I learned something strange and wonderful this winter:
How significant a change I feel the need to make in my life has a fairly direct proportional relationship to how many days I’m willing to do nothing to get it.
There is a time and place for action when I feel the need for significant change.
But that time and place is after The Big Nothing, not before it.
For those of you who like some order with your chaos, my process is:
- Feel the need for significant change.
- Do nothing for a very long time. (that is, only doing things you adore so much that doing them is easy and natural)
- More nothing. (feeling luxurious now)
- More nothing. (feeling playful, naughty, and/or feisty now)
- Watch, stunned, as a remarkable idea gently touches down in your head like a visiting space ship landing on an empty field.
- Become more curious than scared, at least for a moment.
- Do something about it (something now simple and obvious, like smiling and greeting the newly arriving aliens, or maybe running like hell, depending on the situation).
Yesterday I was reading Havi’s blog, The Fluent Self (specifically, this post: http://www.fluentself.com/blog/personal/wish-235-a-hat-that-is-a-door/) and my eyes fell upon this new wish of hers:
“What do I want?
Ease. Miracles. Simplicity. Perfect simple solutions.”
I was compelled to say something to her, because I realized that I recently got exactly what she says she wants now and that I could describe what happened to me, perhaps opening some opportunity for insight for her into what she’ll need to do. So this poured out of me…
Havi, Ease, Miracles. Simplicity. and Perfect simple solutions came my way this fall/winter. Followed 8 weeks of doing nothing I didn’t want to do and a lot of doing nothing. For me, no work, no social obligations, no deep reflection. Just playing with cats, sleeping in, walking dog, SciFi reruns, creating for the fun of it, and good food. Seemed like a lot of time to waste at the time. Ah, past me. The change that came to me out of 8 weeks of nothing was simple and huge and entirely unexpected by me and others. The speed at which things changed after that was astonishing. The miracles that showed up kept my mouth dropped open, awestruck, for most of November and December. So simple, so perfect.
We now live on the beach, on an island, in a home whose previous owners left us their pirate flag. Surrounded by water, sand, trees, sky, stars, and a community of creators and writers. Friends live in our Seattle home now and run the coworking space out of their home now. I’m left aware that I didn’t make it happen. Was more sort of just a bouncy-house slide that I and my family slid down. I will never doubt 8 weeks of nothing again. In Lori Land, big nothing is the doorway to big perfect easy miraculous change.
Re-reading this it’s clear why I write: I have almost no idea what I believe until I see it in writing.
Then yesterday, my dearly beloved, and very busy, sister Jen said this to me:
“I’ve been to Mesa, Chicago, and Reno in the past three weeks and my sinus infection went from my head to my chest, so I’ve been traveling, working, and going to the doctor like a crazy woman. As of yesterday’s chest x-ray results, I am pneumonia free but have restricted airways. They are so very swollen I’m doing more wheezing and squeaking than breathing or coughing stuff out. So I am now on 4x per day oral steroids, a steroid inhaler, antibiotic, and some lovely cough syrup that says I should not operate heavy machinery while on it. I have a 3-day weekend, so am really looking forward to being home and having an extended chance to R & R.”
If life was entirely fair I’d have manifesting powers so extraordinary that when my sister is this sick, and believing that just 3 days counts as “extended rest and relaxation” then I could just mentally whisk her up here to our house and make her stay on our couch for at least two weeks. With pets to hug, nettle tea and apple cider vinegar to drink, and perhaps some walking-on-the-beach, time off the couch for good The Big Nothing behavior.
So this week it was Havi and Jen who helped me see that I learned something really important this winter.
For me, the more significant the change I feel the need for, the bigger the The Big Nothing needs to be. And The Big Nothing takes far longer than my rational mind thinks it should take. I’m talking hours instead of minutes (little change), or weeks instead of days (bigger change), or months instead of weeks (even bigger change). And so on.
The remarkable idea signaling the end of The Big Nothing, when it inevitably comes, feels about the same as if actual aliens landed in your field, assuming you had a field, which in my metaphor you do.
The remarkable idea causes your brain to think “What? That’s totally crazy.” Plus “That can’t happen.” Plus “Wow, that’s amazing.” And a little “Hey, that’s actually happening.” Then, when Curiosity has become greater than Fear, all the little things you do are moves in the direction of the remarkable.
I think the trick is that unless our The Big Nothing is for a long enough period of time, we aren’t present-in-the-moment enough to notice the aliens. Hell, we may not even know we have a field for spaceships to land on.
This time, for me, The Big Nothing meant only being and doing exactly what I most deeply wanted to be and do for 2 whole months—only the things that felt amazing in my heart and body and soul—often in the face of my rational brain prattling on that SciFi reruns, pajamas, anti-social behavior, and chocolate mousse were all utterly ridiculous ways to change myself, the community, and the world.
But The Big Nothing helped me hear the call of a pirate house on a beach on a distant island and know that that’s where we needed to be.
And The Big Nothing helped me hear the voices of friends who were being called to come live and build community in the home and neighborhood we were saying goodbye to.
And the remarkable idea, acted upon, is changing everything at once now. I’m growing closer to Daniel. I’m back to writing every day. I’m wandering aimlessly on the beach and in the woods and neighborhood now, every day, automatically exercising when for decades I’ve struggled to make this happen (Arrgh). And prioritizing who and what matters most to us is easier here too.
Oh, and I’m a pirate now.
Good news! Found the aliens. They were living in my lungs. They’ve been set free on my field & encouraged not to return. On a positive note, there is nothing to bring you into the present quite like appreciating every single breath of air that enters your lungs. It will be quite some time before I take that simple act for granted again. Love you!
ha! Glad you’re feeling better!! Love you too. 🙂
Yes, I totally agree. Nothing not in the absolute term because no matter what I am still doing something. Nothing to to the issues percolating in the mind. To that I agree. We need to disengage to engage better and more forcefully later. We need that spark which ignites emptiness of worries and stress. We need to get away to get closer.
Lori, at least I have a good excuse for not having been engaged here lately.
This post is sheer brilliance, Lori
Hi Ali, so nice to hear from you my friend. I haven’t been much engaged with the outside world the past few months myself. I hope all is well with you. The brilliance here is the brilliance of your friendship. 🙂