The first time I heard this phrase it was in the movie, Eat, Pray, Love. In the movie Julia Robert’s/Elizabeth Gilbert’s two male friends are getting their hair cut at the barber. One of her Italian friends mocks the American lifestyle noting how we work ourselves to the bone only to lay around in our pajamas on the weekend watching TV. He claims that Americans know nothing about pleasure, always trying to justify pleasure instead of embracing it as well deserved (like Italians do). Her other friend then introduces the concept of La Dolce Far Niente – the sweetness of doing nothing.
This phrase came up this week as I was speaking to Gloria Coppola who will be running a retreat in Italy, one of my favorite places in the world. Yes, I love the whole country, the lifestyle, the food, the wine, the people, the art, the culture, the architecture, the language – well I could go on and on. And so I told Gloria about la dolce far niente.
Since that conversation this concept has been lying in my subconscious, until this morning when I woke up alone with my two dogs, walked onto the balcony and just breathed in the cool morning air. For a moment, there was nothing to do, nowhere to be.
And yes, it was so sweet.
I’m alone for a few days as my partner had to travel unexpectedly. Instead of freaking out I noticed how I anticipated this alone time. You would think I had too much alone time living here in Ecuador while my friends and family are thousands of miles away.
But alone time isn’t only about being without the presence of someone. It is mostly about being present to myself.
I realize that I have been filling up my time with computer work, Skype calls, social media and course writing. I have not actually been alone with myself as often as I wish and it wasn’t until today that I experienced that sweetness the Italians speak of.
This morning I reveled in the slow pace of making my coffee and breakfast and sitting quietly, no music, no TV and no conversation to distract me from my Self. Even the dogs were quietly padding about as if they knew not to disturb the silence that lay like the glassy film on calm waters.
And so la dolce far niente arose from the subconscious and made itself present because for the first time in weeks, I allowed the space for it to emerge.
I became the invitation for the quiet in my heart to speak.
“I miss you,” it said.
“I miss you too,” I replied.
“We really need to get together more often,” it said.
“Oh yes, we must,” I replied.
For a few hours I have been sitting quietly, walking around the property, having lunch, feeding the dogs.
The simple ordinary activities of life performed intentionally provide a doorway to presence.
It was from that space that this blog post emerged. Once I could hear my conversation with myself, I knew I was ready to write and share the experience.
Earlier I only wanted to savor it just as it was, letting the juice of the moment drench me with the sweetness of doing nothing.
A few days ago I had a similar experience of time, empty of activities, conversations and distractions but my response was very different.
I became anxious.
Shouldn’t I be DOING SOMETHING?
Time was wasting. I reprimanded myself for not sitting down to finish the course or for not writing a newsletter or for not weeding the garden outside the door that scolded me every time I walked outside.
I was not alone then although there was no one with me. My thoughts became anxiety and the anxiety became noise.
The soul never appears when there is noise.
Only when the safe embrace of silence gently beckons it forth does the soul appear.
When was the last time you spent time with your Self? It is so nourishing to create stillness in your life no matter what is going on.
You don’t have to be busy or productive every day. That is a myth that sabotages our growth and our health.
You think that nothing is occurring in that stillness but it is alive with the seeds of creativity.
You only have to allow the space for those seeds to bloom into the fruit that can nourish your heart and soul.
You desperately need this right now. It’s the only thing you have to counter the noise in your life, to remind you of your goodness, to connect you to your true nature.
Be intentional about creating spaces in your days for stillness and reflection so you can be in conversation with the most important person in your life. How else will you get to know your Self?
Be intentional about the simple activities of life whether it’s making a meal or going for a walk or taking your child to the playground.
Presence is the doorway to stillness.
Stillness is not merely something that happens outside. True stillness occurs within us whether we are moving or not.
La Dolce Far Niente – the sweetness of doing nothing – Ah!
Revel in that sweetness and you’ll feel peace and joy and aliveness, appreciating the beauty around you and the goodness of you. Whether it's a moment, a day or a week, pause and enjoy the peace.