18 Minutes / by David Sherwin

This morning in yoga class, our instructor was focusing on the seventh chakra, the seat of all the other chakras in our body. It's where true consciousness and intuition illuminates the bodymind, like the lumens projected on a television screen.

"It takes 18 minutes of sitting to reach a meditative state," she said at the start of class. As we progressed through a set of asanas, we would pause to sit, breathe, and let that screen of the seventh chakra slowly clarify, pushing space aside to allow us to experience life as it is.

After yoga class, I couldn't help but reflect on my own struggles with time and space in my daily work. Time was necessary to reach the most artful conclusion; space to explore the options before me and move down the right path. Neither of these dimensions are linear. Both don't easily tolerate the not-doing of mediation.

It's hard for most businesspeople to enforce space for self-exploration, and feel confident that the effort will lead to something that can be quantified. Sheer unburdened creative thought, with no sense of utility or application, can be like arsenic to the accountant. Creativity thrives in ambiguity — which is the arch-enemy of economy. 

I'd like to disabuse those objections, stow the calculators away, and put forth the following postulate: Unburdened exploration of the self, followed swiftly by focused attention on a design problem, clears space in your mind to engage with the work at hand.

Next time you're in a situation where you're asked to exceed what you think you can accomplish as a creative soul, set a timer for 18 minutes and meditate on whatever comes to mind. During that period of time, don't hunt through books for an inspiring design, or read your e-mail, or talk with a co-worker as a quick break from the stress. Place a pencil in your hand, a sheet of paper on the desk, and turn off your mind.

You aren't being creative. You aren't working. You aren't solving a problem. You are definitely not distracting yourself from the work. You're letting you happen.