Category Archives: Retreat

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.


The Gift of Going Away

The Gift of Going Away     

December 2012



I’ve been away from home for about three weeks.  I suppose most people think I’ve been on vacation.  In truth it’s been a little bit of vacation, a little bit of work, a lot of visiting with long-lost friends, a lot of being on retreat, and (here comes the secret part) quite a lot of scoping out a future place to live.


On this particular trip I was planning on visiting my friends Heidi and Ken in Colorado Springs, and Lauri and a few miscellaneous others in the Santa Fe area.  I had met Lauri back in Pennsylvania when she had contacted me about officiating at her wedding.  As fate would have it, a couple years later, she realized her heart was calling her to return to Santa Fe.  The timing was excellent for me because Lauri graciously and warmly welcomed me to stay at her home in Santa Fe.  That was blessing enough, but then, as it so happens (perhaps divine orchestration?), Lauri was offered a pet-sitting job she didn’t feel she could turn down.  It required her to spend large portions of the day and every night in another location.  The result was I had her home to myself for most of the week that I was there!  And because I didn’t have a car with me, I was there alone a lot (except for the seven animals!)  It was an exceedingly peaceful week.  I had been more exhausted than I realized living in my parents’ home and helping with their care.  This week at Lauri’s was a balm for my soul.


I recommend this “going away” thing.  Something happens when we’re away from our ordinary responsibilities.  We find ourselves thinking about those things we may not have much time to think about when we’re immersed in the day-to-day minutia that make up our lives.  We find ourselves thinking about what we want our life to be like.  We find ourselves seeing things from new perspectives.  We find out, if we’re lucky, what is most important in our lives.  We get to have a little bit more fun.  And usually (unless you’re one of those folks who have relentless itineraries – not me!!!), you get a bit more caught up on sleep!  This is a good thing in this busy world we live in!


For those who are grieving, going away gives the time and space to be with whatever feelings may arise.  For those who are tired, going away can give space for a lot of rest and sleep.  For those who need more clarity in their lives, going away can provide the time for meditation, reflection, and the idle time which allows us better access to that still, small voice within.


If you can find a way to go away and relax, it may be an exceptionally wonderful thing.  We all need a bit of yin with our yang!  (Inner contemplative receptive time as contrasted with outward, busy, other-oriented activity.)


So what have I learned this trip?

  1. I have received confirmation that my soul really does resonate with the southwest.  I truly love the mountains and the open sky, the rocks and the red earth.  I love the culture and the traditions.  I love the spirit of the people.
  2. I’ve learned it was not my imagination or a tendency to romanticize things from the past: Santa Fe really is a very special city.  It is truly unique.  (It is nicknamed “The City Different.”)
  3. I’ve learned how much I love animals.  I have now met and become friends with ten animals this trip!  I want more animals in my life.
  4. I’ve learned what kind of home I most love to be in.  (Lots of light is essential to me!!!  Views are important to me.  A calming aesthetic is important to me. Access to Nature is vital to me.)
  5. I’ve learned that when I can get along with a friend after a whole week of spending time together, that is a very good thing.  And I succeeded twice!
  6. I’ve learned, once again, that I need to balance out my “people time” with alone time.  Alone time becomes more and more essential the older I get.
  7. I’ve relearned how essential it is for me to get out in Nature.  And I’ve learned that prayers said or sung outside are especially meaningful to me and leave me feeling rather ecstatic.
  8. I’ve learned that doing a morning ritual helps me to feel more grounded and centered throughout the day, and is especially essential if I’m spending a lot of time with other people.
  9. I’ve learned that coffeehouses can be a great place to meet people.
  10. I’ve discovered some avenues for possible future learning experiences:  a) become a spiritual director, and/or b) join a teacher/friend/class to visit and learn about the ancient cave paintings in France.  I think there is something very important there for me to learn about and experience.
  11. I learned that I can communicate in Spanish if I don’t get so perfectionistic that I clam up.  It’s important for me to step beyond my fears, inhibitions, and limitations and just communicate in good faith.  The important thing is to connect!
  12. The bus that I traveled on from Santa Fe to Colorado City was a company that specializes in affordable transportation for Mexican Americans.  I found that most of the passengers were warm and friendly with me – even though I was, I believe, the only gringo on the bus.  It makes me want to go to Mexico or another Spanish-speaking country.  I like warm, friendly people!
  13. I’ve learned that I enjoy traveling and I enjoy having a home to snuggle into.  Both are important to me.   I want both!
  14. And did I mention I got a lot more sleep?  Ahhh.  I needed it!!! Everything looks better when one is well-rested.
  15. I learned that my longing to return to the southwest has not abated.  There is something about the land and sky here that makes my heart sing.


That’s a good amount of learning for a couple of weeks away, don’t you think?


What I wish for you is that you each find time away from time to time.  Sometimes even a few hours at a park can do the trick.  But other times, we benefit from a longer retreat.  Most of us work way too hard.  Most of us are way too busy.  Let’s allow ourselves more downtime!  Let’s retreat more often.



Blessed be, everyone.  Blessed be.