Sunday, January 22, 2006

Anxiety and finding your place to be

I read an excerpt by Richard Carlson this afternoon that I think ties in very well with two blogs I read on a regular basis. Anvilcloud’s 'Dear Doctor' speaks, among other things, of anxiety and the stress of restless nights. Over at Sarahspace the discussion has been revolving around Doing V.S. Being, physical fitness and balance. I’d like to share these words with you:


For many of us, our lives are so filled with stimuli, not to mention responsibilities, that it’s almost impossible for us to sit still and do nothing, much less relax – even for a few minutes. A friend of mine said to me, “People are no longer human beings. We should be called human doings.”

I was first exposed to the idea that occasional boredom can actually be good for me while studying with a therapist in La Conner, Washington, a tinny little town with very little “to do.” After finishing our first day together, I asked my instructor, “What is there to do around here at night?” He responded by saying, “What I’d like you to do is allow yourself to be bored. Do nothing. This is part of your training.” At first I thought he was kidding! “Why on earth would I choose to be bored?” I asked. He went on to explain that if you allow yourself to be bored, even for an hour – or less – and don’t fight it, the feelings of boredom will be replaced with feelings of peace. And after a little practise, you’ll learn to relax.

Much to my surprise, he was absolutely right. At first, I could barely stand it. I was so used to doing something every second that I really struggled to relax. But after a while I got used to it, and have long since learned to enjoy it. I’m not talking about hours of idle time or laziness, but simply learning the art of relaxing, of just “being,” rather than “doing,” for a few minutes each day. There isn’t a specific technique other than to consciously do nothing. Just sit still, perhaps look out the window and notice your thoughts and feelings. At first you may get a little anxious, but each day it will get a little easier. The payback is tremendous.

Much of our anxiety and inner struggle stems from our busy, overactive minds always needing something to entertain them, something to focus on, and always wondering “What’s next?” While we’re eating dinner we wonder what’s for dessert. While eating dessert, we ponder what we should do afterward. After that evening, it’s “What should we do this weekend?” After we’ve been out, we walk into the house and immediately turn on the television, pick up the phone, open a book, or start cleaning. It’s almost as though we’re frightened at the thought of not having something to do, even for a moment.

The beauty of doing nothing is that it teaches you to clear your mind and relax. It allows your mind the freedom to “not know,” for a brief period of time. Just like your body, your mind needs an occasional break from its hectic routine. When you allow your mind to take a break, it comes back stronger, sharper, more focused and creative.

When you allow yourself to be bored, it takes an enormous amount of pressure off you to be performing and doing something every second of every day. Now, when either of my two children says to me, “Daddy, I’m bored,” I respond by saying “Great, be bored for a while. It’s good for you.” Once I say this, they always give up on the idea of me solving their problem. You probably never thought someone would actually suggest that you allow yourself to be bored. I guess there’s a first for everything!


Anvilcloud said...

Yawn ... ;)

Sarah Elaine said...

The irony is that being bored implies restlessness... I'm rarely bored... but I do think quiet time is... well... delicious. And I thoroughly enjoy it when I decide it's appropriate... and then heartily dedicate myself to doing nothing except... well... "being".

Can't remember the last time I was bored though.

Andrea said...

HAvent checked in in a while!
You changed the whole look of the place.

ipodmomma said...

nice look!!! how did you do it???

I like being bored, in the sense that there is nothing pressing on me to accomplish... so then I am free to let my thoughts go off, and see where they lead...

Mel said...

I like that a lot. Thanks for sharing it! (I also happen to love La Conner, Washington. . . home of my favorite restaurant!)

Turtle Guy said...

AC So I take it this post helped?!

SE It was the reference to "being" and "doing" that, for me, made the connection to your posts. I know you are rarely "bored", but I have also been witness to you "doing" constantly with exhaustion to follow.

A Seems I needed something to keep my mind occupied yesterday! I was in the process of fixing some formatting issues in all the blogs, so I decided that while I have the patient lying open on the table, I would do some cosmetic surgery while I was at it!

IPM I started dissecting the code - When I was in school I took some computer programming and learned a bit about structure and commands. HTML has overtones of Apple Basic and Pascal (a long-dead PC language) so I started pulling apart the code in Front Page (so as not to mess up the blog). In the "safe" environment I was able to do some cutting and pasting to discover how much I could change. The background is actually a .jpg file I substituted - having found it burried in a "theme" on the list inside MS Front Page. If you'd like I will send you the replacement code.

MEL I never even bothered to look it up! I've been to Seattle both by air and ground, but I've never ventured through. Do tell about the restaurant - I love new dining experiences!

Expat Traveler said...

hey dave, do you have an about you area at all? Where are you originally from?

Sarah Elaine said...

Sigh... yes... you know me too well!

I forgot to thank you for the plug, by the way. That was nice. :-)

I like the new look of the place, by the way.

Chrystal said...

When God created the world in 6 days he took the 7th to rest. It was an example to us all that we need to rest. Our mind, soul and body need a break from all the stresses and goings on in life. Good stress or bad stress. This is why we are supposed to take one day off per week, WE NEED IT!

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Misty said...

I felt treated when reading this specific blog because it is a lesson I learned quite some time ago and find peace knowing that others think the same way.

"Doing" is important, however we have to "Be" somebody or we simply don't exist for ourselves... thereby diminishing our motivation in living.

"Being" doesn't necessary equate to "boredom" though, because when you simply sit and do nothing, it opens up the opportunity to slow things down and see all the minute details of our environment and world that we normally take for granted.

Thank you for your thoughts! I hope mine added to it.

About Me

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Calgary, Alberta, Canada
English student, Pottery enthusiast, Yoga novice and lover of all people. I make friends over a warm handshake and a beverage. I discover, every day, someone willing to help me along my path.