The gorgeous clear waters of Napili Bay are extraordinarily salty, so much so that almost no effort is required to stay afloat. With little more than lungs filled with oxygen, one can bob head and shoulders above the sea without the slightest treading of water. The ocean temperature is 83 degrees this time of year, matching identically to the air above it. So perfect are both conditions that often it doesn't feel that I am swimming in the ocean as much as just temporarily suspended in a state of weightlessness, hovering a foot or two above finely groomed sands, gazing out over the channel to the cloud-covered island of Molokai in the distance. It is perfect – in every sense of the word and often large chunks of time dissolve in this state, as I tend to spend my afternoons on one of several beaches in the area.
Doing nothing is by far my favorite activity on Maui. It's how I spend my afternoons and what I fill my weekends with. The unplanned happiness of just being. While I've made a few friends here on the island, for the most part my social life is non-existent, and so I rarely if ever have something to "do". In fact, at the moment I have absolutely nothing in my calendar – no upcoming events, no parties, no dates, no guests, no networking events, luncheons or sales meetings.
The Tao Te Ching states:
The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.
Now far be it from me to suggest I've mastered life or anything else for that matter, but I find large sums of truth in that simple observation (as I do in most observations one discovers in the 'Tao Te Ching'). If we convince ourselves that our efforts are what bring about the results we call our life, then obviously we must fill our day with an assortment of tasks to maintain the order. We create our checklists and chores, our assignments and our responsibilities until our day is so packed that we hardly have any time left to stress about the fact that we don't have enough time to attend to most of this. We then get "behind" and begin to stress out about that. "How will I catch up?" we ask ourselves, never fully qualifying to what or whom we're catching up with. You know full well by now that the finish line is only the starting line of another race – that the sooner you complete one task, the sooner you can start another. There is no respite from the scheduled life.
Part of this calamity is just modern life in America – a culture that long ago reversed the simple truth that people have value and things have uses - creating a culture that is so focused on the shiny baubles that we sacrifice not only our neighbors and family, but most importantly, ourselves. When we are fooled into believing "things" have value, then our efforts and attention inevitably focus on those objects, and our interaction with other humans and all living things takes the form of "what use is this person to me".
This is all well and good for a capitalist society, which requires for its sustained existence a constant growth of markets in which to sell to, but for human beings actually trying to live... it's not so good. Therefore it's not surprising that the most prescribed medications in the US in 2013 were anti-depressants. Or to put it another way, the number one illness American's suffer from is the utter exhaustion of their own minds. Yet anti-depressant drugs as opposed to other forms of medication don't actually solve any problems - they don't pay your bills, give you an extra two hours in the day, open lines of communication between you and your significant other, clean up the yard or make your boss stop being an asshole. All they do is numb you enough to permit you to keep walking in the wrong direction. They in no way effect the root causes of the issue at hand. Considering the number of prescriptions for anti-depressants doubled in the past decade alone, it's pretty clear the problem is worsening, and the numbing of our culture is growing.
The real cure, if I can be so bold as the prescribe a possible solution, would be nothing. A whole lot of nothing. Nothing after work, nothing after school, nothing this weekend or next weekend. Turn off the TV, cancel the gym membership and spend some time in silence. It's a wonderful experience sitting in silence. It can be unsettling at first, but the more time you carve out, the more comfortable you'll feel there. The next time you're in your car, turn off the radio and feel the wave of peace that envelopes you in that silence. Sit in a room and just be there - be in that space without any tasks or chores or noise. Just be. If you can get yourself into nature, then sit in that forest or upon that beach, and just let it be. You will begin to realize that your ultimate purpose is not to achieve, but to observe. Nothing you could ever hope to accomplish will ever amount to anything beyond the scope of your own appreciation for it. They have not heard of you on Jupiter... they know not of your greatness in the Andromeda Galaxy... While it is obviously important to pursue your talents and succeed in your chosen career, it's more important to realize you are so much more than that. You were brought into this reality to experience life – to witness the nature of reality. The only way to accomplish this with clarity is in silence. In that space you will discover answers to seemingly impossible tasks and find a clearer path to destinations yet unimagined. You will see that the world does not come crashing down around you in your absence, but rather the more time you carve to sit in silence, the greater appreciation you have for life and the more beautiful the world becomes. The more clarity you find, the simpler your tasks become, until you realize there are no tasks at all, just other experiences to witness. The drama and the stress and the exhaustion is all manufactured – it is all a by-product of too much noise and too much effort. Only silence can overcome the noise, in the same way that only light can overcome darkness. Focusing your attention on one particular type of noise over another will not solve the problem – it's all just noise. It is only in the silence that clarity forms, stress dissolves and life goes from being an exhausting chore to a beautiful experience.
Now go carve out some space!
"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature…trees, flowers, grass…grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls."
- Mother Theresa