Slowing down… a weekend and then another evening to myself with no plans and nothing particular to do… Even trying to move slowly. Making coffee slowly. Making my NutriBullet smoothie slowly. Realising how much I rush usually. How my default speed is rush. Why am I rushing? There’s nothing I have to do. Even typing that gives me a little thrill. As an occupational therapist, obsessed with human occupation and activity; the balance between work, rest and play; make the most of every day a motto: to do nothing, to have nothing to do, seems deliciously rebellious.
I read a post on the internet forum Out of Mind about how stress is a matrix weapon. Yes, and so is being busy all the time and rushing about. Always rushing from one task to the next, always thinking about what is next. Berating oneself for the things not done or thinking that one should be doing something else…
Why do I do it? To burn calories? So that people don’t think I’m lazy? But there’s only the cats here?! (Mind you, in the timeless otherworldly stillness of the present moment, I almost put the NutriBullet on with no liquid in it, which could have resulted in a minor kitchen disaster)
In The Walking Dead the people sometimes cover themselves in zombie blood and guts and are then able, as long as they move slowly and calmly, to walk through herds of zombies without attracting any attention at all, let alone getting eaten. I find this to be a useful metaphor for going about daily life: control thoughts, control emotions, no matter what happens, thereby making you impervious to anything that gets thrown at you and preventing your energy from being drained. It helps to stay below the radar: no flower painted hippy vehicles, no dreads, no ferrets on leads, nothing to draw attention or drama. Even extending to little things like getting reports done ahead of time to prevent a stressful last minute rush and shopping for Oil of Olay before it runs out. Anything to help life run smoothly.
The stay neutral philosophy is where it all parts company from the ‘love everyone’ philosophy. It’s not about loving everyone and having your energy leak out all over the place. It’s about being a self contained little avatar who keeps her feet on the ground (even though there is no ground), stays upright (even though there is no ‘up’ or ‘down’) and puts her best foot forward, even though there is no best, no forward, and no back.
As everything falls away, as everything goes around in a loop, as everything goes to hell in a handcart, can you stay calm and neutral? In the little pocket of stillness that arrives with the doing of one thing at a time and only that, and thinking of nothing else… can you let it expand? Can you begin to slowly move and find you can take it with you? Can you maintain it, even whilst you change position?
One has to have space in order to go up another rung. To rest for a bit, almost bored, until inspiration strikes again, a new conversation, a thought is sparked: and awareness spirals up another level.
I used to be so unhappy, it’s hard to even describe it now. Now, my life is a rose-petal-strewn-fantasy-fairyland of joy in comparison. On Friday evening a friend came round, spontaneously. I made it to the off licence just before it closed and we all drank wine and ate left over Chinese food (I believe this is called ‘scruffy hospitality’). The next morning (yesterday), I woke up slightly hung over, my husband and I decided on impulse to drive to Norwich and go to the vegan market stall for breakfast. I washed my face but otherwise went out in more or less last night’s clothes and yoga pants and after getting a miraculous parking space we headed for breakfast.
I was slightly insulated from the night before, but also, I believe, doing better having had my quiet space as described above. I usually find the city so draining, all the people, the obscene shopping etc, but yesterday, as we walked along the high street, my husband said, have you ever noticed how sometimes the city is so quiet, like there’s little pockets where no one is speaking? I wondered if we could turn down the volume of the crowds with intention, but like with tinnitus, its best not to give sounds attention if you don’t want them to amplify, and hope instead to create a little pocket of stillness around us. So as we walked though Chappelfield Shopping Mall at midday on a Saturday, I walked slowly and calmly, all my attention on me and my husband (and the vegan breakfast that awaited us). I didn’t look at anyone, I didn’t think, oh she’s pretty, or, I love her outfit, or, why can’t I look like that, oh I probably look too scruffy to be out, they probably think I look like crap, oh my God, there’s too many people. I didn’t think any of those things, and I walked through the mall, twice, without feeling any significant drop of energy. Okay, on the way back I felt a little tired, but, like the zombie-blood-and-guts-shield-method, maybe it only lasts a certain amount of time.
Afterwards we went to Tofurei the wonderful vegan deli and bought sausage rolls, a cheeseburger, three different types of cakes, ice cream, and white chocolate hot chocolate (which is about the closest thing to food and drink heaven I know). No painting, housework or any responsible tasks whatsoever were going to get done yesterday, the centrepiece of a rare weekend off together.