Going up to London for a course, on Sunday, my iPhone search indicated a Victoria train at 8:37 a.m. My wife dropped me off at the station early — 8:28, but when I arrived at the platform I saw that the next Victoria train would be at 8:49!
A 20 minute wait! Not only would I be late for the course, but I had nothing to read!
I have developed the habit of filling every small time slot with reading. I have 4 business books on the go, partly read, none with me except a fifth on my iPhone’s Kindle, but that was a ‘duty’ read, a book I had promised to review.
Without reading matter to fill my mind, I felt adrift. It happens also when I am alone in a cafe, when I will read every word on the menu. Twice. And then I’ll read the labels on sauce bottles, if any are about. Once or twice I have even gingerly picked up a shared copy of The Sun newspaper, carefully maintaining a look of disdain as I did so.
In the elastic minutes before the train arrived, I recalled an article in a 10-year old Reader’s Digest, a piece about one Dr Herbert Benson, author of “The Relaxation Response”. Dr Benson is a mind doctor, and his book discusses the benefits of relaxation and even distraction when we are wrestling with a problem.
Get your mind out of the way, he says, and the solution has a better chance of presenting itself. Going for a walk or a spot of meditation can do wonders for the harassed mind. In the absence of reading matter I thought I’d “think”, and perhaps benefit from unexpected insights.
The train arrived. On board was a group of friends talking in loud voices. One woman had a flat but penetrating voice that blotted out all attempts at quiet contemplation. I moved to another seat.
Ding dong! The train’s automatic station announcer forced itself upon me. Ding dong! The next station will be … Pause. Ding dong! We will shortly be arriving at … And again for every station along the way.
Now I really did have a harassed mind. Excuse while I go for a walk.