A week ago, a friend of mine mentioned that he and his wife had a “do nothing” day. He explained they took a nice walk, went out to lunch and watched a cheesy movie. I thought, “That sounds really nice,” followed by, “How can you spend an ENTIRE day doing nothing! No plans? No lists?” Recovering perfectionists struggle with “being” vs. “doing.” Marking items off our lists and setting goals instills confidence that we are dedicating every precious minute towards success. However, this approach comes with significant costs including burnout, stress, anxiety, guilt . . . and the list goes on. Honestly, our “in-box” items spontaneously multiply (I think the physics law which supports this assertion involves Avagadro’s Law and some quarks). We may have the cleanest bathroom in the great 50 states; however, the next “to do” task quickly eclipses the temporary moment of elation.
An abundance of research supports the benefits of mindfulness and meditation (i.e., being vs. doing). Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness, as “cultivating attention in a particular area.” Renowned psychologist Marsha Linehan asserts mindfulness enhances our ability to make intentional choices about thoughts and feelings versus acting out of habit or impulse. The first step involves gaining awareness of what your mind is doing and gently beckoning it back to the present moment when it wanders away. My mind often reminds me of my splendidly imperfect dog in a new park. He lopes about, sniffs and explores. When I call, he will gleefully romp back to me for a chin scratch and then dart away to the next distraction. My mind similarly skips and scampers about. Particularly while I lay in shavasana (dead body pose) in yoga. As you fittingly guessed, shavasana requires one to lie still and quiet one’s mind. Here’s how my shavasana typically goes . . .
Mind: You need to take the recycling out when you get home.
Me: Mind, get back here you’re supposed to be in yoga class! Breathe.
Mind: I noticed during hands-to-feet pose that you have a big bruise on your shin and you’re a couple days overdue for shaving your legs.
Me: Shut up! Breathe.
Mind: You need to pick up some more paper towels the next time you’re in the grocery store. You should also check your toilet paper supply.
Me: Mind get back here!
Mind: When is this shavastna going to be over? Oh, the teacher has a really cool ankle bracelet on. Hands-to-feet pose would totally be more fun if I had a pretty ankle bracelet on.
Me: You’re supposed to be breathing and doing nothing else!
Mind: I can’t wait until the yoga teacher announces the next pose. This is torture!
Obviously there is a reason they call it yoga “practice” and not yoga “perfect.” Mindfulness practice is similar to building bulging biceps. You start lifting in small increments and gradually build up weight and endurance. Goodness knows I need more practice stilling my mind, enjoying the present moment and refueling my emotional gas tank! Hence, I decided implement a “do nothing” night. Given I am a recovering perfectionist, I knew better than to set the unrealistic and high-pressured goal of an entire “do nothing” day. I looked forward to my evening of NOT doing laundry, paying bills, etc. I decided to do whatever moved me in the moment . . . UNTIL . . . I received an email from my accountant asking me to review my taxes and return my efile certificate ASAP!!! I quickly thought, “I already failed at do nothing night, and I have not even left work!” Then I thought, “wait, this is a FOG (i.e., f#$%*ing opportunity for growth moment)!” I looked at my taxes as soon as I got home and then did nothing! I left my laundry in the overflowing clothes basket. I ate cereal for dinner (with a banana to keep it healthy of course). I danced to early 80’s songs in my living room and indulged in a cheesy romantic comedy and hot bath. Yep, definitely a FOG moment transformed into SWAG (i.e., Super, Wonderful Awesome Good-enough) moment.
“You might be tempted to avoid the messiness of daily living for the tranquility of stillness and peacefulness. This of course would be an attachment to stillness, and like any strong attachment, it leads to delusion. It arrests development and short-circuits the cultivation of wisdom.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life