Creative Writing: Community Sculpture

Nestled in the mountains of West Virginia, our little home Serendipity is a part of a community with a road that winds in a circle around the mountain. It’s become a “thing” for us to “walk the circle” together during every season–in the fall, we collect acorn that we bring home and color; in the winter, we make deep marks in the snow with our boots; In the spring, we hear water rushing everywhere as the snow melts all over the mountain, and in summertime, we fight the little bugs that swarm around our heads.

It was during one of those circle walks that we noticed a little river rock sitting on top of a very large boulder that separated the two sides of the road. The flat river rock looked lonely, so I picked up a second rock and placed it on top of it. “There,” I said, “I’ve got you a buddy!”

We did our circle walk during our next visit at Serendipity about a month later. To my surprise, the flat rock had gained a couple of new buddies, and the four rocks looked a bit like a sculpture. I smiled, imagining a child carefully choosing a stone to add to the monument, and then another who noticed and added as well. I, of course, had to contribute.

Over the next few months, through a couple of seasons, we saw the sculpture grow into what looked like a house with two walls and a roof, all made out of stones. And then, one day, a teddy bear showed up, finding refuge within the walls of the house.

We continued to build.

The bear got soaked with the heavy rains that hit the West Virginia Mountains, and he looked like a limp, lifeless rag. Someone put him out to dry in the sun, and even though he took his sweet time,  he came back into himself.

The bear fell over in the mud, but someone rescued him.

The bear got its arms and legs covered with snow, but I smiled as I noticed that his middle was protected by the little house.

And my neighbors that I never met and I, we continue to build our sculpture.

And my neighbors that I never met and I, we continue to take care of our bear.

Every time I do the circle walk, I check on “our” bear.

I am a part of something bigger than me.

And as corny as it may sound, I am reminded that we each have a part to play, and together, we can protect those who can’t do it for themselves.

I think I’ll name him Smiley. I hope my neighbors like that name.

 

Can Doing Nothing be Good for You?

Stimulation-saturated environment

Have you noticed how we somehow have become a stimulation-oriented society? From highly processed food that gives our brain more dopamine to limitless on-demand entertainment, one-click shopping delivered to our door, screens in our pockets, we always have stimulation right at our fingertips. We can reward our brain with something new every second of the day.

Doing Nothing

We don’t know how to do nothing anymore.

This hit home the other day while I was eating lunch alone. Once seated with my plate in front of me, I reached for my phone. Just to scroll. Just to check. Just to be stimulated.

I tucked the phone away and tried to enjoy my food. But what if I missed something? What if someone emailed me? Sitting there felt boring, useless, not rewarding. Like I was left with myself alone and I did not like it.

The problem

The more stimulation we are getting, the more we seek. The more bits of dopamine we get, the more we want. The more entertained we are, the faster we become bored and the more intolerable it feels to not have neural stimulation.

We are restless if we are not busy. And don’t know how to cope with not being entertained or stimulated. We lost the vital skill of just being.

Sitting Still

Sitting still is a thing of the past.

Admitting that we are doing nothing seems negative. It makes us not important enough.  It’s as though there was something wrong with us. We are not being productive.

Does it Matter?

Greatly! Because what is happening is much deeper than simply our inability to sit still.

Doing nothing is a gateway to our thinking.

We literally have tens of thousands of thoughts every day. “Not doing” allows us to see what we are thinking about.

Without the neural stimulation, without the constant reward of dopamine, we have to look at our mind. When we start listening to our brain, we start seeing what’s up there, and all the thoughts about ourselves and our past or our future. And we might realize that a lot of our thoughts are less than healthy.

Avoidance

We can tell a lot about the quality of our thoughts just by asking ourselves whether we like to hang out with just us and our mind? Most of us would have to say “no.” Most of us avoid looking at our brain, and we keep on riding the merry-go-round of neural stimulation.

The Solution

Our thoughts create our feelings and so when we start really tuning into what we’re thinking, we also tune into the emotions that we feel, including regret, disillusionment, shame, embarrassment. And that may be uncomfortable.
Yet, as uncomfortable as tuning into our own thinking may seem, the bottom line is this: we cannot change we you can’t see. If we refuse to look at those thoughts, if we refuse to take a look at our mind, we will never be able to change it.

The Promise

The great news is that if we do it, we are going to feel a lot better.

We will stop needing 24/7 stimulation to avoid our own minds.

We will tune into our brain and begin to change our thoughts for the better.

The Challenge

Try it!

Begin to change the habit of busyness. Allow yourself to sit still without numbing yourself. Tune into your brain.

It’s going to feel a bit worse at first because you are going to come face to face with all the thoughts you have been avoiding. But this is how you will start feeling better. You cannot fix what you don’t see.

More on this in two weeks! For now, commit to the challenge! I did. And I am changed!

As always, please share with your friends who “might” need this.