LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates Smart Behavior


THE ART OF DOING NOTHING


Summertime...and the livin' is easy-or so the lyrics go. I rarely experience that the pace of my life changes very much because of a change in seasons. True there are more holiday parties in winter and, in the Pacific Northwest, the rain tempers my spring workouts when most activities take place indoors. Here in the Pacific Northwest, sunny weather signals a summer season of outdoor hikes, cycling, visitors, and trips to the Coast. In the autumn, as the days begin to shorten, there’s a flurry of outdoor activities before Halloween triggers a too early return of the holiday seasons. The activities may change, but life is busy year round

On the other hand, summer does lend itself to getaways and the potential for change of pace that can come from distancing yourself from that usual day-to-day routine.

As a member of a generation of over-achievers, who recently had a second pass at Mitch Albom's Tuesday's With Morrie, I found myself contemplating the art of attempting to savor life's simplest moments vs, a guilt-driven compulsion to "take care of business" before I allowed myself time to play. Instead of rushing around with a to do list Morrie urges a life of being, not doing, As ALS takes hold of his physical body his still active mind reminds the author, who is chronicling Morrie's thoughts, that in the flurry of doing we often forget the need to do little more than to love and to be loved. He reminds us that taking time-especially time that stirs our soul and rejuvenates our spirit (I think that's called recreation or re-creation) can include the art of "just sitting," or "just watching," or "just listening," or "just waiting," or...well, you fill in the blanks that remind you that even doing nothing can be done well.

Here are a few suggestions for simple pleasures that can fill the bill when someone suggests you make time to relax-to cultivate the seeds of serenity-to unwind for a few hours or days and let go of making something happen


  1. Seek higher consciousness. I'm referring to the art of being still, or meditating. You may be surprised to learn that the words meditating and medicine have the same root. Meditating, to me, is the active practice of quieting the mind. "How do you do that?" you ask? Although Zen masters may give the too simple response, "be here, now-sit still, clear your mind and wait," I believe meditation can take any form that brings you closer to your "true self." Before you abandon this suggestion as "too airy-fairy" consider these actions that may have you meditating without even know you're doing so. Think of those times when you were "in the zone"-when all seemed so right with the world you wanted to hold on to the moment. Perhaps it was a breather mid-hike, or the wind at your back as you cycled down a hill, or when you sat at the seaside and simply stared at the massive ocean. Paradoxically it's those times when I think, "I can't mediate" that it starts to work. It's the give-up of doing it right.
  2. Drop out. Ludicrous as it may sound, the best cure for feeling overwhelmed can be a timed ten or twenty minute escape that steals the extra time you need to get things done. This cultivated skill has always allowed me to resurface with a fresh outlook on life. I like knowing that I'm in the company of John F. Kennedy, Benjamin Franklin, Barbara Walters and Warren Buffet. All these individuals have written that dozing behind people's backs provided them with a distinct advantage when it came to getting things done. Sleep research affirms that outside inertia is a signal that the restorative powers of a body at rest are taking place.

Now your work begins. Close your eyes. Go back to a time when a parent appeared and asked, "What are you doing?" Your reply, "nothing" risked a warning to "Get busy." Today, as your risk the pleasure of doing nothing, don’t make jumping into the fray a priority. Instead, embrace the practice of "doing nothing" and enjoy some of the many pleasures Morrie Schwartz learned were more important to a satisfied life than completion of a lengthy to do list.

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LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates
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