March 3, 2014

It Takes a Novel for Me to Do Nothing. ~ Heather Rees


Everything runs in cycles.

The seasons. The washing machine. Our breath.

Hot, cold. Rinse, spin. In, out. And the inbetween—the pause.

It’s when, before the next thing, all systems pause to gather force for the next thrust. Something good is coming. So ubiquitous is this pause, that it’s part of vague and intangible cycles such as enthusiasm, dedication, even love.

We know this. We live it.

And yet, passing through the pausing season can be a practice in otherworldly endurance in itself.

You know what I mean—that place you don’t want to be, but is described as being good for you. We seekers consider this place to be essential for growth. It’s what Aunt Martha would say is “just a part of life, kid” with the kind, close lipped smile.

It looks like waiting to hear back or considering your options.

Or, God forbid, doing nothing.

I’m in that place now. Inconveniently so. I should be tending to my heavy to-do list and obligations but, instead, I sit and do a lot of nothing.

I stare out the window. I read. I make cups of tea. I clean things I never noticed were dirty before.

As it turns out, though, nothing turns into a brilliant something, as we begin to pay attention to it. That something, that jewel, is for us to discover. I can’t tell you what it is for you, and you can’t tell me mine. It’s our very own “holy crap that’s good” insight, to be received—but we have to be open to receive it.

I’ve learned to deeply trust these cycles and more so, honor them. (Secretly, I really love them).

So, in reverence to this pause, I’ve developed this a list of things that support, and remind me, how to sit still until my next in-breath, and resist the urge to do:

Sleep More. Sleep In.

This bad-boy has become the thing we reserve for Sundays—if we’re not too busy. And it’s what we pronounce—with glee—to friends, as evidence of living A Great Life. This alone elicits nods and woo’s of envy.

What would happen if you slept in or slept more? Sudden death, failed marriage, immediate job loss? Likely not.

Go to bed earlier—8:00pm is completely acceptable in my book—or sleep in late, if the only reason to get up, includes the word ‘should’.

Drink more tea. Read. 

My French Press is getting a lot of use these days. Yerba mate, burdock root, and some lemony blend a friend dropped off, have been this season’s favorites.

Hours – so many hours! – lost in a good story. As a devotee of self-help, spiritual and business books, to do nothing it takes a novel.

Let the learning rest—open to your imagination, and do it drinking warm liquid.

Meditate, pray, or just sit there. 

Before this season, I had a daily practice of sitting on my cushion and just listening. But right now that feels like too much. So instead, I sit for long minutes just staring out the window, or close my eyes and feel inward.

I ask questions and listen for answers. Every day I wake up and say, “Thank you for this day of nothingness—please help me use it as it is intended.”

This too is meditation. This too is prayer.

Take long showers or baths. 

Very little needs to be said about the tremendous power of warm water.

Now that you’re doing nothing a lot, indulge: use the fancy soap; break out the exfoliator; let the conditioner, condition, for as long as it needs to.


Write how you feel, and write what you dream of. Write what doesn’t work right now, and what does. Write out what you’re grateful for, and why. Write letters you’ll never send, and some that you will.

Write down your plans, then trash them. Write new ones another day, and trash those, too. Write to your younger self, and future self. Tell them all that you want to be told. Let them know they’re loved, valued and heard. Just write, get it out. Purge. Repeat.


They say cleaning your external environment is an act of internal cleaning. When you spend 20 minutes getting the grime out of that corner in the shower, something inside you is getting flushed out too.

Maybe that’s why cleaning weird shit, thoroughly, is so irresistible.

Cook. Eat. Repeat. 

If cleaning is purging, cooking and eating is birthing—bringing forth.

Figuratively and literally, your body is what you put in it. Make meals you didn’t have time for before, or make the one you loved at 16. Order in, or double up and eat with a friend you haven’t seen—only emailed with—for the last 2 months.

Call friends (don’t email). 

If a beloved lives too far away to meet for a long lunch, call them. Don’t email. Don’t text. Definitely don’t involve social media.

They’ll fall out of their chair.

Share, ask questions, listen. Give love. Give updates. You’ve got time.

They’ll love you for it.


Something funny happens when you leave space for yourself to just be: dreams float in.

What do you dream of, dear one? What have you said no to so often, you forgot that you wanted it at all? Let it drift in. Give it space to beit’s just a dream after all. You only have to pick it up if you want to.

For now, let it be all sparkly and ridiculous.

Laugh with it. Dance with it.

Deep bow to it.


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Editorial Assistant: Amani Omejer/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: John Iosifidis/Pixoto

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Heather Rees