The Importance Of Doing Nothing

Guest Blogger: Connie McLeod

Connie is my first ever guest blogger. She’s a new friend and creative impetus in my life, and I like her a lot. She’s jump-out-of-planes-fearless (literally) and her personal motto is: If it scares me, I’ve got to do it. Though we’ve run in the same professional circles for years, we only really “met” this year.  As fate would have it, we discovered we were both part of a great midlife bloggers group of women at Generation Fabulous.  We have been friends and supporters of each other ever since. This spring the Dalai Lama visited New Orleans and we both blogged about it from our different perspectives. I know you will enjoy my friend and guest blogger’s words as much as I do. 

I’ve been told that I do nothing better than anyone else. I usually have a very full schedule. My lunches and evenings are filled with need-to-do-this or need-to-meet-them. I’ve lots of interests outside of my day job and I’m admittedly, very social. I never turn down a meal or a glass of wine with friends. My brain is always whirling and my sweetie has come to dread the phrase…”I’ve been thinking” because it usually involves some task for him.

doing-nothing

But I also know that I need quiet time to counter that. The quiet meditative time, when I still the monkey mind chatter. I also know that my sweetie and I need quiet time together. As a couple, we need time to just be.

I’ve written about my friend’s camp before.  That special Zen oasis she calls the Flying Alligator, less than an hour from my home.  It’s perched on a quiet bluff overlooking a mighty river. The Atchafalaya River is one of the deepest rivers in the world and from her pier; I can sit and watch it’s fast moving current flow by for hours. It’s too fast for waterskiers or even fishermen, so only occasionally does a boat go by. You don’t see other homes or people from that pier. You can only see the mighty ancient trees that line it’s banks. It’s a real connection to the past as we quietly sit and listen to the sounds of nature surrounding us.

This is how this spot has looked for eons. We watch the eagles and the hawks and the rosy-headed spoonbills soaring high in the sky, as well as the tiny chickadee hopping on the branch that shades the pier. We’re in the middle of the Atchafalaya Basin  which is the largest swamp in the country and it still feels primal. I’ve seen migratory geese flying over so high in the sky they looked like hundreds of shimmering ribbons that undulated with wind currents; those ribbons appearing and disappearing depending on the wings catching the glow of the sun on their journey.

We watch the frogs and the lizards and the snakes and see the occasional fish jump out of the river.  We see a bird dive into the water to catch its dinner. I feel connected to the world as I watch how nature has been since the beginning of time.

I’m still connected to technology and it feels appropriate that I see the words of the Dalia Lama being posted by friends.  He’s only a short ways away—as the bird flies—in New Orleans, his first visit to my favorite city. (I hope he eats well while he’s there). I read a post about his Holiness, “the recipe for happiness is pretty simple, sleep well, eat well, meditate and connect with people who value your opinion.”

I know I’m where I’m meant to be in this moment of time. Feeling connected to the larger world. Sitting in happy silence with my love, occasionally touching hands and yes, a glass of wine in the other hand.

Part of my doing nothing is reading the book “My Stroke of Insight” from a powerful TED talk. This neuroscientist talks of recovering from a stroke and how important sleep and quiet and the kindness of others were to her healing and recovery. Her words and the Dalai Lama’s, being content and happy in the presence of love and being connected to nature, have all resonated with me this weekend.

I’ve come to believe that I’m meant to help people connect to their creativity. I’m still working on exactly how to get that message out. But maybe it’s by showing someone how to do nothing—something I’m very good at. It sure has connected me to the glorious, creative world today.

About Connie McLeod

Creativity Coach at Greenview Designs; foodie and wine lover; world traveler; blogger

I’ve been an Art Director for over 30 years and have won a bunch of awards over those years. During my career I’ve worked for ad agencies, higher education, nonprofits and done freelance design.  I’m an LSU grad with a degree in Advertising/Journalism. I took six months and backpacked across Europe in my 20’s and I was my daughter’s Girl Scout leader for 13 years and I jumped out of a plane on my 50th birthday. This year I launched Greenview Designs and am leading workshops on Creativity and Innovation along with other designy things.

I learned with Scouts, it’s not about earning the badge, it’s about the hike you take to earn it, what you learn and see and enjoy along the way. I embrace my joys, challenges and the bumps in the road with a sense of creativity. I hope you enjoy following me along my creative journey.

Connie’s blog is My Creative Journey http://conniemcleod.wordpress.com/

The Dalai Lama, Non-Violence and Gun Ads

IMG_0363_edited-1-1New Orleans is lovingly called the city that “care forgot.”  And for good reason; its love of revelry, rhythm and blues, and deep-fried everything, is legendary.

Yes, that city. The city that was nearly swallowed up and spit out in pieces by the punishing wind and waters of Hurricane Katrina.

Yes, that city, the one that inspires hope and loss in the same breath; the city that spurs the kind of violence that leaves you heart sick and slack-jawed from the shock and soulless brutality of it all. Like when two young males well-schooled in violence  casually open-fired on a Mother’s Day parade wounding 20 people, including several children.

This was the city that the Dalai Lama came to visit recently. A city badly in need of healing.

This was the Dalai Lama’s first visit to New Orleans and he came to deliver a commencement speech to Tulane graduates and speak at several other engagements in the city.

Not surprising he spoke of peace in his speeches. To the Tulane graduates he said,   “Please pay attention to securing your own inner peace. Our hopes for the future rest on your shoulders. Please think about how to make this a more peaceful, compassionate century.”  dalai

Speaking at a separate event at the New Orleans Lakefront Arena, he talked about non-violence and peace and compassion.

He said, “It is not our job to disturb the peace and then it’s God’s job to restore it. Violence isn’t created by God or Buddha; it’s created by human beings. So logically, the responsibility to eliminate it belongs to us too. Here in America there’s been a lot of discussion about gun control. But the real source of control is in our hearts.”

Wise words from a wise monk.

Violence and poverty and abuse all stem from a lack of compassion. The need for guns and the need for gun control is all the same to me. It’s all rooted in fear and violence in my book.

Look, I’m from the South. Guns are serious business here. This isn’t a subject that makes friends–unless you’re on the right side of the argument– if you get my drift.  It’s a subject that I usually stay away from because I’m a peacemaker at heart and it almost seems counterintuitive to me to argue about guns.

“…Please think about how to make this a more peaceful, compassionate century.”  I think of the Dalai Lama’s words to the graduates about securing peace, and working for a more peaceful world. I wonder what I can contribute to the cause.

I think there are a lot of us who are confused about how to walk in this world more peacefully.

I’m of the opinion that it starts with finding inner peace. Not an easy task. But I believe that meditation is a good start here. Finding compassion for ourselves, for our faults, and loving ourselves so we can better love others, is another strategy.

I think when we’re brave enough to do the inner work, to look at all of the places inside of us where we are at war with ourselves, where we focus on what’s wrong with ourselves, with our lives, is a good place to work on non-violence. Perhaps that’s the foundation of the saying, “Love others as we love ourselves.”

Maybe the idea is that we should love ourselves a little more, so we learn the capacity to be truly compassionate, truly kind to others. So that we can love others.

I think prayer is also a gateway to compassion. Praying to God, Spirit, Buddha or to your higher spirit for guidance is a good way to open up the heart. The older I get, the more I pray.

If we’re honest, we can admit that light and dark both exist in this world. But light, including inner light, can be the beacon that disperses the darkness. Within us and around us.

When we actively focus on non-violence, maybe we will lessen the violence in the outside world. Maybe we won’t have to live forever with the duality of seeing this:

His Holiness featured in an article about his visit to New Orleans in The Advocate with a gun ad on the opposite page.

His Holiness featured in an article about his visit to New Orleans in The Advocate with a gun ad on the opposite page.

a full page article in the Baton Rouge paper featuring the Dalai Lama’s visit to New Orleans with an ad for a gun shop placed on the opposite page from it. I’d like to think this was an accident. But the truth is, I’m not sure.

Which leads me to the truism that “there are no accidents.” Maybe there’s a message here about our society’s conflict. About how we all wrestle with the light and the dark.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on compassion and grace, particularly at midlife,  read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.