Now is the time, in the northern hemisphere, where the natural world is preparing for the winter ahead by slowing down, filling their bellies and homes with hearty foods, and preparing to do a lot of nothing in the months to come. That is, everything in the natural world except humans. Apparently, while everything around us is slowing down, we seam to be speeding up. We somehow feel exempt from this universal rhythm. We must do ‘all the things’ and we must do them faster than we ever have before. Where are we going in such a hurry?
There’s an Italian phrase I will always remember (from my one year as an Italian major), and that’s “dolce far niente”. You may have also heard this phrase in Eat, Pray, Love. Julia Roberts let’s the luxurious Italian syllables roll around her mouth as she considers the ‘sweet art of doing nothing’; the brilliant ideal with no English equivalent. As a culture, we may have no phrase for it because we don’t appreciate the joy or even the need to just be.
As a sophomore, I became a journalism major (after some misguided attempts at fashion design and physical therapy). It was during this time that I came across this concept again. “You cannot write, if you are always doing a bunch of stuff,” said my professor, though clearly, I’m paraphrasing because it’s been (many) moons since then. He went on to explain his process, which wasn’t really a process at all- just many different ways to clear your mind and sit. As a writer for Rolling Stone, these activities ranged from having a beer to dangling his feet into a pool as he stared off into the horizon. I believe his point was, what you choose to do is not important, so long as you’re fully relaxing into the moment and allowing yourself to be fully present.
When we are in a state of non-doing, that’s when ‘it’ comes- the words, the songs, the inspiration, the great big giant leaps in consciousness. Meditation is just that. I like to say it’s the ‘art of doing nothing’. Although meditation has changed my life in a great many positive ways, I don’t want to say that only meditation will allow for these revelations. It’s the ability to stop and do absolutely nothing- that’s when the magic happens.
Yet, we don’t make non-doing a priority. In our hyper-scheduled lives, do we ever pencil in “do nothing” on our calendars? I believe we should. There should be blocks of time reserved especially for the “dolce far niente.” Maybe that means we skip pilates, the PTA meeting or run club. We don’t have to do ‘all of the things’. Besides, no one has made those commitments but us, and the last time I checked we were free to change our minds. Imagine how much better we’d be as people if we allowed for this time of passive growth. Maybe we’d even be happier as a culture.
What can you let go of today to make more time to just be?
Dolce Far Niente!