No mud, no lotus: a cure for the longest case of blah blah

Lotus in the NOMA Fountain by Melanie Warner Spencer

About 3,456 days ago, in April, I read a New York Times article on languid. The play described the emotion as follows:

“Languir is a feeling of stagnation and emptiness. You feel like you’re just getting around your days, looking at your life through a hazy windshield. And that could be the dominant emotion of 2021. “

Raise up your hand if you can understand.

As we navigate the longest rut in the world, there are certainly days when we feel at peace or joyful or when we are having a good time. But damn it, the days in between are brutal. Also, Sweet and Merciful Baby King Cake Jesus in the Manger, why oh why are there so many between days? Living in limbo is strange and uncomfortable.

Then, of course, there is the guilt. There are people who suffer from deep depression, grief, loss, and physical illness. The pandemic, coupled with Hurricane Ida, is, for many, a breaking point. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have good mental and physical health, paid jobs, housing and food don’t have to feel sorry for ourselves, do we? Giving and volunteering, especially to those affected by Hurricane Ida in Louisiana, helps, but there is a bottomless chasm of need. Not just in Louisiana, of course, but all over the world. To think too much about it is to fall not only into a state of emptiness, but also of despair. But burying our heads in the putrid rubbish heap on the sidewalk that may or may not be picked up by the city isn’t an option either. Not that anyone wants to do this, because ew. My apologies for the appalling mental image. I’m in a dark place, all of you. But I am the only one who can get through it.

While I cannot solve the world’s problems, I can do my part, again, by donating to those in need and lending a hand. After that, it’s about filling my own cup in a safe and responsible manner in the event of a pandemic. The article on languid says that the antidote to stagnation is flow. As a practitioner of yoga and meditation, I am familiar with the concept of flow. But even if you don’t engage in these practices, you’ve probably experienced a flow. In the play, the flow is described as “… this elusive state of absorption into a meaningful challenge or momentary connection, where your sense of time, place and yourself merge. If you’ve ever been so engaged in an activity that you lose track of time, this is the flow. (Unless the activity is scrolling through the internet or social media. It’s not smooth and bad for us, so stop it, okay?)

Personally, the flow happens to me when I write, read, take photos or sketches, color, cook, or take a long walk. Small activities and bite-sized challenges are recommended at times like these, as one of the symptoms of languishing is lack of focus. So instead of setting yourself a goal of writing a novel or even a short story, perhaps consider completing a crossword puzzle instead. Rather than committing to participate in an Iron Man race, plan to take a bike ride through a new neighborhood. Prepare to succeed in small steps.

For example, this weekend I’m determined to finally cross kayaking off my list of things I want to try. After several delays and overly complicated thinking, instead of trying to plan a mountain kayaking trip, we plan to go to City Park, rent kayaks and get out on the water for an hour or two. It will be a little adventure to break up the monotony and won’t take up a lot of brain space in the planning and logistics. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, my plan B is to make a new workout video. Both are small, manageable, and achievable and will give me a baby adrenaline rush.

So like everyone – and despite my best efforts – I have caution fatigue, I’m mentally tired of hurricane preparedness, evacuation and back to clean up and fix things up, as well as getting ready. at the next possible hurricane and, I’m in a pretty constant state of grief for those in deep pain in South Louisiana and the world at large, which makes a person, well, just tired. Little adventures are pretty much all I can pull together right now and I feel lucky to be able to indulge in such frivolous pursuits. But as the saying goes, you can’t fill a cup with an empty jug. We have to find joy and consume our version of soul food if we are to not only survive, but thrive as well. As the Buddhist saying goes, no mud, no lotus. In his book of the same name, Buddhist author and teacher Thich Nhat Hahn writes: “When we know how to suffer, we suffer much, much less. He shares that the secret of happiness is to recognize and transform suffering, not to run away from it. We can recognize suffering and work to help others, while embracing and cultivating joy. If there is one thing that New Orleans people are pro-level, it is to keep their joie de vivre in the midst of suffering and crises. We use the discomfort of languishing to feed us into a state of flux. Maybe that’s the key, right? When we realize that any day could be the last, whether due to illness, accident, or natural disaster, we are more inclined to cherish and celebrate every moment.

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