I, like you, suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands. That phrase: “a lot of time on my hands” makes me pause and think because time is the same before or after the Corona outbreak. The difference is that I don’t owe time to so many people anymore, suddenly time is mine to spend to a degree that I’ve never really experienced since childhood summers. I don’t have to practice for any upcoming shows, I don’t have to run around to rehearsals, I don’t have to play every other night to make enough money to fund this ever-lasting loop. If there’s one good thing about this Corona phenomenon is that it suddenly disrupted a loop that a lot of us were caught in. And, it’s always good to break patterns. Now, I can make a choice how I want to spend this hour, and that one. And the way I want to use my time these days is for self-restoration.

Before this, I always felt like I didn’t have enough time to do the things that are necessary for a healthy soul. Everything had to be done with efficiency and time was always limited. I had to shift between tasks and people based on how much time I could afford to spend on them before the next task comes up. Most of the things that I was doing were done with a sense of professional commitment. “I must do this and that, even though I don’t feel like it. But, I gave my word and it’s unprofessional not to do the job. This will be good for my career”. Then, another family of tasks that are strictly related to earning money. These are the least enjoyable, and time here moves dreadfully slow.

When “Social Distancing” measures took effect in Lebanon and we all agreed to stay home and drop business for a while, it was like a whole new world presented itself to me. I moved up to the mountains, and everything I do now has a lot of meaning… it can be overwhelming. I don’t have to eat a sandwich while responding to an e-mail while on my lunch break during my 7-hour teaching day. All that was done in the name of efficiency. Now, I take all my time in preparing a sandwich with excellent geometric standards, then I think about which part of the house do I want to sit in and enjoy my meal, perhaps the balcony if the weather is good. Then, I realize that there’s no need to swallow big, half-chewed bites, as was done because of absent-mindedness and obsession with efficiency. Time seems to be linear now, every task can be done with full attention and allowed to take the time it needs, and events don’t overlap. The only requirement is attention.

Even the most meaningless task becomes enjoyable and useful when you put attention into it. I never really understood the full meaning of “take your time” until now. The way I brush my teeth is different. Before I did it because that’s what everybody does to protect their teeth, and because I didn’t want to run around with bad breath. Now, I have all the time I need to floss and clean my teeth one by one from every approachable angle. What was once an almost unconscious act – I would brush my teeth while thinking about how I’m going to get through a busy day – is now an act of intentional meditation.

“I have so much time to kill” is not the way to approach this phase. I never liked that expression. “I have so much time to invest in little things” is a much better one. Efficiency can be almost as bad as Corona if it ends up making us half-conscious all the time. That’s what we call a Zombie, someone who’s not quite dead, but not quite alive either. Under the flag of efficiency I would feel anxious during “unproductive” stretches of time. Unproductive as in: spending time with loved ones while I could be working on this or that. I would feel protective of my precious time when someone would ask me for a favor that doesn’t seem to bring me any good. Yes, I was stingy with my time. Now, I full-heartedly take any chance to serve whoever is around me because I have so much time to invest in the little things. The reward of serving someone is not material anymore, I don’t get paid for my time these days. The reward is receiving a chance to do something for someone in need, however small that need, and to fully enjoy the process.

If I were to compare the world during Corona crisis into musical terms, it would be like a piece of music that was so rhythmically active and complex going on and on until it could go no further, then suddenly it breaks down and there is silence and a lot of empty space between sounds, you can hear everything distinctly now and there’s time to process what is going on. We’re all at risk of losing the capacity to live through the space and silence. I will share with you some of the ways that I’ve been spending my “free time” by briefly listing my yesterday:

  • I took my time and woke up very slowly. I got out of bed while paying attention not to strain my neck or any body part.
  • I wanted to pick up my phone and start browsing, but I decided that would not be useful. So, I left it in my room and went to the living room to read some pages from the Bhagavad-Gita (an ancient philosophical Indian text of Hindu tradition)
  • The Bhagavad-Gita has already taught me how impatient and hasty I had been, because I simply cannot rush through this book. The moment I rush one sentence, the next sentence does not make sense, so I have to go back.
  • The sun was shining outside and there was a summer-like warmth. So I thought this was a good chance to get some sun on my skin after a long winter. I took my Bass outside and practiced for 3 hours, taking a lot of breaks in between to do some basic Yoga stretches under the sun. My body was up and running at this point.
  • I called my uncle and asked him if he wants to go for a hike. We walked up a steep mountain-side while the wind was blowing with a lot of force. I didn’t care where we were going and when we would turn back, instead I focused all my attention of my steps. step-by-step. I was consciously moving my legs with each step along the rough terrain and I was observing how the rest of my body was reacting. I paid attention to my breathing, which helped me stay relaxed during this demanding hike. Every once in a while I would look at the mountain-top, then I would forget it and focus only on my steps. After 2 hours, I suddenly found myself up on the mountaintop with my uncle. We had a lot of interesting conversations and big stretches of silence in between.
  • On the way back we found a beautiful dead tree trunk that had the most magnificent shape and texture. We took turns carrying the heavy piece of wood down to the car and we drove back home.
  • I had been fasting for about 17 hours now, and it was time to eat something. My mother had cooked a fish for me. I sat down in front of it, and I went back to the old habit of eating quickly with big hasty bites. But the fish quickly taught me a lesson with its thin bones. I decided then to slowly and attentively remove the bones from each bite. All my bites became considerably smaller now, and it took me about 30 minutes to eat the whole thing. But the sense of satisfaction that I got was unmatched by any meal that I had in the past years.
  • Finally I felt like picking up my phone and browsing. I scrolled through Facebook uselessly, I checked my email, then I watched some YouTube videos all for about an hour’s time.
  • It was almost evening. I decided that I will spend some of time on exercising my body. So I did 100 pushups, 10 at a time over 10 rounds with 45 seconds rest in between. that was about 25 minutes, I still had a lot of energy left, so I went down the basketball court in front of my house and got my heart pumping while I practiced my shooting for another 40 minutes.
  • I took a shower and took the longest time I’ve ever taken to really clean my skin and hair, and I put the same kind of focus into drying up with a towel. No rushing whatsoever. Right arm, left arm, right leg, left leg, chest and stomach, back, neck and finally my hair.
  • I looked for some new music to listen to and I enjoyed that for an hour.
  • I decided to work on my hand-writing for some reason. I noticed that I am usually very careless while writing with a pen or pencil. It makes it difficult to read what I wrote later. So, I grabbed my journal, sat down in my bedroom with and played some Japanese Koto music (so slow, so much space between the notes). I began to write into the copybook making sure that each letter occupies the same space as the next one. And that each letter should be written the same way it was written before using the lines of the page as guides. I wasn’t writing anything specific, just a flow of thoughts, but my entire focus was on the act of writing the letters which formed words which formed sentences which formed paragraphs.
  • It was almost time to sleep, I sat down with my father while he watched the news (this I try to avoid, because it can be very heavy on my consciousness) we talked for a little and I said goodnight to the family.
  • Today, my first task was to read the Bhagavad-Gita, and now I am writing this blog hopefully for you to enjoy. What comes next? I really don’t know, I haven’t thought about it. I will upload this, switch off my computer and see what life offers me for the rest of the day.