Category: Journal

Being Lazy Without Feeling a Need to Be Productive

Can you allow yourself to be lazy when the energy to be in a productive, creative, income-generating state of being is not there?

Portrait of author being lazy, smiling with eyes closed
Enjoy this time of the year, where you can allow yourself to be lazy.

I have been wide awake during many of these midsummer’s nights. This time of the year has a unique quality to it. Although the energy is high, it is a natural moment for rest, very much like the period after Christmas. A time of not wanting or doing too much, of simply giving everything to ripen and come to fruition. I have enjoyed this energy and felt guilty for being lazy at the same time.

Being lazy to me is not being in a productive, creative, income-generating state of being. I think I have internalized this presumption to an extent that I often force myself into this state, even when the energy is not there. I am, like most of us, conditioned by a society in which everything is valued by its worth or needs to be ‘of use’. Sad, but true.

The Tenacious Belief to Be Someone Worthwhile

Being aware of the undercurrent does not necessarily free me from its grip. My beliefs are tenacious. There is good and bad in them. The bad is that they can be fueled by egoic desire to ‘be someone worthwhile’. This makes me feel guilty in moments I do not feel inspired. The good is that sometimes I need a little push to get out of my comfort zone and share my thoughts regardless of what I think of their worth.

Habits form over a period of persistent practice. Writing is hard for me. I find myself facing an annoying inner critic that condemns every sentence I put down. However, when I succeed in sharing in a way that is both meaningful to you and to myself, I find it to be a worthwhile way to spend my time.

I realize a little discipline goes a long way, as long as I stay honest to myself and keep examining why I do what I do. I hope I inspire you to do the same.

Practicing Self-Worth Beyond Measurable Success

Society programs us to determine self-worth by measurable and visible success. Perhaps it is time for us to let go of this story.

Intersection in beech forest on a rainy day
Does it really matter which path I choose to feel worthy?

Today, nature taught me something about self-worth beyond success. The rain pulled me outside. I love being in the forest on rainy days, satisfying a deep craving to be alone with nature. I am in love with the sweet, aromatic smell of the forest floor, with the soft light bouncing off the wet leaves, with raindrops gently rolling off my coat.

A large beech tree marks the center of an intersection I come across. Seven paths fork in all directions. As a child, I was in love with the book De Zevensprong, which takes place around a sevenfold intersection in the forest. I still remember how I imagined this intersection. Now I am standing in my own fantasy, 25 years later. I am in awe of how little I understand about how time works.

Thinking Differently About Self-Worth

While I pause I realize how important intersections are in my life. It feels good to stand there, deliberately taking in each path, one by one. As a genuine product of my generation, choice overwhelms me. I grew up in a society that believes that you can do whatever you want. On the one hand, this opens up an inspiring register of possible futures. On the other hand, it creates in insane amount of pressure. Because if I fail to be what I choose to be, it probably means I didn’t work hard enough, right? Society programs me to determine my self-worth by measurable and visible success. This way of thinking is just one of the possible narratives to live a meaningful life. Therefore, perhaps it is time for me to let go of this story.

While I am standing at the crossroads the canopy of the old beech tree protects me from the rain. Its green bark feels smooth to the touch. One of the paths looks promising. As I am about to head off, a couple wearing matching pink raincoats appear from behind a curve in the road. Second guessing my choice, I quickly dart off in a different direction. Perhaps my choice wasn’t so deliberate after all.

Patience in the Islam Is a Courageous Virtue

In the Islam, patience is a virtue. This patience requires your strength and courage in face of all unexpected and unwanted outcomes.

Sitting on the floor in a circle listening with patience
Listening with patience. Picture taken during the Nature of Wonder Autumn Retreat by Kia Mourato.

I wake up with a restless feeling and a lack of patience. A feeling I know all too well; when my mind kicks in, it goes over the endless lists of things I need or want to do. Life as a continuous ticking off checkboxes until death do us part. As a result, I have no patience for even the smallest daily rituals, like getting dressed or brushing my teeth. In my mind I am already rushing to the next item on my list.

I realize I am in a ongoing fight with my own relentless work ethic. Above all, something needs to change and I decide to go for a run to clear my mind. Meanwhile, the martins are back, soaring over the fields, playing and dancing with each other. House martins are busy birds. They collect little bits of mud to build their nests under rooftops. An arduous and lengthy task. For a moment, I watch a house martin build its nest, bit by bit. He inspires me to reflect on what it means to be patient.

The Virtue of Patience in the Islam

In the Islam, sabar is an intrinsic part of the Islamic faith. Sabar literally means endurance. Most importantly, it teaches us to remain steadfast and patient, specifically when we encounter opposition, problems or unwanted results. In other words, patience in the Islam is the perseverance we need in face of all unexpected and unwanted outcomes. Such a patience requires strength and courage.

I see it requires strength to patiently persevere in whatever I am doing, without allowing my thoughts to drift off into the future. And it takes courage to enjoy the present moment, not needing to know what the future brings.

For now, the house martin is flying off and on with little bits of mud in his beak. He is probably not burdening himself with a lack of patience. I imagine him hopping around in the nest when its done, enjoying his accomplishment and the prospect of what it will bring.

What a Moth Reveals About Feeling Lost

When feeling lost, set your course for the brightest light in your life. You might not end up where you want to be, but hardly anyone does.

Cabin in a dark forest by moonlight, a bright light when feeling lost.
Set your course for the moon. Picture taken during the Nature of Wonder Winter Retreat.

The evenings are mild and I keep my door open. Attracted by the light, a little moth flies around my reading lamp. I remember reading somewhere that moths navigate by flying at a constant angle relative to a distant light source, such as the Moon. This makes me wonder how a moth gets around on a cloudy night. And whether this moth is feeling lost too.

Knowing I need to do something more productive, I discover that moths use the Earth’s magnetic field to cross vast distances in Australian deserts. Aside from the plain brown moth, the only other insect that can accomplish such a feat is the monarch butterfly. Unlike moths, who prefer the Moon, the stars and the Milky Way, monarch butterflies use the rising and setting Sun to navigate. I also learn that the flying patterns of this little moth helps drones navigate unfamiliar environments, so we’ll likely see moth-inspired drones soon. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

We Are All Navigating in the Dark

I look at this little creature, who confused my lamp for the Moon. I feel in awe of how little I understand about the way nature works. How we all work, in fact. The next day, I read an article in the papers about moths. The writer suggests that a moth is simply drawn to the light, just like everyone else who is lost. In all of its complexity, nature’s tendencies are remarkably similar for all of us. When you are feeling lost, set your course for the brightest light in your life. You might not end up where you want to be, but hardly anyone ever does. We are all navigating in the dark. A good thing to remember the next time you find a trapped moth in your window sill.

When an Idea Visits You

An idea is like a creature that comes and visits you. Let it in! It came just for you.

Ideas are like creatures that come and visit you. Today my dear friend Maike shared this beautiful thought from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic. If ideas are like creatures, they need love and care. Will my ideas die if I don’t give them the attention they need? No, my friend said. They’ll visit someone else instead.

I thought about all of my old notebooks and all of the stale ideas in them. Ideas for later, I thought. You know, when I get to it. These neglected creatures have probably left me. Perhaps one or two sit it out, because they know how compelling they are. They know how well they fit me, if only I’d take the time to hear them out. To sit with them and feel their magic.

Inspiration is a mysterious thing. It is fleeting, elusive, almost ghost-like. My friend tells the story of a poet who has to drop everything and run to her desk when a poem visits her. To grab it by the tail before it flies off again. I imagine it’s a mythical, untamable creature. Like a silver dragon.

When a good idea visits you, you’ll know. A rush of blood to the head, a tingle in your heart, a tickle in your belly. This little creature is knocking on your door. Let it in! It came just for you.

Free Yourself from Hope

The hope that there’s somewhere or someone better to be imprisons us. Without giving up hope, we will never relax with where or who we are.

I am abandoning hope. With tears in my eyes I listened to a beautiful book reading of Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart today. The last few days I felt lost. I was searching for meaning, and when I couldn’t find it, for external validation in the shape of thumbs and hearts. I felt unhappy with where I am in my life. It simply wasn’t good enough.

We are in a collective crisis of sorts, facing an uncertain future. Chödrön writes, “Anyone who stands at the edge of the unknown, fully in presence without reference point, experiences groundlessness. The present moment is a vulnerable place, completely unnerving and completely tender at the same time.” Hearing these words broke the spell for me. I could finally permit myself to give up trying to know. I felt exhausted, but relieved.

In Tibetan there is a word for this: ye tang che. It means “totally worn out”. It describes an experience of complete hopelessness, of completely giving up hope. When we abandon our hope for our imagined, projected future, suffering begins to dissolve.

I realized hope imprisoned me. The hope that there’s somewhere better to be, that there’s someone better to be. If we are willing to give up hope that uncertainty and pain can be exterminated, we can have the courage to face the groundlessness of our situation. Without giving up hope, we will never relax with where or who we are.

3 Practices to Live in Wonder

To live in wonder requires practice each day. It presents itself when we take the time for it.

In the early morning of this bright day I am in awe of nature. Dew rising from the fields, the rising sun creating pillars of light in the mist. A sense of wonder is a simple discovery in such a scene. It isn’t always though.

To live in wonder requires practice each day. A few suggestions that help me:

  • Mark a little square of nature with a few twigs and observe every detail in the square intently. Describe to yourself what you see. Push through any resistance that comes up. It’s worth it.
  • Go on a morning walk. Allow your thoughts to wander, just like you. Let it be the first thing you do, whatever you do.
  • On a starry night, look up and place yourself in the context of this vast, vast universe. Here we are, on this tiny rock floating through the vastness of space, along with everything we know.

Lost in our thoughts, we can recognize something as beautiful, but this elusive feeling of deep appreciation for life will remain absent. Wonder presents itself when we take the time for it. So sit down somewhere, relax your thoughts. Just wait. And you will see.

Always Follow Your Nose

Time turns the why behind our actions from a moment of insight into a story we tell ourselves. In such times, it's best to follow your nose.

We are never complete. The human condition is to forever become, according to Hannah Arendt. In other words, to change is to be human. To change is to be in a crisis, from the Greek krisis, the point at which change must come, for better or worse. It marks a vital, decisive moment.

There are many of those moments in my life. I often forget about them when I think I know what I am doing and why I am doing it. Time turns the why behind my actions from a moment of deep insight into a story I tell myself. While I am too busy staying on course without questioning my motivation, my why loses its value.

Then a crisis comes along, internal or external, and I again question my why, to discover I am no longer able to validate it. The intrinsic value behind my actions was lost somewhere along the road. All that remains is a story, something I tell myself, because it was what I wanted, right?

I am at a fork in the road. No signposts this time. I decide it’s best to pause for a while for a moment and lie down in the grass. I laugh and think of the best piece of advice in times like these. “If in doubt, Meriadoc, always follow your nose.” Thus spoke Gandalf the Grey, the great wizard of times past.

Stumbling over the Edge of the Horizon

For William Wordsworth, immersing himself in both nature and society awakened poetic imagination. We miss half of his recipe.

Days have merged into one another since the lockdown. I fill them with reading, writing and walking along the orchards. Only nature’s relentless growth reminds me of the passage of time.

“To stumble over the edge of the horizon, forever slipping through the hours of a day.” My experience of time is different these days. It is not necessarily unpleasant, but I feel more detached from the world.

A few days ago I met a dear friend for a walk in the woods. We talked about everything and nothing, and I realized how conversations like these help place myself in the larger context of a world full of other people. William Wordsworth advocated immersing oneself fully in both nature and society to awaken poetic imagination. He found beauty in the mundane, in the banal experiences of daily life.

Like most of us, I miss half of Wordsworth’s recipe for a poetic life. I enjoy being on my own, but the desire to stay isolated is thinning away. I dream of small cafes and black coffees. To be amongst strangers. A friend sits down next to me and orders a tea. We talk about everything and nothing.

By Touch, to Everything Alike

We need the intimacy of touch if we want to cultivate a stronger, deeper connection with nature.

The rain seeps through my summer jacket. My shoes are soaked through by walking in the wet grass. A local shower sweeps over the fields, creating a billowing curtain of rain. Sheep and their little lambs shelter under a tree. A blackbird washes itself in a puddle, drops rolling off its feathers like little pearls. For a moment, I sulk and wonder why I didn’t dress for the weather.

In such moments, it helps me to release all of my negative thoughts about a sensation and focus on the experience itself. The rain touches my skin. The cold, wet feeling is strangely refreshing. It feels intimate.

When I touch or something touches me, there is no distance between me and the other.

Alles van waarde is weerloos
Wordt van aanraakbaarheid gelijk
En aan alles gelijk

“Everything of value is defenceless / Becomes equal by touch / And to everything alike.” These lines of the Dutch poet Lucebert remind me of the value of touch in our lives. We become one with what we touch. And if we want to cultivate a stronger, deeper connection with nature, we need this intimacy.