How often have I hurried past an empty bench and thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to just sit there?”
As I plowed through my purposeful powerwalks, I would envy the relaxed souls sitting on park benches.
I never allowed myself time to sit on such a bench in such a way. I rushed on to the next thing.
This past weekend, we discovered this bench overlooking the Barnegat Bay. The night before, we had watched a glorious vermillion sun sink into the steely water. The wind was wicked, so we stayed in our car, parked just behind this bench.
I returned the next day because I felt unfinished business. A bench was calling—this bench, and all its brethren, including the humbly placed store bench I spotted the next day.
What does an empty bench offer?
From the bench I can observe my immediate surroundings.
I may see something differently, or something I wouldn’t have seen at all, such as an egret diving for a meal, two shoppers arguing on the way out of the store, or a freight train churning through the wooded distance. I can observe the present moment.
From the bench I can observe my interior space.
It’s scary sometimes to be alone with my real self. It’s easier to speed past the empty bench contemplating a grocery list or a new project at work than it is to sit quietly and let my thoughts percolate. Even harder, to let the thoughts percolate without judging them or myself. I can simply observe the gifts of the present moment.
This week, see how many benches you can spot. You don’t need to sit in any of them. Just notice.
Or, maybe you’re willing to try this: sit spontaneously on a bench you come across. It may be a bench on your way into work. Or a bench on the way out of the grocery store. Or a bench outside the complex of your dentist’s office. Or a bench in the center of a campus. Sit on a bench you weren’t planning to sit on. What happens next?