August 24, 2010

The Art of Doing Nothing

In the popular memoir book, Eat Pray Love, the author begins her journey in Rome, Italy. There she quickly learns the secret to Italian people – their modus operandi is the art of doing nothing. Deciding to connect with my Italian heritage, I challenged myself to detach from my non-stop, outpouring, busy life during an upcoming week’s vacation to NY.

I started my week in the City. There, I attended a yoga class – instead of teaching one. That in itself was a fresh experience for me. It was a slower class, and I began sinking deeper into the stillness…until I realized that the class was running over its specified time. Knowing that I was now going to be late for an appointment to meet a friend, I was welcomed with a rushing surge of energy that was all too comfortable – this is what I knew everyday; rushing from class to class to class through traffic and against time, answering calls, emails and texts along the way. But this time I was witnessing the race of the rabbit with a little humor, because after all, I was on vacation. I blindly slapped on some make-up in a jerky taxi cab and made it to my destination only ten minutes late. At least this was a casual meeting with a friend – I did not have any documents to prepare or present, or a writing deadline to submit. I could just relax upon my arrival and connect with my friend, so even though the ocean current had temporarily pulled me back in towards the shore, another wave guided me right back out to sea. I enjoyed catching up with my friend during a mini break from his hectic work day.

There in mid-town, I connected with another friend, Carol, who is a physician also working in the City. Together, we drove out to Long Island to relax for a couple days in the Hamptons, where another friend was spending the summer. We arrived in time for dinner, where we shared a delightful meal together while watching a gorgeous sunset. After dinner, we enjoyed some chamomile tea and conversation. I was so relaxed that my laughter amplified from a deeper space than usual. This was the perfect day to start my Italian vacation in NY.

I tried to sleep in, but since I am wired to wake early, I checked my emails at six o’clock in the morning. Thankfully the poor internet connection discouraged my attempts. I set down my blackberry and I went back to sleep. I slept until eight o’clock, and it felt fabulous. After morning tea, Carol and I made our way to nearby Cooper’s Beach. We enjoyed a casual stroll down the beach, after which we selected a spot on the sand where we became Italian; we did nothing but surrender our bodies to gravity and absorb the warmth of the sun. When lunchtime approached, we made our way into town to Organic Avenue. There we enjoyed some amazing juice blends and some dehydrated kale chips. It was pure nutrition and pure yum. While feasting on our organic delights, we made our way to Port Jefferson, where we took a ferry over to Connecticut, where Carol lived. Again, I laid on a ferry bench and absorbed the sun and marveled at my fabulous friendship.

Upon arrival at Carol’s beautiful home in Bridgeport, I built block homes with her daughter Kaela, followed by a frog search in the backyard stream. While we were playing, Carol prepared an amazing dinner salad from fresh, organic vegetables and health enhancing oils and herbs. During our meal, I laughed even more, now adding Carol’s hilarious husband into the dinnertime dynamics. After dinner, I sincerely lost a game of chess to a nine-year old prodigy child, and I enjoyed every minute of it. When Carol gave me a tour of the guest room where I would be staying, she pointed out her Bio Mat, which she kept in the room. She suggested that I use it before I went to sleep. This gem and stone heated bed was used therapeutically for anti-stress and anti-inflammatory benefits. I spent thirty minutes on this relaxing bed before retiring for the evening. It was incredibly relaxing, and I found myself sinking deeper into a greater stillness than I had expected.

The next morning I woke very refreshed. I took an early flight from JFK airport to Buffalo, to spend a few days with my parents and to attend my twenty year high school reunion. My reunion events were filled with nostalgic laughter and forgotten memories. There was a deep warmth from being in a space with so many people who were part of my early childhood days. After the reunion, I spent three days at my parents home. I slept in every morning. I made smoothies from fresh picked blueberries, watched the news with my hilarious commentating father, enjoyed meals of fresh vegetables and herbs from my mother’s garden, enjoyed our guests who came to visit for tea and coffee, took hot baths, exercised, and napped. I didn’t answer my phone, or respond to many emails or texts – I was on vacation. I was planning nothing and doing nothing.

I know that it is inevitable that Wednesday is coming, and the onslaught of work and back-to-back schedule is coming with it, but this time, I intend on exhibiting my Italian heritage just a little more than simply talking with my hands. I feel really good right now. My head isn’t pulsing, my heart isn’t pounding, my skin has calmed, my joints feel fluid and my body feels balanced. If my business and lifestyle take away from my health and relationships, regardless of how successful they are, then they are simply not worth it. Why do we often feel that we have to pay for a yoga class or pay for a massage, increasing the illusionary value of relaxation, when it is simply an extra-ordinary part of living? Fresh food, good friends, warm homes and no stress – this is the foundation of good health.

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Alanna Zabel  |  Contribution: 700