These past weeks I have seen a few clients who suddenly got ill; some of them quite ill, ill enough to have to take a lengthy time off work. Others found themselves in situations that required their full attention and often lead to them having to take time off work, too: a sick child or parent, a ‘sick’ house with bursting pipes or leaking roofs.

For quite a few of those people there was a surprise gift hidden in the calamity: they finally got some time off. One client put it like this: “I hadn’t know just how much I needed rest and quiet time until I had to lie in bed with the shades closed — and I LOVED it. It felt like heaven and I actually cried with relief that first day.”

Another client, after relating a similar experience of relief and joy in being quiet ask the question: “So why do we have to wait until we or someone else gets sick to actually look after ourselves? That’s just wrong.” I agree. It is wrong.

In a society where there are no longer given days off such as Sabbath or Sundays, where there aren’t even given times off during the week — stores are open 24/7, news and stock markets overseas make business deals at 12:00 am normal — taking the time to relax, to “just be” is up to us. It isn’t given to us. It has to be a choice and a free action.

Free actions aren’t always easy actions. Just because something doesn’t come naturally and easily doesn’t mean that it isn’t right for us. In a way that is what makes these actions free actions: it is only our choice and determination that makes them happen, not anything given to us and thus influencing us.

We are in the early days of March and although winter hasn’t really been longer than usual in Ontario, it has been colder than usual, especially in February. Many people are feeling worn out by snow and icy temperatures and tired of their own four walls. It feels as if the past few months have been mostly work. On top of that the lack of exposure to sunlight in winter can create depressions or depressed feelings. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is becoming a household term and it is effecting an increasing number of people, especially those who already suffer from or are prone to depression in the first place. In many ways this is the perfect time to practice our free choice about how we will spend our time.

Every day we have a choice to spend some time on ourselves, our souls, our sanity. We may not be able to choose if we go to work or not; but we can choose if we go for a full shopping spree after work or if we only pick up the absolute necessary and spend the ‘saved’ minutes sitting by the window with a cup of tea. We can choose if we watch TV or go for a walk with our kids; if we do the dishes or take a bath; if we plan our life or live a bit of it right this moment.

Stay in the moment isn’t always an easy thing to do. The past and the future have a great pull and that pull is strengthened by fear: fear of repeating mistakes, of getting hurt again; fear of not doing enough, not being enough. As a race we are experts in putting ourselves down and equating who we are with what we do. But we aren’t our work, our house, our cars. We are not even our kids. We are us: each one an individual; each one important; and each one capable and worthy of deciding to spend some time out — out of stress and expectations; out of the race of “doing”.

Try it! I challenge you to find 15 minutes on an upcoming weekend to just be — in whatever way you want to be.