There’s been a bit of a theme in this blog over the past few months… about slowing down, lowering the expectations I put on myself and letting go of a ‘need to achieve’…
The circumstances that were forced upon us in March induced a much steadier pace of life and a re-organisation of priorities, all of which has undoubtedly been beneficial to my health and general well-being. It’s interesting to notice then how all this went out the window once we started getting busy again with work!!
Around mid-June new enquiries for furniture started flooding in… There was a nationwide surge to get businesses back up and running again, and many people seemed to have a sudden interest in improving their homes… most likely due to spending the previous three months staring at the same four walls! It was great to have work but the sudden change gave my little brain a bit of a wobble… For a while I felt torn between slipping back into my old habits of ‘busyness’ and to-do lists, and badly wanting to just sit in the garden and watch the birds. I found it really hard to focus on work, struggled to find a balanced routine and started micro-managing my time only to feel disappointed with how little I seemed to ‘achieve’. It was time to have a little word with myself!
In my last post I wrote about my experiment of going ‘gadget free‘ for a day, and one of the key things I noticed was an inherent urge to fill every moment of the day with something productive… I was uncomfortable with the gaps between one task and another, and needed to fill them. I realised that picking up my phone and checking something – whether that be email, social media or the weather! – was my ‘go-to’ response when I felt this discomfort. But why this resistance to simply doing nothing?
Some of the habits I’ve nurtured over the past six months, such as regular meditation and journaling, walking and observing nature, have allowed me precious time to also notice what’s going on in my body and mind. I’m learning, albeit slowly, the importance of making space for these quiet times in order to work through my uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and sometimes pain. Modern life has conditioned us to behave in a way which goes against our innate nature…. generally speaking we don’t have these anxieties and fears when we’re born – they are learnt. These irrational ‘triggers’ are different for each of us… turns out one of mine is that I often feel guilty for doing things just for myself; things that are without any purpose other than the simple joy of it.
While we were in lockdown it was easy to spend my days gardening or reading, and looking after my own well-being… the restrictions and changes meant that, yes life was uncertain, but there were also less demands on my time. It was ok to lose an hour watching the birds. Once back into work mode however, I started feeling the guilt again. The truth is though, that we need these moments of joy in our lives… if for no other reason than to balance out the stresses and fears. We need to press the pause button on a regular basis and really notice what’s going on inside of us.
Leo Babauta of Zen Habits calls it True Rest! How often do we settle down after work, or take a lunch break, only to start browsing social media, replying to messages or streaming videos on YouTube? We tell ourselves that we’re taking a break but we don’t feel refreshed… on the contrary this online activity can often leave us feeling more drained. Our minds are overwhelmed with information overload. I know when I’ve been doing this because I get a fuzzy, confused feeling in my head as it jumps around all over the place. I know I need to switch off but the discomfort urges me to keep scrolling…
True rest on the other hand makes us feel alive, we feel joy and wonder at the world around us and a sense of peace… or some call it ‘flow’… either way it’s a feeling that everything is as it should be in that one perfect moment. For me, true rest comes from any activity in which I can become totally absorbed… my mind is clear, free from distractions and focused on the one thing I’m doing. That may be gardening, something creative or playing my guitar. Also when I’m out walking I’m usually looking for birds, noticing flowers, trying to get a photo of a particular butterfly… I’m completely present in that moment and nothing else matters… for a little while at least!
For some people true rest may come from exercise, dancing, reading or baking… take a moment to think about your favourite activities and how they make you feel. Do you give them your full attention or are you distracted by worries, doubts and to-do lists?
Can you sit and watch the world go by without thinking about the past or worrying about the future?
So ‘The Art of Doing Nothing’ is not about wasting time, procrastinating or having a pyjama day… it is purposefully doing ‘nothing’ – or something! – as a means of well-being. It is a ‘state of being’ when you are so blissfully enjoying the moment that you are not looking for anything else. How often do you feel this way?
This blog post is very much a reminder to myself that, not only is it ok to take things slowly, it’s essential for my well-being that I take the time to truly rest. I hope it has been useful to others too and would love to hear your thoughts.
I’m working towards putting together some mindfulness resources to complement my reiki practice, so it would be really helpful to know what sort of things you struggle with, or maybe need some help with.
Until next time….