The Art of Downtime


Downtime.  It’s that completely unplanned, unscheduled bit of time in our days.  It has no purpose other than to revive and energize the rest of our life.  It’s a form of self-care that should come easily to us.  Yet, I stink at it.

I am a planner and a doer.  I cross things off massive to do lists.  I get things done but it’s a lot of go, go, go.  In yoga this highly energetic and on the go quality is called rajas.  These qualities are great when things must get done.  Inevitably though. all this going and doing wears me out and I can be found sacked out on the couch for a week straight.  This quiet, slower, perhaps lethargic quality is referred to as tamas.

What I want to cultivate in my daily life though is a balance between the two, or sattva.  It’s in my practice on the mat that I find the greatest training ground for cultivating this idea.  Within the movement of a vinyasa sequence, sinking into a restorative pose, or sitting for meditation is where I find that beautiful balance between doing and being.

Off the mat, that balance between doing and being is going to take a great deal of practice for me.  Crossing things off of lists is important to me.  It keeps me moving forward, focused on the goals I want to achieve.  So this year I’m going to acknowledge my strength in list making and put downtime on that to do list in a big way.  I’ve dabbled with this intention before, placing things like a weekend nap or a leisurely Sunday morning on the list.  Only I might not get around to it because I could be doing somethinggetting something done instead.

I’ve found though, it is in these quiet moments that realizations make their way to the surface, that I gain greater clarity, and dream up new ideas.  Strangely, out of that downtime, I find myself accomplishing far more than I ever expected.  It’s not because I’m doing more things though.  I’m doing the ones that are most important in a fully present manner.  It’s mindfulness in the action as well as in the quiet.  And I want to practice finding that more often.