Category Archives: Rest

The Art of Doing Nothing

I am self-employed.  Like many self-employed people, I have a couple part-time jobs to keep things flowing when I’m not writing or painting.  Today is one of those wonderful days when no other jobs or responsibilities are pulling at me.  My schedule is blessedly free.

I have been looking forward to a day like this so that I can get caught up—on revising my book, painting a new painting, making some necessary phone calls, etc.  There’s quite a list.  And yet I find myself completely uninspired.

I finally took myself outside to the deck for a couple minutes.  I journaled about how I was feeling.  Do I analyze my resistance?  Push through it?  Or do I honor it?

My energy was so low that I decided to simply honor this resistance and not do anything at all.

What a concept!  How often do we, in this often very frenzied culture, allow ourselves to do nothing?

I sat in a deck chair, resting my feet on a rail, one foot propped on another.  And I didn’t do anything.

I did casually notice the lovely trees surrounding me.  I noticed the blue sky and the warm sun.  I was aware of the sound of the stream softly flowing about a hundred yards away.  But other than that, I did nothing.  I was in a total yin place.  My yang had gone on vacation.

It was blissful.

I used to live about an hour and a half away from the shore.  Like many of my friends and neighbors, I would visit the shore a couple times a year.  There is absolutely nothing so relaxing as lying on a large towel on the beach, the sun shining down upon you, and the sounds of the surf rocking you to sleep.

Well, now I live a little over a thousand miles away from the nearest shore.  It’s not quite so easy to just jump in a car and get to the nearest sea.  But I discovered today that sitting out on the deck is actually pretty darn nice.

I can wear whatever I want (or don’t want, as the case may be), have a glass of whatever I want by my side,  and let the rays of the sun caress my body. Then, if I get too hot, I can simply move into the shade.

Suffice it to say, “doing nothing” necessitates me leaving the cell phone inside.  Far away.

This is what our dogs and cats do all the time.  Not to mention lizards, snakes, lions, and other animals.  Why do we humans feel we don’t deserve the same consideration?  Why do we only let ourselves do this relaxing thing if we’re on vacation or retired or at the end of a very busy day?  (And many of us have trouble doing it even then!)

I suspect I sat outside for only about half an hour.  But it restored and revived me.  (Look!  I found the inspiration to write!)

One night, about fifteen years ago, I had an incredible dream.  In this dream my body was guided to wherever it needed to go and whatever it needed to do.  I didn’t have to consciously make decisions, I had only to wait until the guidance kicked in.

It was an exquisite dream.  When I was coming to wakefulness I found myself worrying that I’d never be able to sustain that sweet feeling.  But it turned out, for at least that one morning, I could.  I simply allowed myself to do or not do whatever my body did or did not want to do.  And it was a delicious feeling.

Of course I know that many of us do not have this luxury much of the time.  But the truth is we could allow ourselves the luxury of doing nothing more often if we chose.  We don’t have to make ourselves a slave to “getting things done” all the time, every hour of the day.  We could allow ourselves more time on the deck, the sofa, a hammock, or the bed if we chose.

And if our current lifestyle and schedule do not allow for this kind of relaxation, might it not be time for a little restructuring?

Blessed be, everyone.  Enjoy some totally non-productive time  today “just being.”  You are enough.


Winter’s Solstice, Winter’s Rest

November 2014 127

Today is the Solstice.  Tonight is the longest night of the year.

Do you like the nighttime?  Do you enjoy sleeping and dreaming?  Or do you resist it?  Do you like to spend time musing, daydreaming, reflecting, conjuring ideas, mulling things over?

I suspect if you grew up in any of the industrialized countries of this world, even reading the list “musing, daydreaming…” stirred up feelings of guilt or discomfort or maybe even disgust.  We certainly don’t seem to value these ways of using our time.

Who among us does not recall a teacher scolding a student for daydreaming, for being distracted?  Have any of us had parents who encouraged us to lie in bed or lollygag in a field and simply think, watch clouds, dream?  The very idea is almost laughable.

By and large we live in a yang world.  Yang to the max.  We respect the energies associated with the masculine, with the left brain, with the mind.  We do not honor the feminine, the more inward processes, the heart, the intuition, the creative juices associated with art, music, storytelling.  No, we teach people – both overtly and covertly – to achieve, to go go go, to think rationally, to DO.

But this is not a yang time of year.  Winter is a time for going within.  Where I live in Colorado, there are more than fourteen hours of darkness today.  This amount of nighttime invites us to sleep longer, to nestle into warm blankets, to turn off alarms and sink deeper into our dreams.

Of course many of us have jobs that don’t allow for that kind of indulgence.  But what if our world did allow us to hibernate more in the winter?  What if we all had shorter work hours in the winter?  What if, like our ancestors, we realized the harvest was in and it was not yet time for planting?  What if we gave ourselves permission to rest more during the winter?  Do you recognize how valuable that could be?

Here is what I see happening if we structured our world in such a way that we allowed more rest in the winter:

  • We’d feel less stress.
  • Both our bodies and our minds would have time to restore themselves.
  • We’d have more time to reflect on our lives and our world.  Are we happy with the direction we’re going in?  Do we like our lives?  What about this world we live in?  Is it acceptable the way it is?  What would we do differently if we could?
  • There would be less chance of us catapulting into a direction that was unwise.   If our go, go, go energy were allowed to shift into a rest, rest, rest energy, there would be time to evaluate whether or not the actions we were taking during the rest of the year were wise.
  • During this time of darkness and dreaming, new ideas would be born.
  • There would be a natural rising of energy as the daylight hours increased.  We might not have to force ourselves to become energized with caffeine or alarm clocks or whatever.  With the natural shifting of seasons, our bodies would naturally respond differently.  When the sun would start to rise earlier in the day, our bodies would be more eager to be awake.  (This would be true only if we truly allowed them more rest in the winter, of course.)

Does reading about this cause you to sigh with a feeling of wistfulness?  Oh, if only….  If only we had a saner schedule like this.  Can’t you see the world become a bit saner if we simply gave ourselves permission to dial back a little for a few months out of the year?

Maybe your boss will not be receptive to you cutting back your workday, but can you at least consider going to bed earlier?  Let your body get more rest.  For goodness sake (and for your health’s sake) don’t wait until the 11:00 news or the David Letterman Show to go to bed.  Can you recognize that perhaps you are tired earlier than that?  At the first hint of tiredness, tuck yourself in.  See what happens when you allow yourself more sleep, more dreaming, more rest.

It just may change your world.