A standard greeting in Newfoundland is “Whatchat?” Translated as “What cha at?” Or “What are you doing?” The standard response is “Nuttin”, Nothing. Come to think of it, that’s a standard greeting and answer, just about everywhere, with appropriate variations on spelling and pronunciation.
It’s not true though. We are very rarely doing nothing; we’re pretty much not doing something. We are scrolling through newsfeeds instead of cleaning up, we are thinking about how busy we are, without doing any of the things we could be doing.
This past week I started reading “The Joy Diet” by Martha Beck. I love her writing, and no-nonsense self-help lessons, and I’ve had this book for years. I am a firm believer that things come to us when we are ready for the lessons, and sometimes when we are not ready, so really, we get what we need when we need it.
In this case, this little book of weekly lessons, and corresponding exercises peeked out at me from the mass of books on the shelf. The first week’s lesson was to spend 15 minutes each day, doing nothing. It’s not as easy as you would think. To make a point of going to some quiet place where you will not be disturbed by people or screens.
The first day I laid on my bed, eyes closed for what I thought was the full 15 minutes. It was four. Closed the eyes again and tried not to think about how slow the time was going by. Checked again. Seven minutes in. Each time, I tried to center myself, and quiet my mind.
The thoughts that come up, for me at least are always all over the place. There are lists of things I should be doing and memories of past events, that I am still carrying with me, many of which I should let go. My start on this particular “diet” started at the beginning of Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. Lots of memories from years past connected with that time. I’ve been struggling with writing, and this quiet time has reminded me of a similar time from last year. I wrote about it here.
“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”
As the week progressed, I found it easier to take that 15 minutes of nothingness. I felt more peaceful, and I had the chance to challenge my natural default of blaming myself for, well, everything. Sometimes the quiet space was in my room, sometimes it was walking in the neighbourhood. The common denominator was the quiet space in my head and in my heart.
Over the last couple of years, I have had many moments when I thought I had shifted my mindset or made a choice to go in a certain direction in my life, and it feels like it’s been 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. I feel like the quiet time of “nothing” has helped me to face those fears and challenges.
This week’s lesson is going to be “Truth”. Facing the truths, we find in the quiet of the nothing to find we are hiding from others and from ourselves. I’ll let you know how that goes.