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Mindful : October 2014
The busier you are, the more you have to step away from busy-ness, from speed, to see what’s truly important in life. It’s the open spaces—the moments when you lose yourself—that help you to find contentment, joy, and peace of mind. For more than thirty years now, I’ve been a full-time journalist and travel writer: One card in my wallet shows I flew more tha n 100,000 miles on United Airlines alone last year—I’ve long been a member of the company ’s Million Mile club—a nd my doctor has recently taken to prescribing daily medication for my blood pressure. My poor wife has grown too accustomed to hearing pages spew- ing from our fa x machine at 3:00 a.m ., or seeing me race off, before dawn, on what are meant to be holidays, to deal with “urgent” requests from bosses or “can’t wait” emails. Still, I never g uessed, when I fell into this life, that soon so much of the world would be stockpiling data, uploading photos, and trying to keep up with the roller coaster of the Nikkei stock market. We’re all journalists now, it can some- times seem, racing to stay on top of a moment that refuses to stay put. The only way I’ve found to try to keep my balance in a globe permanently on the move—and ever more cluttered with open up By Pico Iyer Photographs by Aya Brackett stuff—is to step out of the world on a regular basis, and to step back from my life, so as to see what’s truly inside them. Otherwise, I can feel I’m standing two inches away from a vast and constantly shifting ca nvas, terminally unable to make out the larger picture. Over the years, therefore, I’ve gradu- ally tried to develop various decidedly homemade a nd a mateurish ways of keep- ing my head clear and ensuring I have time and space to breathe. The first thing I did, when I was 29, was leave my 25th floor office four blocks from Times Square and move to the backstreets of Japan. My job, writing on world affairs for Time, was exhilarating, and that was precisely why I felt I had to leave it: The minute-to-minute excite- ments could blind me from the fact that I was seeing only one tiny corner of the universe. The same was true in Kyoto, of course, but it was a very different corner, one based on principles and values fashioned 1,200 years before—not the previous weekend. Even better, the minute I a rrived in Japa n, not speaking Japanese, I was a voluntary deaf-mute of sorts, as well as an illiterate. I had to watch everything more attentively. I had to try to read → See Pico Iyer’s new book, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere [digital edition]. October 2014 mindful 61 time out