I’m doing pretty much nothing, and I’m fairly sure that there isn’t anything one could add to make me happier. In fact, the less I do, the better everything seems. Seven days ago I arrived at the Hoh River in the Olympic National Forest on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington and have been trying my best to be doing only that which I want to do in each moment. Each time I ask myself if I want to do this or that – swim, bike, hike, etc., the answer is almost always “no.” It’s a simple no. I simply don’t want to. So I don’t. No shoulds allowed. No trying to achieve some sort of pre-imagined ideal experience.
There seems to be so very little right now that wants to fill my days. A couple of naps – check. Time staring at the river – check. A little guitar and singing – check. Good enough by me. The longer I live, the more I come to see that simplicity is one of the keys to my happiness. It is generally the complications in life that bring stress and anxiety. Though I know that life’s circumstances can make it hard to avoid complication entirely, I can speak for myself with certainty that I really value ease and simplicity and have made a conscious effort to err over time on the side of less.
In my life, I have turned away from many ventures and projects that bring too much complication. The determining phrase I’ll hear myself say is that something “sounds too much like work.” Is an endeavor something that flows forth naturally from my being, or does it feel too much like work? I can bust my butt working 12+ hour days on a project like this van conversion but that didn’t necessarily feel like work. I can spend hours writing and refining a new piece for this blog but that doesn’t feel like work. I can put effort into my support of Nepal Orphans Home but it doesn’t at all feel like work. I can host people in my home through airbnb but that doesn’t feel like work either, but rather a gift that I have to share. I stopped putting much effort into my fermentation recipe site (www.fermentationrecipes.com) even though it was growing in popularity (up to 7,500 followers now) simply because it was taking the joy out of my actual kitchen time. It started to feel too much like work.
Relationships, whether family, friend or romantic can be the same. All should have care and kindness. Challenge is fine within relationship too, yet the relevant question is whether the people in the relationship are working together on addressing whatever challenges there may be or whether they are at odds with each other. Challenges held within the container of the relationship are not work. Challenges where one is pitted against the other are work. There is a huge difference. Love exists across all kinds of relationship, but the inevitable challenges which arise shouldn’t necessary feel like struggle. Challenge, of course. Struggle, no.
And so here I am, in a most beautiful place. And I am opting for as much simplicity as I can distill from within it. I could easily drive off and see more places, post more Instagram selfies (I actually disconnected my account awhile ago), and “consume” a little more of the world, yet each day, this voice in me has continued to say “no, just stay here. One more day.” And each day that I stay, I drop a little deeper, I move a little slower, I feel a little more still inside. My days here flow very simply.
Aside from the naps, eating, and guitar time, I’ve occasionally showered, attempted a van organization project, taken a small hike, and taken an exploratory mountain bike ride. To be honest, though, deeply resting and being still are pretty much about all that I have really felt like doing (or not doing, I guess).
My personal experience is that most humans have deeper layers of tired upon tired in our body, psyche and soul that don’t normally get the chance to rest and recover. With life, we’re often lucky if we can recover from a rough day with a good night’s sleep, or get a little break from the grind with a weekend off. But there are much deeper layers of tired too. Tired from raising children, tired of fighting a culture that seems out of sync with care and civility, tired from a lifetime of never quite getting ahead, tired of supporting others rather than taking care of oneself, etc., etc., etc. When granted the opportunity, once we start to slow down we begin to exhume those deeper layers of tired. Giving them a chance to fully revivify is deeply important if we are to live a healthy and vibrant life. Instead of spending your next vacation, if you are lucky enough to have one, checking another something off your bucket list, I encourage you to consider just stopping. Find a place where you can turn off the switch and let yourself rest as much and as deeply as you may need. (I think I’ll be opening my home for just such simple retreats). You might be surprised to find how tired you really have been. You also might be pleased to find that your natural speed once rested is markedly more easeful than you actually had thought.
My intention while camping here has been to stay and remain still until the deep desire to rest that I have been feeling is satisfied and a natural desire to continue onward arises. I’m starting to feel the percolations of possible movement, but as usual, I’ll wait until tomorrow to see if a voice again arises from within that whispers, “no, just stay here. One more day.”