Many of us have been running at top speed throughout the pandemic just to survive. As the shutdown compelled remote work from home, many of us found new ways to sustainably connect and with that, struggled to create boundaries to differentiate between work, and home without the space to do so naturally. As a someone who has worked from home for years, the transition was fairly seamless for me, but the expectation of accessibility, or the pressure I put on myself to get everything “off my plate” so I could just… [write, create, focus on self-care, play with the kids, relax?] was a lot. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
I’m taking my first vacay since before the pandemic *today*.
Writing this as I’m preparing to leave town, I’ve spent much of my morning thinking about all the things I want to get off my plate to remain organized when I return to work in an effort to clear my mind, so that I can effectively hit reset.
Often times, when I check off my to-do list, I find that with certain obligations met (for now) or formally resolved, my cleared mind naturally refills with creative possibilities. New projects. More I could do. Different things I could do. I’ve come to accept that is just how I roll.
Sometimes, it feels like the creative brain just needs a minute to empty, clear out, in order to refill and in doing so– perhaps? – reprioritize what matters to us, and what we want to work on.
So how do you do it?
If you’re someone who is good at relaxing, and good at doing nothing – maybe you don’t really need this bit of advice. But for the busy-mind, the can’t-quite-sit-still folks… my best advice comes from my brilliant friend Sensei Stephen Toyoda, who runs the Japanese Culture Center
in Chicago: do - no - thing
. Go someplace quiet, where you can be still. Empty your mind in meditation. Perhaps the only thing you do is focus on your breath.
If the to-do list is filling up your brain, write it down. If you can’t tackle it all in one day, or one weekend, so you can’t get that satisfying strike through on your list, put a date to deal with it, and revisit at that point.
For me, the goal of “do nothing” is to liberate myself from this idea that I have to, should be, could be doing something. For the writer/creator juggling many priorities, this is really hard to negotiate, and yet it is critical to our ability to rest, recharge, and regenerate in the face of obstacles – or rejections, letdowns, perceived failures – that we find a way to do this for ourselves, in whatever small or big ways make sense for us.
If I can’t sit still to mediate, then I get moving and focus on just that– listening to music, or nothing, and focusing on my feet hitting the pavement or safely navigating city traffic to the lakeshore path on my bike. If you’re looking for support in this, find it. Ask for help finding it. Doing nothing feels like it should be intuitive but for many of us – it really isn’t. I am so grateful to Toyoda Sensei for guiding and nurturing my meditation practice, and to Victor Spaulding for physically (virtually!) training me. If you’re intrigued, drop them a line!