My boys used to pack the van and drive south from their Minnesota home for spring break when they were young. We drove as far as we could to get sun and warmth and set up camp for a few nights.
While every trip was enjoyable, one trip stands out to me as extraordinary. We spent many hours driving to reach a campground in the Florida Panhandle. It was almost empty when we arrived. We figured that most tourists would have chosen the beach since it was located inland. We planned to use the campground for a launch point and then head out each day to explore more of the area, including to the Gulf.
We stayed over for breakfast the morning we arrived and enjoyed the tranquil surroundings. We all stayed put, even the restless and active boys. It was a leisurely morning that quickly turned into afternoon and then evening. The day was spent essentially doing nothing but hanging out and enjoying one another.
The whole week was spent like this. We only visited one place per day when we ventured out. We all desired some downtime, at least for those few days. It turned out that inactivity was actually quite good.
Being active is something I love. It allows me to see the world and gives me the opportunity to have fun with other people. However, I've also learned to appreciate the therapeutic value of "nondoing." This is a great way to relax and recharge your soul.
It can be difficult to find the right balance between rest and movement. As a child, I believed in productivity, usefulness, and activity. I am a bit of an overachiever and have struggled to let these traits go after having lived with them my whole life. But I am getting better at it.
Slowing down the pace
My family and I have spent a lot of time in the cabin near the Boundary waters, Minnesota, over the past few years. I love to go on my own for an afternoon when we are there. I paddle my canoe across the lake towards a wilderness area, then hike uphill for a mile to a spot with a view of a river. I do nothing for a few hours.
Although I have never seen anyone else at this spot, I do often see deer, eagles and other wildlife. They are not there when I'm running through the woods but they do appear to be interested in me when I'm quiet and still.
Sometimes, I bring my journal to this quiet space. Writing there always makes me feel more at ease, more real. It's as if I am writing from a deeper part of myself. My voice is honest and reassuring. It's also kind and non-judgmental. I leave feeling more inspired, clear, and peaceful than ever before.
When I'm alone and have no agenda, I think I'm meeting soul. Soul is that quiet, little voice in my head that is always there, but whose nature it is to be non-intrusive and silent. It doesn't shout, push or fight for my attention. The soul is like wild animals that only appear after I have sat still for a while.
Although it doesn't mean you have to camp in the woods to tap into this stillness, I believe it is beneficial. It is important to find time to do nothing, go nowhere, and be yourself.
Try it. Make a plan for nondoing. Spend at least one hour and a quarter somewhere special. It doesn't matter if it's an outdoor spot of natural beauty or a private, cozy corner of your house. It should be quiet and private, so you aren't interrupted. If you like to draw, bring a notebook and a pen.
You don't have to do anything. Let go of all the hustle and bustle, put aside the work for a while, and watch what happens.
This article was originally published as "Stillness", in the January/February 2022 issue Experience life.
Experience Life published the first article NATURAL MENTAL HELPH: The Power of Stillness.
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