We had SO much fun in Seattle! There was the fun dinner with the fabulous Susan Hyatt, there was the bonus of getting to see some beloved clients, and there was the joyful slip of golden bubbles that is my sister.
At one point during our trip, I felt a stab of anxiety. We should Make The Most Of It! We should see All The Things To See! We should Live The Moment Fully!
These thoughts did not make me feel peaceful.
No, they made me feel frantic, panicky, and irritated.
Ever notice how we can take nice wholesome enlightenment teachings and turn them into sticks?All the better to beat you with, my dear?
I have goodness fatigue. I am so tired of seeing inspiring quotes on Facebook. I’m worn out by the aspirational shots on Pinterest. Have you picked up a women’s magazine recently? It will give you an aneurysm, followed by a heart attack.
Did you know that life is SO PRECARIOUS that you need to eat kale flax seeds EVERY DAY? Followed by a meusli-infused salmon smoothie, plus take your pine oil in your beet-fortified kombucha, and exercise at least once every minute, and MEDITATE!!! YOU HAVE TO MEDITATE!!!! IF YOU DON’T MEDITATE YOU ARE IN SO MUCH TROUBLE!
Also please, please tell me that you were doing your kegels while you were reading that.
Every day, you should set an intention, say an affirmation, do yoga, write your morning pages, check your budget, cook a healthy breakfast, wear something fabulous that you ironed yourself, pack a lunch, go to a spinning class, blow dry your hair, have sex with your partner, help your kids with their spelling words, and put in a solid power hour on your most important projects. Please have all this done by 6am. You know that the most successful people are early risers, right?
Also, I need to warn you that you probably need to get tested for things, THINGS, all the things that could be going wrong in your body that you don’t even know about. You feel fine? Dangerous illusion! You should work on your relationship, lean in, take on bigger projects at work, update your investment portfolio, check the gutters and your insurance, save more for retirement, volunteer, call your parents, go to an art museum, and start a foundation– oh and you really should see Venice before it sinks.
We’ve gotten it all backward, darlings. Even Liz Gilbert, one of my favorite spiritual teachers, wrote this depressing line: Sincere spiritual investigation is, and always has been, an endeavor of methodical discipline. Looking for Truth is not some kind of spazzy free-for-all, not even during this, the great age of the spazzy free-for-all.
Dear reader, I see it differently.
(I’m waiting for the lightning to strike. Waiting…waiting….)
I don’t think that Truth, or spirit, or joy, or whatever you’re looking for, is as hard to find as we make it.
One of the places I find it is in sloth. Which, let me remind you, is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
And yet I find it to be a virtue. One of my favorite writers, Dr. Martha Beck, advises the importance of fifteen minutes of Nothing. (Which is a sneaky way of getting people to meditate.) In the Joy Diet class I’m teaching right now, the lovely participants are faithfully doing their Nothing, but they worry– are they doing it right? Are they getting enough OUT of their Nothing? Are they doing Nothing enough????
This is why I find it helpful to think of it as sloth. It’s really hard to do sloth badly.
I find that a few minutes of sloth can help me slip into that liquid state where my mind’s chatter dies down and my eyes soften and take in everything at once and the simple fact of my own physical presence is enough to give me a spiritual orgasm. It usually happens when I’m pausing and spacing out when I should be doing something useful and important. Or when I plop onto the couch to read something fluffy and suddenly the dust motes in a shaft of light are so mesmerizing that I want to cry.
Really. It doesn’t have to be an endeavor of methodical discipline, this living-a-meaning-and-spirit-and-joy-filled-life business. It can be as easy as the love that wells up when you see a child laughing so hard they double over. It’s as instinctive as that unstoppable goofy smile that comes over your face when you see a puppy. It’s as simple as the warmth on your arm where your good friend just patted it. Sometimes it’s even the ache in your heart that is so strong that you’re shocked into realizing that your heart has been beating, all along, this whole time, unnoticed.
I’m sorry, spiritual teachers everywhere, but these tiny simple accessible bits of joy are droplets of holy, and they are literally everywhere.
You know how to find them too. I know you do. The trick is not to try so hard. Just for a few minutes today, let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. (Thank you, Mary Oliver, for the sweet truth of that phrase.) Let yourself slump into comfort, drift into a lazy reverie. Watch the light play on the face of any human, even an irritating one, and watch them become weirdly beautiful. You can go back to being driven and responsible and all those good things tomorrow, I promise.
If you’re worried that your children will starve or you’ll get fired in the meantime, then okay, you can go back to it sooner. But take a few minutes. Be divinely slothful.
You’ll find that all the other divine things will come find you there.