How to Not Think and Do Nothing in New York

In one of the June 2015 issues of New York Magazine, an article appeared in the New York Guides section as The Everything Guide to Doing Nothing; Wake up late, go out never, have someone hand-feed you a banana. Here is the introduction to the collection of articles on how to do nothing in New York, followed by one from the collection of short essays that caught my attention.

It’s not that New York has become any less chaotic, but amid the relentless hustle is a recent move to nada-hood: In the past year, dozens of apps have popped up that make social interaction and trips to Duane Reade less and less necessary. Need toilet paper delivered in an hour? Press a button. Too tired to mop your floors? Enlist the latest iRobot. But why stop there? For when TV plots seem too complicated, Candy Crush too physically taxing, and the newspaper just too damn wordy, there’s now an ever-more-passive alternative. So whether you want to avoid dirty dishes, the treadmill, or your friends, here’s a guide for living your laziest life.

How to Not Think
Transcendental Meditation on the C train.
By David Marchese

A great many extremely successful and presumably fully actualized people, from billionaire hedge-funder Ray Dalio to pop goddess Katy Perry, are advocating these days for the life-changing benefits of Transcendental Meditation. TM, they say, will sharpen your decision-making, unlock your creativity, amplify your you. Science is also onboard. Studies suggest that TM practitioners are at reduced risk for heart attack and stroke. All this from just sitting there and focusing on your secret mantra. When I mention this sort of stuff to people—I’ve been doing TM for six or so years—I normally get an interested nod in return. When I say it involves meditating twice a day for 20 minutes a pop, the nod turns into something more skeptical. Where am I supposed to find the time?

I find it on the C train. As long as your commute is long enough, the subway offers a great opportunity for achieving profound inner stillness. First off, you need to find a seat, which is why I opt for the less crowded local, rather than express, train. Then, with your back straight, head tilted slightly down, and eyes closed, do about 30 seconds of deep breathing before you begin silently repeating your mantra—the secret word, supposedly custom-chosen, that your TM instructor (find a nearby class and instructor at tm.org) will have given you. Don’t try to clear your mind, just favor the mantra. Repeat it. Keep repeating it. Favor it above all other thoughts and sensations. If other thoughts do bubble up—and they will—just come back to the mantra. You’ll be amazed how quickly the ambient MTA blare fades away as you transcend toward pure consciousness. A sort of whole-body inner joy takes over, as if your heart were gently laughing. Hard-core TMers say 20 minutes is mandatory—I use the timer on my iPhone—but if you’re diligent about the mantra, you can transcend after a few minutes, so it’s okay if the train starts running express. Even ten minutes of TM is a nice psychic boon, and, I promise, infinitely more satisfying than another level of Candy Crush.

From The Everything Guide to Doing Nothing in New York Guides of the New York Magazine, published Jun 4, 2015. Illustration by Joe McKendry.

I was in NY recently for my nephew’s film, The Driftless Area, which was being spotlighted at the Tribeca International Film Festival, and wrote this haiku about the city: A NEW YORK HAIKU by Ken Chawkin.

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2 Responses to “How to Not Think and Do Nothing in New York”

  1. A NEW YORK HAIKU by Ken Chawkin | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] Here’s an article in NY Magazine about How to Not Think and Do Nothing in New York. […]

    Like

  2. Nicholas Says:

    Beautifully put Ken. Why would anyone imagine that doing nothing at all, not even ourselves, could possibly be enjoyable? It describes a state of dependence that for many is tragic.
    The way you gently offer an alternative approach to finding serenity and peace of mind is very beautiful. Thank you.

    Like

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