I am currently aside Lake Superior in northern Minnesota almost up by Canada, and it is mysterious and foggy. I’ve returned from a walk along a pier, where orange lichen carpets the rocks on the narrow path out toward a lonely lighthouse. My spiritual director has said that being by a large body of water works to “rearrange our mind.” This derives from Buddhist lovingkindness practice which suggests to people are in crisis, transition, or challenge to go to be beside something large: the ocean, the sky, a huge tree, or even a tall elder. I feel the immensity of Lake Superior, and appreciate the spaciousness it confers. It is a buffer from the past many months as a health care worker in a pandemic and as a resident by East Lake Street in Minneapolis which rose up after George Floyd’s murder a year ago. I am in need of recalibration, renewal, rearrangement.
One thing that has saved me these many months is indulging in books about the art of doing nothing. This is counterintuitive to my nature in so many ways, contrary to the culture in which I live, and the upbringing which I experienced in formative years. Productivity is praised and rewarded. Being still, not so much. And yet, through this time many of us have learned more about being still. I know I have learned to be with myself a little bit more, and been more content with slowing down. As we look ahead to a post-pandemic world, what do we keep and what do we let go of? Is our relationship to time and engagement forever shifted, or is there relief to getting back to a busy life?
If you are skeptical of the concept of slow living, I commend to you my favorite pandemic read: Niksen: The Dutch Art of Doing Nothing by Olga Mecking. In this book is found a range of cross cultural understandings about time and productivity. Admittedly, this book did send me on a flurry of obsession about reading books about doing nothing, until I realized that obvious tasks were waiting to be acknowledged.
May you find places and spaces this summer to rearrange your mind, allow spaciousness, and encourage time for renewal.