At the beginning of March 2020, just before the closures and disruptions, tension and uncertainty were rising among my colleagues at MIT and friends at large. People seemed to be on edge. They were agitated. On March 11, I went to sleep with a question in mind. “What can I do to help?”
The next morning, I awoke from a dream at that hour that’s not the night before and not quite yet morning. “Ten minutes of quiet every day is all it takes.” This was what was going through my mind. I tried to get back to sleep from 3:15 to 4:20, but couldn’t. Instead, I woke up fully and started to question. If I did host ten minutes of reflection, when would it be and how would it happen?
By 6:30 a.m I had drafted up a quick website and been inspired by the time of 2:50 pm. Without rhyme or reason, this was the time that came to mind so I went with it. Maybe this was because it was one of the times of day when I had no standing meetings any day of the week.
On 12 March, nine co-workers and friends joined a ten-minute silent reflection webinar hosted at MIT. I had found some relaxing music and offered a couple of practices people could use to sit still for a few minutes: attention on the breath, observing sensations, watching the mind as it babbles, etc. On the first day, we had nine, on the second, 12 on the third, 23. [email protected]:50 appeared to be a much-needed rest for many people around campus and beyond.
What I didn’t expect, was that I, or anyone else would be keeping this up long term. I thought at the time, that the disruptions might last a couple of months and we’d be back to normal. Instead, the disruptions have only multiplied.
We’ve been meeting ever since. Some days a few dozen people join and on other days many more. Webinar participants started inviting their friends and family members. [email protected]:50 got a companion site @2:50 and we started seeing people join from all over the world. As of this writing have regular attendees from many time zones. Some people claim it’s a great way to break up the afternoon, some that it’s a great quiet time before bed, and others join in their mornings to start the day. As of Nov 4, we have been silent together for over 90,000 person/minutes. November 4 marked the 239th consecutive day of meeting for ten minutes of quiet reflection.
I was, and continue to be, grateful to have the support of my direct supervisor and colleagues at the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics. While not part of our primary mission or work, I was told, “If it keeps me healthy, happy, and productive, we will support it.” An innovative mindset for sure. MIT IS&T, MIT Radius, MIT Communications, MIT ORSEL, and many individuals across MIT and the world have supported the project by joining, sharing to their networks, or offering to co-host. Finally, the core group of people who continue to show up day after day (or once in a while) to sit quietly together continue to inspire and motivate me, and each other.
There are many observations to be made about how this impromptu and ad hoc community formed and continues to grow and change. I will write more about it more soon. Suffice it to say that hosting the group is a welcomed, and now essential punctuation (and responsibility) in an otherwise highly uncertain time.