The Art of Doing Nothing

Several years ago, my very thoughtful friend Stanislava gave me a book called The Art of Doing Nothing.  It’s one of those cute 2 inch by 2 inch books filled with quips of wisdom on how to relax, slow down and do next to nothing.  Shortly after receiving it, I sat down and read it as if doing so was a task to complete.  Yet one more thing I could check off my to do list.  “Read book about doing nothing.”  Check.  Task accomplished.  Yet even as I sat reading the book, I could feel that I was doing it all wrong.  I was not sipping hot tea, not enjoying a sunny morning and not relaxing as I read the book about… relaxing.  But I didn’t know any other way to be.

The cover of "The Art of Doing Nothing"

One of the personal goals I set prior to starting this trip was to learn to do nothing.  In November 2011, I wrote about wanting to find inner peace. “On this journey, I want to be still and learn to be at peace doing nothing… and I want to get so good at it that I can feel this way… without effort.”

Shadow and I finding our balance and our center.

Today, 5 months into this trip, I’m much closer to that state of peacefulness than I ever thought I could be.  I realized this as I sat on a bench outside our RV contently sipping my morning coffee.  I thoughtfully gazed at the forest that surrounded our campsite and noticed the details in the green tapestry of towering pines, lush ferns, rich earth and resilient wildflowers.  I wondered about the tenacity of nature as I contemplated the existence of hundreds of 2-inch high pink tear-drop flowers.  The tiny plants found a way to survive the incredibly cold, dark Alaskan winters, then, cram their entire life’s work into 2 short months of Alaskan summer. 

I remembered the phrase: “The meaning of life is to live.”  Could it be that simple?  Perhaps it is.  I thought of the billions of organisms that lived and died before me and returned to the earth to nourish the next generation of plants and animals.  I thought of the sheer complexity and yet intuitive simplicity of the statement “the meaning of life is to live.”  The little pink flowers seemed to embody the phrase, striving to live with no other, more complex purpose or intent. 

Kinnikinnick, a type of evergreen groundcover that yields edible red berries in the fall.

I wondered what the little, pink teardrop flowers are called and decide to take their picture and look them up on the internet.  But I decided to do that later.  I wanted to sit awhile longer, looking at the tiny flowers and wondering about their part in the great cycle of life and about my place and purpose as well.

I’m getting better at doing nothing, slowing down and finding a bit of inner peace.  I can almost do it without trying.  Almost.

Darby practices doing nothing while I do almost nothing (stretches).

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