SIT DOWN: The Art of Nothing
When I visioned for my five-week trip to Southeast Asia, I thought I'd travel to be inspired in my art–– whatever it is that i do, i wanted to come here to do it more, to do it better, to get sparked.
It turns out there was a great teacher I had to meet first, the Teacher of Nothing.
Upon arrival, I announced to the world that I might be writing a book, and, without delay, allies began to appear one after another–– friends, dreams, strangers, birds, lizards–– to hand me resources. They gave me symbols and images to research, told me about books I should read, songs I must listen to, told me stories to ponder, shared mysteries they had been part of. I felt like the whole world was suddenly writing with me!
And now I just needed to write. Write something deep, penetrating, intelligent, unparalleled, life-changing. No pressure, just write!
And to be sure, only days after arriving in Bali, I had a most vivid encounter with one of my longest known inner guides, an old, crackly, long-gray-haired woman with a face carved by deep wrinkles, an ancient whisperer of the feminine psyche who comes to me at times of importance. (She first appeared at a pivotal life intersection years ago, and when she did, I was suddenly aware that I’d known her all along!)
Now, in Ubud, during a Wisdom Bones movement session with the lovely Robyn Lynn, Old Woman pops into my inner eye, and immediately after that she is also, literally, the image on the card I pull from a tarot deck. Whoa! OK, I do see you. As I begin moving in front of the women who are witnessing me, Old Woman is suddenly inside of me, snapping my fingers rapidly, fiercely, my whole body shaking, possessed. “Come on!” I hear myself yell out loud in her feverish voice, “I have cleared everything for you so you can do this. It is time! And the world is waiting, so sit down! SITT DOWWN!”
Sit down to write? I know. I hear you! I promise!
In the following days, writing becomes progressively hard, almost impossible. I tell myself it will all get much easier once I get to the islands of Thailand. That is what I am waiting for, the islands, the peace, the exotic rhythms. Then, I am on the islands. Sit down!
But instead, nothing is as I want it, as it should be. Not the guest house, not the village, not the beaches, not the people. I cannot sit down to write, not here, not like this! I change hotels, change beaches. All the comforts are now here. I lie on the beach, and it is all SO slow, the sea splashing endlessly at my feet, nothing promising to change or to happen, and I instantly think, I need to go somewhere else where I can write! But there is nowhere to go, it is all islands around here, AND I have come for this.
I sit, I stare, I labor over some words, I fidget, I get up, I sit down. Nothing. I simply cannot write.
If I am not writing, at least I should get some work done. Sit down! But there is no energy left in my body, even after days of “rest”. No part of me is willing to work.
I go lie on the beach, ‘paradise’ is all around me- stunning colors and light, palm trees speaking in breezy whispers, white sands tickling my toes, the quietness I’ve dreamt for…. And it should be good, may be it even IS good, but something is drilling hard on the inside: Why am I just sitting here on this beautiful but unexciting island? Why am not going to the more dramatic islands, the real Thailand? If I am not working or writing, why don’t I feel like swimming laps in the sea? Why have I not been getting up early to run in the coolness of morning? Why am I not going on snorkeling tours? Why can’t I just write for this one hour each day? This trip is ending, how can I justify it not panning out into what it might have been?
And all the while I think, well, at least I am resting... Resting?!? The collective mind of our culture with its fixation on doing and producing and ‘getting it done’ as a measure of goodness–– it has taken over me so big that my body hasn’t even had a chance to feel the place that is holding me, to listen to the land, its beat, its pulse, its eros!!
At the end, it is my body who has waited all along, quietly wishing to fall into the rhythm of waves, to bask in the fragrance of roasted chiles and garlic in fresh papaya, to connect to the pulse of this quiet life, to become porous and slow like the land it is guest to–– it is my body that makes it impossible to go further without realizing what is happening. It has no ‘battery’ left, it calls for a deep pause. I surrender. I drop into my skin and my senses, and, finally, I let myself arrive to the Place I am in, to the truth of the moment.
For days, I make no plans for anything. I extend my stay and I go without schedule: I walk when I walk, I nap in unexpected places, I scoop sand with my feet, I wade in the sea when my body desires, I swim laps when suddenly the energy arrives. I write nothing, nothing at all, and then suddenly, a burst comes and I run to my notebook, and it pours. And then it doesn’t.
And what I come to discover, in small doses and not without terror, is that if any gift is to be born through me for the world, before I can write anything at all about eros and aliveness and deep-body being, I must undo the madness of doing and producing and busyness that has plagued me and my body and my culture. It is clear now: To unwind my wild body and my deep being from the the Western roller coaster while living inside of it–– that is the first task, and without this unwinding I can not continue writing, or living, in integrity.
And it suddenly dawns on me: What Old Woman has been saying all along is not "Sit down to write", but SIT DOWN inside of yourself, my sweet daughter, sit down and slow down and make space. Let yourself be porous and permeable, and yield to the moment, so that which you are seeking can find you. Sit down and give your weight to the ground and make room for no-thing. Only in nothingness, only in spaciousness, you can hear the earth and its breathing eros. And only then you can do justice to yourself and your world and its creatures. And only then your culture might wake up.
So sit down.