La dolce far niente; Italian for “the sweetness of doing nothing”. In our modern, supersaturated and connected world many people are freaked out by the mere thought of doing nothing, of having no particular business or activity they can engage in. They rather throw themselves off a bridge or get drunk or subject themselves to electric shocks just to distract themselves from the living hell of sitting there and doing absolutely nothing.
Okay that sounds a bit dramatic.
But many people actually do find it distressing to do nothing. We’re so conditioned to be busy and connected all the time, to follow daily routines full of tasks and deadlines, to answer emails and messages instantly, that we forgot all about ‘la dolce far niente’. Even though we’ve been told by doctors and psychologists that it is vital for our mental and physical health.
Maybe you go to the gym, engage in yoga or practice mindfulness or whatever program that helps you physically and mentally. And that’s great. But it is not quite what ‘la dolce far niente’ is about.
For me, la dolce far niente is about ‘not planning’, giving more space to our intuition, about stepping off the activity treadmill that makes us get up in the morning, get our kids ready for school, brush our teeth, go to work, have conference calls, pick up our kids, fix dinner, go to the gym or practice mindfulness, watch your favorite Netflix show and finally go to bed – only to start over again the next day.
I am not suggesting you should abandon your responsibilities. Or quit going to the gym or stop practicing mindfulness for that matter.
But it would be healthy to let go sometimes, don’t plan on doing anything and disconnect yourself from the online world. This may be harder than you think. Imagine a whole day with absolutely nothing planned and no computer, no mobile, no Facebook (or whatever you use). How would that make you feel? Chances are you’ll end up swiping, clicking and posting away your time off after all (…is that what I am doing right now?)
Let go, step off the activity treadmill and follow your heart (as long as it doesn’t draw you back to checking Facebook every 10 minutes).
There are some passages in Thoreau’s book Walden I’d like to share:
…When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither (Marc: to what place) I will bend my steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide for me, I find, strange and whimsical as it may seem, that I finally and inevitably settle southwest, toward some particular wood or meadow or deserted pasture or hill in that direction…
…The future lies that way for me, and the earth seems more unexhausted and richer on that side…
…Eastward I go only by force; but westward I go free. Thither (Marc: To that place) no business leads me. It is hard for me to believe that I shall find fair landscapes or sufficient wildness and freedom behind that eastern horizon…
…Let me live where I will, on this side is the city, on that the wilderness, and ever am I leaving the city more and more, and withdrawing into the wilderness…
I love this contemplation. For me eastward is the treadmill of activities, the predictable, routine-filled life dominated by work and its deadlines; Westward is letting go, disconnecting and letting my feelings and intuition lead me.
I have often been accused of being lazy. Maybe I am. Sometimes. Maybe this post is nothing more than a cheesy attempt to cover it up.
No. I am not lazy. I am practicing la dolce far niente.
It really works for me. It reduces my stress, it helps me to recharge.
In the summer I will go on another road trip with my brother. We’ll fly to some foreign place. That’s all we’ve planned. Everything else will be decided on the spot.
Again, la dolce far niente.
No plans to document our trip, to come home with all the right pictures and stories. Just relaxing.
How about you?
Is your time off always fully booked with activities? Or the opposite?