Pause and sit on a bench

A few years ago I developed a lifetime habit:

When you come across a bench that you never sat on, give 60 seconds to sit on the bench.

Bench with a sticky note. Written on the note, "If I come across a bench that I have never sat in, I will stop and sit in that bench for at least sixty seconds

Five reasons to adopt this simple lifetime habit of sitting on a newly encountered bench.

1. You’ll enjoy the time on the bench

A good breather to relax.

2. Feel connected to the area

Taking a brief time to sit on the bench and simply observe will make you more connected to the area.

3. Transform that bench from a symbol of no time to a symbol of enjoyment

If you regularly pass by a bench you never sat in, it’ll remain an object you always walk by. Something you never interact with. A thing that represents you are too busy in life.

Turn that around. Sit on the bench. Enjoy life. Then any time you pass that bench, you’ll have a relationship with that particular bench. It’s a place you know you can sit. You have a history with the bench.

Image of Giddings Plaza in Chicago. Beautiful yellow tree, and five empty benches. Each bench circled.
Five benches waiting in Giddings Plaza, Chicago

When I lived in Chicago, a beautiful plaza was part of my walk home from the train. Giddings Plaza was a delightful ambiance full of benches, beautiful brick pavers, and cute shops. It really felt like a European plaza. And I walked THROUGH it every day. Sure, I enjoyed the environment when I walked through it. Then one day I thought, “y’know, I never sat on one of these benches.” I sat down and relaxed. Wow, what a difference! Normally this plaza is a pass-through for me. Now, sitting down, this plaza becomes a respite, an oasis in the urban landscape.

The goal isn’t to sit on the bench every day. It’s to just sit on a bench once. Just once. Out of the hundreds of times you pass a particular bench, you might never sit on it. You can take just one time out of the hundred passes to sit on it. Once you perform that one simple sitting, the bench is now forever transformed. It’s your bench now.

Sitting on the bench one time is well worth the investment to transform that bench, so it carries more meaning for the rest of your life.

4. Bending time

Sure, there will be times you truly are too busy to sit down. You are trying to catch a train that is on a schedule perhaps. But most times, you can really spare the 60 seconds. Nobody will notice that you are one minute later getting home. You might have a partner or kids at home. You really want to get home to them. I get that. But if you continue a life of being busy getting from point A to point B, you will be less likely to have quality time when you get home.

Spend the minute on the bench to relax. When you get home, you’ll be in a better mood for whoever is at home. By doing this, you will bend time.

When we think of time, we tend to think of it as a straight line. A sequence of events to be accomplished to move on to the next series of events. We are busy trying to make that line as straight as possible, so we can accomplish as much as we can within a certain time frame. But often the best lines are the curved lines. “Nature abhors a straight line,” said garden designer, William Kent.

Instead of taking the straight line home, take one minute off the course to sit on a bench. Sure it’s not the most direct route. But as you sit there, you:
• Relax
• Get connected to your neighborhood
• Transform this bench into a positive symbol
All for sixty seconds. Then you are back on your way home. You effectively get home at the same time. But you accomplished so much more on your trip home.

You bent time. Time doesn’t need to always be straight. You can add little bends to time, and get more out of it.

5. Changes your perception

Once you start doing this, you’ll start noticing more benches that are waiting for you. Yes, those benches ARE calling your name. They want to serve their purpose. Everywhere you go now, you’ll see a bench. Hopefully, you’ll stop and rest. This habit of enjoyment will seep into other areas of your life.


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