I am lucky enough to be writing from my in-laws’ home on the sunny island of Sanibel in Florida. (A lot more sunny than the "island" I live on this time of year.)
When I go from New York City to—well, to nearly anywhere—but especially to a Floridian island, it draws my attention to the pace of life in the city in which I live. I enjoy New York life, but could go without the constant honking. Sometimes, I long to ask the driver who’s incessantly lying on their horn:
Where are you going?
(Cue Dave Matthews.) But, really, not just where are you going right now but: where are you going long term? The answer is obvious, and yet, we seem to forget it constantly. You have so much in common with the person you’re honking at, yelling at, annoyed by, pissed at, etc. You share the greatest commonality of all: in seventy years, more or less, you'll both be dead.
Maybe that sounds too morbid for a Monday (sorry!), but also, I don't really see it as such. I think of it as a recalibration toward what really matters in life. And what doesn't matter is road rage.
I've been thumbing through Meditations by Marcus Aurelius lately, a book I highly recommend especially if you're interested in gaining some perspective on how to approach the transience of life, and was recently moved to write down this quote and hang it up in my apartment:
"If you seek tranquility, do less."
Doing less can be the hardest thing for us to do. There was a case study years ago that analyzed soccer goalkeepers on penalty kicks, that proved the keepers had an action bias. They were way more likely to jump to the right or the left during a penalty kick, even though statistically they were way more likely to make the save if they just stayed in the center of the goal. (You can Google 'Goalkeeper action bias' if you want more info.)
The core idea is this: we are so worried about the perception of not doing anything we often jump into action even when we'd be better off doing less, or maybe doing nothing. But why do we fear doing nothing? We seem to have so much mental baggage associated with "doing nothing"—so much of our self-worth wrapped up in our perceived productivity.
So what I started doing in my own life is I no longer think of doing nothing as doing nothing. I think of doing nothing as practicing the art of non-doing. :) I know that sentence maybe makes me sound insane, but I first started contemplating non-doing when reading the Tao Te Ching, since non-doing (wu wei) is a core tenant of Taoism. The idea is when you master the art of non-doing, you then align with nature and things flow naturally for you and to you.
During yoga teacher training, one of my favorite asana instructions we learned is this: in every single pose, even a handstand or wheel or any of the more challenging poses, always find somewhere to do less. My teacher says, "Find the savasana in every pose."
(Savasana is the pose often done at the end of yoga classes where you lie on the ground completely still, eyes closed.)
What if, this week, you found the savasana in every relationship? In every interaction at work? In every conflict? What if you did less?
And, maybe, what if you never honked again unless someone was in imminent danger? Especially if you're a New Yorker. ;)
with Love and with Light,
p.s. Rumi: "In silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and watch how the pattern improves."
p.p.s. The Tao Te Ching came into my life in the most beautiful non-doing way. I didn’t buy it at a bookstore or check it out from the library. I never added it to a “need to read” list and no one recommended it to me. My husband simply found it on a stoop and Brooklyn, handed it to me, and said, “This seems like a Joyce book to me.” He was right.