Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Art of Doing Nothing

By Cheryl Oreglia

“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day,” A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

I have been living under flagrantly false assumptions my entire life. I do not know how in tarnation this happened? And to make matters worse I discovered this inanity by accident. I know, I’d call my Mother and rant, but that’s not possible. Is it really a revelation if you don’t share it?

I didn’t think so, so I wrote it all down, you’re welcome.

The truth is I’m a natural sloth who has been sipping the Kool~Aid of wonks for far too long. Slothing has a bad wrap and I’m here to repackage this preposterous vilification. People can be so judgmental. If you don’t want to feel guilty every time you put your damn feet up then please read on…

I’ve been running at breakneck speeds for nearly half a century trying to keep up with the Jones whom I barely know? If this pandemic has taught me a thing or two; it’s one, I’m not a shark, and I won’t die if I stop all motion, and two, the Jones, who have never invited me to dinner, have way too much influence on our cultural expectations. During this perpetual lockdown I found time to be a gift, as in the present moment, the one I’m standing in, and by the way, time could care less if I’m mopping the floor or being a sloth.

I’m going to ask you to do something rather uncomfortable, stop with the whining, it’s not like I’m asking for money.

For experiential purposes, you’ll need to reposition yourself before reading any further, it’s pivotal, so don’t skip this part, because you may think God is not watching, but she is, and your collaboration has been noted.

Idleness is not the root of all evil as the Jones would have you think, it is the fertilizer, which is required if one wishes to bloom properly.

It’s imperative that the cognitive part of your person be aligned with your body, so find a lounge chair, a bed, the floor, and maybe a couple of pillows to elevate your feet. If possible your eyes should be below the navel level when standing. Shoes off obviously. A blanket is essential, earplugs, and you can repurpose your face mask to shelter your eyes. Send me a pic because I know your phone is within arm's reach.

Personally, I like a cup of coffee no further than eight inches from my nose, that’s just me, consider that optional.

This is called lounging, it takes a few minutes for you to return to your senses, don’t rush the process. Stay put until your thoughts settle down, your brain chills, and you are no longer cognizant of the chatter going on around you. Remember to breathe, we inhale and exhale the same way we remember and forget.

And please ignore any despairing comments about your comportment, stay the course, those people are under the influence of the Jones (you’ve heard of Jonestown), and not of their right mind.

After a half-hour or so you’ll stop noticing the dusty baseboards, suspicious stains on the carpet, and dead flies under the coffee table. You’ll be tempted to get up and grab a dust rag, resist like a Ginsburg, dust does not expire.

This is harder than it looks, you have to wear down your restlessness, consider this a well-deserved sabbatical. I read that Albert Einstein pondered the riddle of the universe with a cat on his lap. And wasn’t Isaac Newton sitting under a tree when he came up with the law of universal gravitation. I mean with your ass anchored to the ground it seems elementary but it was clever.

We can’t solve problems we haven’t yet identified, and if you find yourself meditating on the nature of textured walls, stay prone, this is critical, God only knows what issues you’ll resolve.

We all know someone who likes nothing better than to check things off their to-do list, tag the finish line, complete a task, or they feel out of sorts, stifled, suppressed. It’s ridiculous and I’m determined to help you with the initial readjustments. Henry David Thoreau says, “disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.”

Let’s talk procrastination because if you think your investments are profitable, procrastination will give you staggering results. For one, procrastination is innate. “It is an invisible force that drives rivers into serpentine patterns, underwater currents into sinuous paths, jet streams into winding courses – and you and me into a rambling mode,” says V. Vienne.

Let your mind meander, it’s like eating the forbidden fruit, I’m talking the biblical kind, but you don’t have to worry about your nakedness. Think about the way rivers meander throughout the land, we don’t know why, but they take us places we never thought we would go. Think Huckleberry Finn, “we said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.”

Another thing, do not schedule your idleness, then it just becomes another obligation. Be spontaneous with your play. We’ve been sheltering in place for the better part of a year, if you haven’t figured out how to be a vagabond at home, then you’re missing out. Seriously.

It is perfectly fine to abandon activities midstream, don’t get all sanguine about it, just walk away. I do this all the time, as I’m organizing the bananas in the fruit bin, I find myself drawn to the window that’s streaked with three years of life, I shrug, throw some dishcloths on the hardwood and skate up and down the hall to music from the ’60s, ten minutes later I’m hunting for lost silverware, when I stumble on a drawer of maps and decide to alphabetize them. Maybe I’ll call my sister, she’s working, and likes to be disrupted.

I have it on good authority that an hour of procrastination is equivalent to an hour at the gym. It’s the resistant training that makes all the difference. Get it?

You can strengthen your resolve to remain idle by looking at something that needs attending to, a sink full of dishes is my lifelong nemesis, feel the tension build as you ignore the impulse to amend the situation, fight it, grab a bowl of pistachios if you need support. After a few weeks, you’ll be amazed at the fortitude of your resistance, not to mention the increased finger dexterity, and fiber consumption. There’s the bloom.

Remember when you were a kid, and the backyard was your universe, sometimes I was a mermaid stranded on a raft, or I’d chase my thoughts up the magnolia tree and pretend I was a cat, maybe give my baby doll a new hair cut. Rest is not idleness, and to lie on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time says John Lubbock.

Eventually, my Mom would come out and ask, “what are you doing?”

I’d respond, “nothing Mom,” and this used to be good news.

Don’t let the feudal establishment deter you, there is more to happiness than rigid schedules, impressive resumes, and a fat paycheck (well maybe that).

For most of us “not doing” is just about the most difficult thing one could ask of you. We’ve been searching for that elusive something that remains just out of reach because the Jones keep moving the damn target.

Maybe we’ve been wrongly informed about the purpose of life?

Most spiritual leaders claim peace of mind is the ultimate goal and apparently it’s always attainable. Jesus described it as prayer, Muhammad preached submission, Buddha suggested detachment, but all encouraged contemplative practices, avoiding secular seductions, and cycles of cravings. They can’t all be wrong?

Consciousness is not a state of doing but a state of being claims V. Vienne. The charade is over, I will never be a perfect being, and counting my mishaps is counterproductive, but while I was relaxing I discovered that unexceptional is extraordinary enough. Maybe it’s high time we recapture our penchant for idleness, stop labeling everything we do and revel in the art of doing nothing.

How are you managing the isolation? Join me in the comments! 

When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, drop in anytime. 


Phronk said...

This post was so inspiring that right in the middle of it, I stopped reading and did nothing for a while. (Don't worry, I came back).

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Bahaha, this makes me inordinately happy Phronk to have assisted with you inertia! Here’s to serious slothiness! Thanks for the comment, all my best, C

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