off the grid

August 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Doing nothing is not easy to do. Going from being busy to doing nothing can feel as precarious as going full stop on a highway when everyone else is speeding along around you. It’s better to find some safe place to pull off.

For me, this week came down to learning how to be present in the moment, to taming my distractions. It’s amazing how much of our attention goes to things that have either already happened or have yet to happen. We don’t often just enjoy the moment we’re in. I tried a lot of tactics to slow down and be in the moment over the last week.

1) Chop! I’m not someone who can just sit and do absolutely nothing all day, so I found things that kept my hands busy but still had a “nothingness” to them. I spent a wonderful afternoon taking a slow drive out to a farm in the countryside, getting fresh vegetables and taking my time chopping them up in the front yard to make the delicious ratatouille from vegetarian week.
2) Breathing. Sometimes we forget to breathe. Every time I would feel myself speeding up again I would take 10 slow, deep breaths to regain control again.
3) “Soften my gaze”. My hardest problem is keeping my brain from bouncing from one thought to another. I think too much. In yoga, when you’re holding a difficult pose you’re told to “soften your gaze”, relax your face & thoughts. It’s a way of being aware of how you’re struggling and trying to calm it. When I start noticing I’m worrying or my thoughts are flitting all over, I stop and look at something around me, soften my gaze and just slowly push the thoughts away. Gazing at clouds can be very helpful.
4) Go camping. Sometimes you just have to go where you can’t be bothered. My husband and I spent a night off the grid at the Arapaho Bay campground near Lake Granby. No cell phone pings. No email alerts. No working or worrying. I didn’t even need 10 deep breaths; they came naturally with the fresh air.

We replaced the normal distractions with the sounds of the waves against the shore, the smell of the campfires and the vistas of the late afternoon sun illuminating the wildflowers. It becomes much easier to do nothing with the help of the great outdoors.

Camping also provides the ultimate “nothingness” experiment: the art of roasting a marshmallow. Your hope of mastering the art of doing nothing all comes down to a marshmallow. Do you torch your marshmallow into charred carbon or do you have the Zen-like patience to get it just right?
My husband is obviously still fighting his busyness.

A different momentum

August 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

We’ve become like sharks. It’s as though our very life depends on being in constant motion. Slowing down means missing out. Stepping away means giving up precious ground you’ve cultivated. We don’t like breaking the enchanted momentum of our busyness. God forbid if we step away too long, even for a week-long vacation. The world would forget about us.

I’ve stepped away for awhile now and at times I’ve really struggled with the loss of momentum I feel. I miss the feeling of working towards building a career in something.  At times I miss working in an office. Work is one of the easiest ways to stay busy without having to think much about it. You’re always working towards something. It’s structured. It’s easy to head to work, follow the flow and call it a day without having to think about how you should be spending your time. It feels like you’re always moving forward in some way.

I just got to a place where I wasn’t interested in furthering my career in advertising, so what do I do with that momentum I felt? What do I replace it with? What am I supposed to be doing now?

Complete freedom can easily deteriorate into complete boredom. It’s up to me to be determining what I should be doing now. I set my own agenda, determine how the day plays out and make it happen on my own. I haven’t figure out what that momentum should look like yet. I’ve wanted it to feel the same as it used to even though it’s a different situation. I haven’t stopped to ask myself how it could be different now and still feel as fulfilling as that work momentum used to.

Part of doing nothing this week is about finally put that old momentum to rest. I’m going to let things lie for a bit without putting any pressure on it. I’m going to let myself stop so I can look around and start to see where I can build a different momentum.



August 15, 2011 § 8 Comments

“Busy” used to be how I summed up my life.

“What are you up to?”
– “You know. Busy as usual.”

“What have you been up to?”
– “I’ve just been really busy lately”

“It’s been awhile since we’ve hung out.”
– “I know. I’m sorry; I’ve just been really busy.”

I didn’t like this busy person anymore after a point. When I wasn’t busy living, breathing and dreaming about work, I was busy being tired from it. I missed my life. I had finally found the person I wanted to build a life with but I was too pre-occupied to really enjoy that life together.

I was paying my dues building a career in advertising. I was making good money. I was getting to play a part in the success of Apple during some of its greatest achievements. I was truly lucky and grateful for the opportunity I had but it was just a bunch of busyness at the end of the day.

This year is about giving myself a break. I’ve taken my time back. I look back at the past 32 weeks and can’t believe how much I’ve done compared to the past 10 combined. I’ve been able to convince myself  rationally that I’ve earned the break but I still battle the guilty feeling of not working.  I feel guilty about not making money. I feel guilty when everyone else goes to work on Mondays. I feel guilty not knowing really what to say when people ask me what I do. I’ve taken back my time, but I still haven’t brought my brain back from wanting to live in the familiar land of busyness.

It’s like I’ve been running in a race so long I can’t bear the idea of pulling back from the pack and admitting I’m not really interested in running the same race anymore.

This week I’m going full stop. I’m going to do nothing. I’m going to enjoy not working.  I’m going to stop worrying about what I’m going to do next. I’m going to give myself license to enjoy this unique opportunity I have and quit feeling guilty about it.

Step One? How does one go about starting doing nothing?

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