Sunday, January 10, 2016

Doing Nothing While Walking The Path

When I was a kid one of the worst trespasses you could commit toward my Mother was to whine and say,” I’m bored.” The punishment for this sin was, for me at least, vacuuming. To this day I hate to vacuum. I do not like to say I am in any way intelligent. (I have come to believe I am entirely devoid of smarts.) When I was a kid though I was quickly conditioned to not say,” I am bored.” because I did NOT want to vacuum.
For the majority of my life, I believed that Mom detested pointless whining. That is certainly true, but the truth of why she hated that particular complaint is a little more meaningful. When a child complains,” I’m bored.” what is actually being said is,”Pay attention to me because I am unable to occupy myself.”
This is a problem on multiple fronts. Parents SHOULD pay their kids attention, but kids should also be able to occupy their own minds for at least some time. A child unable to do this quickly becomes troublesome for their parents. Over time this devolves into social issues and problems with attention span. The kid probably behaves bratty and spoiled.
My Mom though swims in deeper mental pools than most. I was taught to entertain myself. I learned to be quiet and read. I played outside. I built tree houses. I taught myself to draw. I got very, very comfortable being on my own.
An interesting thing happens when you are comfortable with yourself. You get quieter. You start to See, Hear, Smell, Taste, Feel, and Experience the world. You Learn something vast and important.  While that is happening you get very comfortable with the idea of doing Nothing.
To all you parents out there, you will be very, very familiar with Nothing in the capital sense of the word. I know I certainly spent most of my childhood and teen years doing Nothing. I was super proud when I  saw my daughter start to do Nothing on her own. I remember well the day I noticed it.
I waited in line to pick my daughter up from school. She was in the third grade. When she got into the car I greeted her and asked what she had done today. She answered,” Nothing.” I grinned and asked,” What did you guys learn in Math today?” She shrugged her shoulders and said,” Nothing.” I asked her what she had for lunch and she spent five minutes describing the menu. Most parents are familiar with this phenomenon, but we don’t put much thought into it.
Taila had not spent her day doing nothing. She had learned plenty about Math, Science, History, and the like. Her brain was crammed so full of information that if most adults attempted the workload they would sit in a stupor. Nothing though is a special mental state that through Effortless Effort much is Experienced and Learned. I was glad to see her reach Nothing. It comes fairly easily to most kids, but along the way, most of us forget how to do Nothing.
For me getting to Nothing is difficult because I want to have Control. I have goals I want to reach and I want to get there my way. The problem with this is that what I want to do isn’t always on the Path. While Nothing represents the blank mind or the Uncarved Block, The Path represents a Natural Way. This is a concept akin to Fate or Destiny, but at the same time, it is wholly different.
I always feel I am on the Path when I don’t feel I am fighting the current to swim through the river of my life. (Man, I metaphored a metaphor. That means I win Metaphors.) Normally while I am on the Path things seem to just work out. I feel like I am succeeding without any particular push or effort toward that success. When things get very difficult and I start stressing, being worried, and dealing with anxiety I know I have stepped off the Path.
I normally have to Reflect for a while doing Nothing to find the Path again. Some days it is harder for me to do Nothing than others. It is difficult for me to let my mind shift out of gear and just relax. It amazes me how often walking down the Path goes hand in hand with Doing What is Right.

All of these ideas come from Taoism. I cannot fairly be called a Taoist. I do wish I could learn to be a better human being though and Taoism is a great system of philosophy to help me along the way. If any of what I have to say makes you curious about Taoism I strongly suggest reading the Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. He uses A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh to explain Taoism is very simple terms. It is a book that has had great influence in my life, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of my Mom’s old Kirby vacuum cleaner. Thanks to it I am never bored.

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