Do Nothing

My mind and my soul have been having quite a battle lately. My soul wants me to relax, go with the flow, and trust that everything is working out perfectly. My mind, on the other hand, is being its usual rigid self…trying to figure things out, put together a plan, work towards a goal. I am caught in the middle.

I have been working toward one thing or another as long as I can remember. Like many of you, I come from the school of thought that encourages DOing. Our society rewards achievement, goal setting, and productivity. And I bought into it all…hook, line and sinker.

Then things changed.

In December I was laid off from my job. Fortunately (or so I thought) I had just completed training in September to become a life coach. So in December and January, along with the usual holiday festivities, I focused on getting my coaching practice up and running. It never occurred to me my mind and body might need a break. But by the end of January, I was done. Tapped out. For the first time in my life I stopped. And that scared the shit out of me.

All I could hear—from somewhere deep inside me–was “I don’t want to do anything.” But doing nothing wasn’t an option to me. Not moving towards something feels very uncomfortable. Anxiety kicked in and it was tempting keep moving…in any direction. But my soul was adamant. And I was really tired. So before I took off in hot pursuit of the next thing I thought I should be doing, I decided to take some time to listen…to that still, small voice within.

I started doing an exercise regularly that I learned from Abigail Steidley. Abigail is a Master Mind Body Coach who was also one of my instructors during life coach training. The exercise is called Drawing on your Inner Wisdom. Perfect, I thought. This will show me what I need to do and where I need to go next. I was on board.

It went a little bit like this:

Question: What should I do next?
What I meant: Please, please, please tell me what to do.
Answer: Trust. It’s all working out perfectly. You don’t have to force it. Just go with the flow. Relax. Let things happen.

Question: Should I enter a writing contest?
What I meant: Is this it?
Answer: Do nothing. Now isn’t the time. This is the time to rest. There are better opportunities for you down the road. Let it be right now.

Question: What will I do for work?
What I meant: I need a direction here.
Answer: Relax. It’s not time for that yet. Just be. What are you in such a hurry for? It’s okay to do nothing. Stop fighting the healing process. Just let it be.

Question: Should I contact an old love?
What I meant: I need something to distract me from not knowing what I’m doing.
Answer: Wait. It’s not time yet. Be patient. You’ll see the purpose later. Take care of yourself. You’re not ready for this right now.

Each time I did the exercise I asked a slightly different question, but the answer was basically the same…do nothing.

If you know me you know that Do Nothing isn’t really in my vocabulary. Even during times when I don’t appear to be doing anything physically, I am typically doing a lot mentally; thinking, analyzing, trying to figure things out. The idea of doing none of that is pretty foreign to me.

Then the other day, during my meditation, I had the following conversation with myself. Yes, I realize I talk to myself a lot. Probably because I spend the majority of my time alone and also because I’m an introvert. Are you saying you don’t talk to yourself? Well, then one of us is just weird. I’ll let you guess which one. Anyway, back to the meditation:

Me: So…I’ve been doing nothing. Now what?
Soul: silence
Me: Seriously…what’s next?
Soul: That’s it…do nothing.
Me: You gotta be kidding me! For how long?
Soul: As long as it takes.
Me: sigh

Ok, I’m a lousy liar. Truthfully I didn’t really sigh at the end. I said fuck! But sighing seemed softer, more ladylike, more appropriate. You shouldn’t swear at your soul, right? But, seriously…fuck!

I really thought I was on this path to figure shit out so I could get on with my life. Doing nothing wasn’t part of the plan. And yet, here I am…

So I’m doing the only thing I can. You guessed it. Nothing.

I’ve realized the key is, as with anything, to not resist it or think it should be any different. It’s not easy and I go in and out of resistance depending on the day, hour, minute. When that happens, I gently (or sometimes not so gently) remind myself…it’s okay to do nothing.

What’s on the other side of all this nothingness? I have no idea. And that’s not really the point. The purpose for me is to let go of my need to control, force, or make anything happen. A little at a time. Each and every day.

……………

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Mother Nature Knows Best: Learning to Unplug

IMG_0848I wrote this back in January when we had a crazy ice storm that knocked out the power for four long, cold days. I took the time to describe that experience, but for some reason, never posted it. My guess is, the power came back on and just like that, the crazy pace of my life was back. Ironic really, considering what’s happened since this day. But we’ll leave that for another post. While it seems a little strange to talk about an ice storm just as summer has arrived, the underlying message is as pertinent as ever. So dust off your imagination, turn up the air conditioner (if you have it) and pretend it’s the dead of winter. C’mon…work with me here!

January 22, 2012

The last few months have been crazy…insane, really. Working 10, 12 hours or more a day to still feel behind is depressing at best. Being without power for the last four days has not been easy. But it has its upside. There were a number of things I did that I might not otherwise have made the time for given the choice. I did realize how completely dependent we’ve become on our electronics. And how we seem utterly unable to entertain ourselves without them. I know the panic I felt when I couldn’t work…knowing I was expected to. I almost couldn’t enjoy that first day because it felt so stressful. But looking back it feels like the best thing that could’ve happened.

I spent Thursday afternoon just hanging out with Kyle. We played Mouse Trap, which he did not enjoy. We threw the Nerf football around the house. Well, really he mostly threw it at me when I wasn’t looking then laughed at me when I didn’t catch it. That seemed to be entertaining for him at least. I found a mini Frisbee I didn’t know I had and we played with that for a while. We made dinner on the BBQ so we could have something warm to eat. We watched a movie on the remaining battery power of the laptop. Then camped out in the living room in front of the fire.  While it was frustrating trying to entertain a 14 year old with no electricity, all in all, it was some of the nicest time we’ve had together in a while. I couldn’t work and he couldn’t play video games. We had to interact.

Friday we found out my mom had power at her office so we packed up and spent the day there. Kyle got to play his video game and I got some work done. But we were in the same room together at least…and we were warm! I got to visit some with my mom and my uncle, who also happened to be at her office that day. I don’t remember the last time I saw my uncle. And other than the holiday, I haven’t spent that much time with my mom in a long time. I’m ashamed to admit we’re both so busy with work, we don’t make the time for much else.

Saturday Kyle went to his dad’s and I spent more time with my mom as we worked and visited in her office. That night there was more camping out in the living room with Mitch and Celeste. Hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps made by boiling water on the BBQ. S’mores in the fireplace. All things I could do any time, but don’t. Not having power forced me out of my normal routine into something slower, more deliberate, more thoughtful.

As I sit here watching the battery on my laptop slowly die, it occurs to me I’m not sure I want the power back. I mean, of course I miss being warm in my own home and not worrying about keeping the food cold in the fridge. I have become very attached to my modern life. But I am also loving the slowness. The quietness. The stillness. When you can’t do much, it forces you to rethink things. To question what you’re doing and why. And I’ll admit I haven’t done much of that in the last year. I’ve been going so hard and fast, I hadn’t realize I’d lost the ability to slow down and enjoy it. It just hit me that for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel anxious, worried, in a hurry. And even though I’m sitting in front of my fireplace all bundled up, it feels nice. I can think again, enjoy things, breath.

So thank you Mother Nature! For forcing me to do what I wouldn’t do myself. And for reminding me of my true nature. Do I want my heat back? Of course I do. But am I dreading that fast paced life I’m used to living? I am. While I wish I could say I’ve learned my lesson and I’ll never go back to that harried life again, I know that’s not really true. But I hope I can hold onto the feeling the last few days has given me. And remember that the beauty of life is not in the busyness, the running, the doing. It’s in those still, small moments when time seems to stand still. When I can’t do anything else except notice how wonderful it is to just be.