No Choice But to “Not Do”

It’s been at least four years since I’ve been really sick. That’s why, when several days ago I came down with a stomach virus that had me laid up with all the horrible physical symptoms and a dose of some thick malaise, I resisted the truth of what was happening with me. I was determined not to let it last too long or be that big of a deal. It was the holiday season between Christmas and New Year’s, so I didn’t have to be anywhere or really do anything, so on one hand it was good timing. But from the standpoint of having “ruined” a perfectly nice stay-cation, it sucked. To make it doubly worse, my husband came down with the same thing at about the same exact time.

The day where I felt my lowest, physically and mentally, I spent either on the couch or in bed, sometimes reading, sometimes surfing the internet, or watching Netflix. Mostly I spent time in that hazy netherworld between sleeping and just laying there, staring at the wall, contemplating my existence.

What I found fascinating after that day of forced rest, is how much better it felt the next day, when I had a minor recovery, to be able to actually want to DO anything. I cleaned, I cooked, I checked my email, I made plans. The accomplishing of small tasks felt stupendous. I felt like myself again, because I was able to drink a little bit of that Western culture drug of choice: DOING. I’m not surprised a bit that I’m indeed addicted to doing, and to accomplishing of tasks and goals. Without that doing, I’m in a timeless, gray fog where not much matters. I love doing. My best days are those where I get a lot done, or do a lot.

But here’s the thing…

That day where I had no choice but to not do felt like a revelation. My brain was doing its job to focus my body on healing by forcing me to become detached from desire for anything (except relief from the discomfort). Work felt very “far away”. Desire and hunger felt “far away”. Ambition and goals were not even visible. But that part of me that is addicted to doing was watching the whole time, and criticizing and lamenting about I was wasting a perfectly good day. The voice wasn’t as strong as it usually is, but it was still there, like the annoying, low drone of the distant highway when you’re cresting a scenic ridge and trying to appreciate the wilderness.

For just a day, I had really succeeded in the art of “not doing” and just being present, and not minding spending a day of just “being”. I wasn’t doing it to accomplish any kind of spiritual goal, or with the intent to observe my thoughts for the purpose of changing them later.

Now that I’m starting to feel better, I don’t like that I had “wasted” a day or even several to the task of taking it easy while recovering from a stomach virus. That monkey mind doing voice is angry that I didn’t go on long snow hikes or take on a big personal project or visit with more friends. But now that I know what true “not doing” feels like, and how it’s a relief from the incessant drone of the task master, I’m telling myself that it was a good experience, because it offered me a rare insight into true being and not doing.