I loaf and invite my soul (Walt Whitman)

Doing nothing often leads to something.

Indeed, I am gestating something and will unveil it in due time, perhaps in August or September, if I understand the due date correctly. Meanwhile I loaf as the proper accompaniment to gestation, and I share a few notes on the process of loafing, beginning with a stage theory of loafing. The stages of doing nothing, according to Dr. Benvenuti, are:

Denial: in this stage the person can often be heard saying things like, “You can sleep when you die!” and “I want it all!”

Anger: in this stage the person who is tired resents the seeming need to rest, imagining that he or she will fall further and further behind in the great rat race of life. Rather than submit to rest, she flexes her muscles, attempting to “push through” the exhaustion; her spontaneous expressions of frustration and pain can often be heard by the neighbors, and she may begin to criticize others who seem to be resting, perhaps suggesting that they are weak.

Bargaining: At this stage, the tired person begins to surrender but without accepting any real loss of control. She makes a plan to rest in the future. She promises that if she might be allowed to just push through this semester, this fiscal year, this exam, this promotion. . . then she promises to take two full weeks of fun and sun, or a road trip, next year. Of course the particulars of the bargain depend on the cause of her exhaustion and her reasons for fighting it.

Depression: She pushes on in the hopes that the universe has heard and accepted the terms of her offer of a bargain. However, in spite of her persistence, her awareness that the universe seems not interested in the deal increases over time. She loses even more energy, now in the form of depression. She feels hopeless. She tries and tries but the universe does not care. And beneath it all, she is tired. Her extra efforts have made her more tired. She wants to just give up.

Acceptance: She does give up. She rests—she runs away, or falls over, or gets sick and goes to bed, and then. . . she wants to rest some more! She sees the clouds floating past her window, she hears the birds at dawn, and the insects in the evening, she smells the flowers on the breeze. She may be heard saying things like, “Wow, this is really nice! Why did I think I had to run that race? I guess when I was forced out of the race, when I rested, I  found the rest of the world, and I could hear for the first time in so very long, my own wee squeaking voice, and it is lovely.” Gradually, she begins to find things funny, her sense of humor returns, she may become irreverent.

Note: Though seemingly a final stage, this stage of acceptance has particular dangers of its own because often brings with it ideas about what’s next that may not be related to the rat race, or, conversely, that may become the next rat race.

About Anne Benvenuti

My second book, "Kindred Spirits" is in gestation, soon to be delivered! My first book is called "Spirit Unleashed: Reimagining Human-Animal Relations," June 2014, Wipf and Stock. From the book jacket: "In Spirit Unleashed, Anne Benvenuti uses analysis of real encounters with animals, wild and domestic, to take us on an intellectual tour of our thinking about animals by way of biological sciences, scientific psychology, philosophy, and theology to show that we have been wrong in our understanding of ourselves amongst other animals. The good news is that we can correct course and make ourselves happier in the process. Drawing us into encounters with a desert rattlesnake, an offended bonobo, an injured fawn, a curious whale, a determined woodpecker, and others, she gives us a glimpse of their souls. Anne Benvenuti strongly makes the case that to change the way that we think about animals—and our way of relating to them—holds the possibility of changing all life on Earth for the better."I am an integrative scholar and author, a licensed clinical psychologist, a priest of the Episcopal Church, a Trustee of the Parliament of the World's Religions (and representative to the United Nations), a published poet, and photographer. The New Archaic: A Neurophenomenological Approach to Religious Ways of Knowing," in A Field Guide to a New Meta-Field: Bridging the Humanities/Neurosciences Divide, ed. Barbara Maria Stafford, University of Chicago Press, 2011. My recent presentations include "Promise and Peril: Can Religious and Political Selves Be Reconciled?" at the International Academy of Law and Mental Health, Berlin, 2011; "The New Archaic: Neuroscience, Spiritual Practice, and Healing" at the Parliament for the World's Religions, Melbourne, 2009; and "Gratefully at Home in the Body: Neuroscience and Spiritual Practice," at Spiritual Directors International, San Francisco, 2010.
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