On Tuesday and Thursday evenings I take the kid to his Tai Kwon Do class. It’s a 1-hour class, so most days it’s easier to sit on the bleachers in the room than to go home and return.

The best part is the beginning of the class when the Master has everyone sit at attention. Then we close our eyes and breathe deeply. As we breathe she says,

“Empty your mind.”

“Open your heart.”

“Relax your body.”

I say “we”, though I am not in the class myself. Even in the bleachers, those 2 minutes are two of the most relaxing and pleasurable parts of my week.

In Tai Kwon Do, the movement of the class comes out of the stillness of those first moments of silence. The activity is predicated upon the stillness.

In the ancient Genesis story of creation “there is evening, and there is morning” that marks the passing of the days. The dark, the rest, the sleep, comes first. It’s a way of keeping time that continues in Jewish and Muslim observance of the Sabbath, sundown to sundown, to this day, and it’s a wisdom that informs the monastic practice of the hours.

In a world that is always “on”, it’s a constant temptation to forgo the rest, to burn the candle at both ends, to cram more into the hours, to caffinate. And yet, with the proper amount of sleep caffeine ought to be unnecessary.

In programming, there is pressure to go fast. But, as a rule, the more frantic the pace, the slower the progress. Yes, the work needs to get done. But shortcuts nearly always turn out to be long cuts — or death by a thousand cuts.

As I’ve been experimenting with the Pomodoro technique, I’ve noticed that at first I tend to get aggravated with the break periods. “What, a pause already?” But when I take them as prescribed, the work times are indeed more productive. And they fly by. My predilection for cramming is the old habit. The screen gone blank for five minutes is the rhythm of the rest restoring my sanity.

Be still. Breathe. Empty your mind. Open your heart. Relax your body. Give yourself a break — every 25 minutes, when possible.