The Art of Doing Nothing

There are such days, glorious days, in which Fortune’s favor is turned squarely your way. The world’s desires and your desires perfectly align, and all it takes is for you to reach out your hand to sweep the world off of Her feet. Together you dance, and every step you take is just right, everything you wish for falls perfectly in place.

Today is not one of those days. Today is in fact the opposite of such a sunshine day, it is the cloud cover that blankets the sky so securely as to make you forget that brightness would ever, could ever, exist. Yes Alexander, today is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

We’ve all heard the speeches, we’ve all know the self-help mantras that dictate bad days are just one spin on this wheel called life. It comes and it goes, and it does not last. It is as universal as death and taxes, as understandable as a smile in any language. One need simply to shrug and offer up the phrase, ‘It’s just one of those days’  before everyone around you will understand exactly what you mean, nod sympathetically, and walk away feeling glad they are not in your shoes, you poor, unlucky bastard.

So life isn’t always sunshine and roses, so what? No headlines there. But just because storms are guaranteed to come does not make them any less hard to deal with, or the impending consequences any less destructive.

Except…

What if there is a way to mitigate the damage? A better way to ride out the disasters of life that are continually lobbed in our direction without risking the house, the marriage, or the dog each time. What if such a miraculous safe house can be found sitting on the holy dry ground of, say, simply not reacting? What if you can face your problems better by doing nothing? 

There is a right way and a wrong way of doing things. In the event of an emergency for example, the wrong way of conducting oneself would be to give in to the impulse for full on panic. By losing your head you not only make the situation worse for yourself but also for everyone there around you. Though, of course, it is a completely understandable action to take. We are hardwired after all to respond to stress using our instincts for fight or flight. It would take a lot more self-control to restrain the urge for flight when every beat pounding out from our terrorized heart is to the tune of run, Run, RUN. But we must because, despite our natural instinct, by giving in to panic we end up putting ourselves in even more danger.

When a stone is dropped into a body of water, the clear surface is disturbed. If you were to reach a hand down into the water to try and retrieve the stone, inevitably your movements will disturb the mud and silt from the bottom, stirring it up into an impenetrable wall that turns the once clear surface opaque. The more you continue to move your hand in an effort to retrieve the stone the murkier the water gets, and the further from your objective do you slide. It is only when you wait, when you restrain your movements that eventually all the impurities will subside, and then, in the clear surface of the water once more you are able to see your stone and easily retrieve it.

We do not live in a world that places much value in such a course of action. Ours is a time of action – when something goes wrong, we fix the problem. If there is no easy solution we gravitate towards band-aid cures. Can’t find your stone because the water’s too murky? Have a drink. Then, if you still can’t find your stone, at least you can forget about it or better yet let another (hungover) problem take its place. Whatever the issue, we are constantly reacting, stirring up the mud until we lose sight of our initial problems to begin with.

But what if the nature of a problem is not always to be fixed, but simply to be endured? That something unpleasant is happening may just be a part of the complex fabric of life, the one that balances out the good, the bad, and even the ugly. If we could have an understanding that in this life bad things will happen which will make us feel truly horrible, but that these moments, like all moments, will not last? And if we didn’t want the hurt to continue on longer than it would we might consider the alternative route to reacting, to not keep using our efforts to stir up the mud and simply wait, observe with equanimity for the mud to sort itself out naturally and present us our answers in that way. What if all that is required of us to let the pain go away is to wait, because in the end it will go away. It always does.

Nothing in this world is permanent, not in the good nor the bad. It is never easy in the moment to understand this truth, when the physical and emotional manifestations of discomfort are all too real, and the vague generalization that this too shall pass is not. But remember the mud, remember the water, remember that you don’t have to have all the solutions. Observe with equanimity, and let nature take its course. Who knows, you just might find your answers in the stillness.

 

Author’s Note: Happy Mid-Autumn’s Day Festival! The moon is out in full force, don’t forget to take a moment to peek at her gorgeous face tonight. Share, Like, Subscribe, and see you back next Wednesday! 

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