We get to the truth of how we really feel because we are circumventing the conscious mind.
Here is a list of things that could happen in fifteen minutes:
- I could watch most of a sit com, but not the whole thing. I wouldn't know the moral if it's a sitcom from the 80's or the funny joke that ties it all together if it's a more recent sit com.
- I could discover the structure of my own ambivalence.
- I could make breakfast or eat breakfast. Maybe both.
- I could climb to the top of the mountain near my house.
- I could read my son 2 books.
- I could call an old friend.
- I could dance my ass off or my heart out.
- I could discover my true feelings on most subjects.
- I could take a shower, including heating up the water on my stove and mixing it with the cold water that comes out of my shower head in a large bowl and dumping it over my head. I could probably shave my armpits but probably not my legs too.
- I could write a poem.
- I could send you an email to an old friend letting her know that I still care about her and that I think about her when I discover small unexpected creatures in the sand.
- I could charge my phone so it's not completely dead.
- I could take a walk, discovering the missing link to my thoughts on my journaling class.
- A revolution could be born.
- I could sing 3-5 original songs.
- I could sit quietly, breathing in and out, settling down into the emptiness of home.
- I could read a chapter of a book, and then remember the book I need to write.
- I could write a page of that book.
- I could drive to a town where I could find the best coffee in Baja, a place where I can float with out light or sound & a beach with whales showing off.
- I could clean up the random garbage scattered around my property.
- I could play deeply with my son, unencumbered by my practical thoughts, or personal needs.
- I could feel the energy in your body--as my hand holds yours.
- In fifteen minutes I could make a new friend or end an old friendship.
- In fifteen minutes I could make our house look habitable--from hurricane to possible.
- In fifteen minutes I could write a blog post that says something about time and our use of it and how it doesn't take long to have an experience of transformation, if we allow ourselves to be fully present in that time frame.