When was the last time that you stood still and did absolutely, positively nothing? When I say “nothing,” I mean it: no talking, no reading, no surfing the web, no mental planning and prepping and worrying.
If you had asked me a week ago, I’m not sure I could have thought of an answer. Oh, sure, every once in a while I’ll head to the beach or relax on the deck to catch a few rays. On occasion, I’ve even been known to venture outside at night, sip hot chocolate, and stargaze, but those occasions are far and few between.
On a normal basis, I think I operate like most people: I spend my days doing. I measure my life by the number of items I can check off the daily to-do list, by the words I am able to write, by the assignments I grade for the day job, hell, even by the achievements I can accrue in my favorite video games. Real, true stillness is something that doesn’t exist in my vocabulary.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been living in warp speed: defending my MA thesis, grading wave after wave of papers, weathering finals week and the end of the quarter, followed by glutting myself on fun and games and sightseeing over spring break and the start of the new quarter. I had one day of psuedo-downtime planned for myself — a Monday that would be “catch-up” day to tackle email, reading for class, and some writing if I was lucky — but I never quite made it that far. My body, it seems, had other ideas.
My tumble off-the-grid was completely unintentional, the byproduct of a short, but nasty, bout with food poisoning. It didn’t seem so bad at first. Yeah, okay, there was the expected nausea and dizziness, but it sorta felt like a migraine, and I’ve worked through those before. But oh, ohhhh. It just got worse.
The thing is, I don’t do sick. I refuse to let most colds keep me down, pushing my way past them to at least read or write or tackle something. I thought I might be able to do the same with this. Like, maybe if I just showered and brushed my teeth, I’d be good as new. Right?
There was nausea and dizziness if I so much as lifted my head from the pillow. There were intense muscle aches and chills just from breathing, it seemed. And of course, there were the *other* symptoms brought on by my body’s attempts to rid itself of the yuckiness. Blech.
So, no, I couldn’t read for class, and I couldn’t “relax” by playing video games, at least for the first couple of days. Listening to music became too much for me to handle, and ditto on watching television.
Instead, I sat (or, rather, huddled) in bed. I did absolutely nothing, not by choice, but because I really couldn’t… and it was actually an amazing experience, if we ignore the whole “being miserable” part. For three days, I let myself just be, allowed my body to recuperate and repair itself, and let go of all the stress and worry that had been plaguing me.
It is striking for me to realize that the only time I give myself permission to “indulge” in the joys of stillness is when I’m too sick to function, and I get the feeling that I’m not the only one. It doesn’t seem fair, really. We spend so much of our time doing for others, and it’s so easy to let ourselves fall by the wayside.
What would it be like if we took even a little time out of each day to recharge and wallow in laziness? Just 10 or 20 minutes to be quiet and tranquil, to turn off the computer and television and radio (yes, sometimes I run all 3 at the same time) and just let our minds wander? We’d be healthier for it, I think, and maybe even have a chance to savor all of the joys that we have a little more deeply.
What do you do to recharge and regroup? What are your favorite places or times of the day to practice stillness?