The Weird Story of my Year of Silence and Finding Inner Peace (Plus a Lazy Person’s Guide to Meditation)

Are you busy?

Because this article has got out of hand. Just counted—it’s 5,000 words. Isn’t that like a book or something?

And it includes stories about my enchanted homeland of New Zealand (kidding about the enchanted part).

And I talk about how my parents tried to give me away because I was so embarrassing (wild exaggeration dipped in creative license with a garnish of hardly true at all).

a wild exaggeration dipped in creative license with a garnish of hardly true at all – See more at: http://lisaesile.com/?p=5044&preview=true#sthash.9qQnfGOl.dpuf

a wild exaggeration dipped in creative license with a garnish of hardly true at all – See more at: http://lisaesile.com/?p=5044&preview=true#sthash.9qQnfGOl.dpuf
a wild exaggeration dipped in creative license with a garnish of hardly true at all – See more at: http://lisaesile.com/?p=5044&preview=true#sthash.9qQnfGOl.dpuf

And it has 63 drawings.

And you know how some bloggers are master artists who craft their drawings to look simple and childlike?

I’m actually trying as hard as I can.

cat drawing fullWhat I’m trying to say is, this article is a bit out there. So I understand if you want to take off and use this time to find another blog on this topic that doesn’t have pictures or oddball asides.

We’ll still be cool.

95% cool, at least.

But it does include some rare stuff. Such as why you should never feel guilty about your meditation practice, or about not having a meditation practice at all.

I’ll also walk you through a kind of lazy person’s guide to meditation where you don’t even have to meditate. Sounds confusing but it’ll make sense later.

Plus, there’s the surprising meaning-of-life type lesson I learned during my peculiar year of silence.

These insights changed my life. They might change yours. And, even if the change is small, it all helps, right?

So it might be worth it—even with all the pictures. (Especially if you’re prone to worry, confusion, insecurity, or if you’re not feeling grounded. This stuff seems to be particularly useful for folks like us).

Your call.

My take on traditional meditation

As you probably know, meditation is a simple exercise where you try to focus your mind. We often think of it as a Buddhist practice, though it’s common in many religions, and the discipline itself isn’t religious.

Meditation goes like this. You focus on something like, say, your breathing.

How to do a breathing meditationThen the inevitable happens …

Things we think about when we meditate

Around and around you go, thinking about everything from the laundry to your kid’s homework, from the state of your fake tan to what you should wear to work tomorrow.

Then, you remember!

How to meditateAbout 20 years ago, I learned about mindfulness and meditation in a class taught by an ex-Buddhist monk. He was kind and gentle (of course). None of the class had a clue what we were in for. We just wanted to feel less stressed.

For the first time I began to see my thoughts as separate from me. It became easier not to get caught up in them.

And it felt good to take time out.

Meditating with Bolster

For the next few years, I was amazing, as in, amazing at practicing meditation somewhat regularly.

I'm so good at meditation

I wasn’t good at it. Is anyone? We all have racing, chatty minds.

The point is, I did it.

Meditation is officially trendy

It’s the new gadget. It’s coconut ice cream. It’s teen-star-rebrands-as-bad-boy.

Proof that Meditation/Mindfulness Has Celebrity Status:

  1. Mindfulness was the cover story on the February issue of Time magazine.
  2. Movies are being made about it: Escape Fire, The Mindfulness Movie, Focus the Mind
  3. U.S. Senator Tim Ryan wrote a book called The Mindful Nation and is advocating mindfulness across the board.
  4. Oprah and Arianna are always talking about it.
  5. Schools are teaching it.
  6. Doctors are recommending it.
  7. The United States Army is even doing it.

Meditation used to help soliders

It’s the perfect antidote to our busy “always-on” world. Perfect if you’re stressed out from work (especially when “work” is killing people).

Perfect if you’re stressed out from work. (Especially when “work” is killing people.) – See more at: http://lisaesile.com/?p=5044&preview=true#sthash.UaVS6j1D.dpuf
Perfect if you’re stressed out from work. (Especially when “work” is killing people.) – See more at: http://lisaesile.com/?p=5044&preview=true#sthash.UaVS6j1D.dpuf

In short, it’s awfully good for you. And for people who rock at meditating, hats off.

The problem for some of us

Meditation is hard.

Ok. So, it’s not so hard. All you’re doing is watching your breath or whatever. But, it can be difficult to stop what you’re doing and think, right, I’m going to do my chants now.

A rebellious meditition

You know how one day you can be really disciplined, and then something happens and you’re not anymore?

When I got M.E./Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, everything changed.

Instead of hanging out with friends, I hung out with my parents’ cat. Instead of going to beer-drinking parties, I went to colon-cleansing parties. (Strictly speaking, it was less a “party” and more just a trip to the clinic.)

Instead of looking deep into the eyes of my boyfriend (who eventually broke up with me because I never left the house, fair call), I had an iridologist look deep into the eyes of me.

I saw

Seeing a Doctor When You Have M.E.

I tried

Acupuncture

and

Essential Oil Bath Therapy

Plus a lot more things. It’s too boring to tell you all of them.

I filled my days reading and watching television. I knew the public radio schedule like I knew the pattern on my duvet.

I cross-stitched. I Sudoku’d.

I even learned about the game of cricket. For you Americans, this game can last up to five days. Bowl overarm. Hard red ball. Run between “wickets.”Cross Stitching in Bed with Cat

But I never meditated. Not once.

I had the time. I had the tapes. I thought about doing it. But I never did.

Meditation

We could say, “Lazy Lisa. Why was Lisa so lazy about meditation?”  Or we could say, “Maybe there was a another way that would have suited Lisa better. She just wasn’t aware of it yet.”

(Choose option 2 or we can’t be friends.)

How I learned an easier type of meditation

I can’t recall how I came upon Granity, but when I did, I moved there.

The west coast of New Zealand is a “wild, scenic wonderland” with rainforests and glaciers. And peculiar rock formations, most famously ones that look like pancake stacks. (Punakaiki).

Granity is a small, coal mining village in the middle of all that.

One road. Temperate climate. Cheap housing. Population 105, including neighboring villages.

It was the perfect place to finish recuperating and grow vegetables.

Living in Granity, New Zealand

MY LIFE IN GRANITY:

  • Boyfriend: one
  • Dogs: two
  • Vegetable patches: three (until the oxalis weed got one. Damn you oxalis!) 
  • Animals grazing in back paddock: three (horse, goat, sheep)
  • Neighbors with chickens: four
  • Large freshly-skinned animal pelts left on my front lawn: one (I still have no idea why)
  • Number of times I stood on my front porch, naked, and looked up to see miners waiting for early morning bus: one (In my defense, when you live somewhere with so few people, you forget there are people.)
  • Job: none — it was time to get one.

JOB OPTIONS IN GRANITY:

  1. Cafe worker at either The Blue Zephyr Chip shop or Drifters Cafe
  2. Coal miner
  3. Snail hunter for the rare Powelliphanta augusta snail, often in fog and rain (best snail-finding conditions). Employed by Stockton mine as a way to appease conservationists before bulldozing down forests. Snails live in ice cream containers in the ‘fridge. Some are re-introduced, but it’s difficult when their unique habitat has been destroyed. You can read about it here and here. Not now. After you’ve read this article.)

Snail-hunting and driving mega–ton diggers for 12 hours a day aren’t “ease into work slowly” kind of jobs. And while I love cafe work, I  worried about committing; my health still fluctuated and a common cold could lay me out for months.

Solution: Start Own Business—That Will Be Easier

(If you have your own business, you’ll know how funny that is.)

So I started New Zealand’s first online sexuality bookstore. Yes, that’s what I said. It was 2005 and internet retail was just starting. I wanted to help people feel more relaxed about their sexuality. Besides, people were uncomfortable shopping at their local bookstores … small towns and all. And the variety was limited, too.

Buying sex books in a small townIt was no big deal to me.

It was to my parents.

Sex talk with father

Over the next few years I learned about online retail and running a business. I used a bank loan I’d taken out to renovate my house and instead imported books from around the world.

I had stalls at various sexpos around the country. Yes, I said “sexpos.” My little bookshop and I gained national media attention in popular women’s magazines and in daily newspapers around the country.

I thought the favorable response would help my parents.

It didn’t.

dad talk3a

THINGS I’M GOOD AT:

  1. Preparing meals quickly.
  2. Packing a picnic
  3. Making a meal “out of nothing.” (The next time there’s “nothing to eat” at your place, invite me over. I’ll make dinner … fast!)

You could say I’m highly skilled in everyday food preparation. Not surprisingly, running a bookstore requires none of these skills.

I was a first-time business owner, working hard, with no clue about what I was doing. And I was alone in an isolated, little town.

To make things worse, as the months and years went by, I started to feel sick again.

This is how scared I was about being sick for the rest of my life.

Extreme scared

Ever had a moment that changed everything?

I told a friend how terrible I felt and that I needed to go on a retreat. He said if I wanted a real retreat, I shouldn’t do what everyone else does and distract myself with things like books and nature.

Going to a retreat

He said that if I wanted a real retreat, I needed to, “… close the curtains and, with as few distractions as possible, just sit.”

Kind of like a do-nothing retreat.

He said, “The less you do, the better. This is very difficult. Just see how you go—even if you just do it for one day.”

TIPS FOR DOING NOTHING:

  • Don’t try and change your thoughts, just let them run. Uh huh.
  • Don’t spend all your time cleaning. No worries. Excellent. Consider it done.
  • Don’t cook complicated meals. Marginally more likely, but okey doke.
  • Can induce madness. WTF??
  • If you do go mad, don’t worry. You should revert to being non-mad when you’re done. Reassuring.

He said that, in silence, our dysfunctional habits and beliefs bubble to the surface and then fix themselves:

Bubbles of ShortcomingsThe “doing-nothing-in-my-own-home” retreat was more in my budget than one of those “fake-but-wonderful-sounding” retreats. The “it- might-cause-madness” aspect was disconcerting, but I didn’t feel that great anyway.

Plus, there was this whole extremely-terrified-about-my-life-staying-like-this-forever thing.

So I did it, right?

Well, I really wasn’t sure if I could do it.

So, to give myself the best chance, I implemented a TEMPTATION REMOVAL STRATEGY:

  1. Take modem, radio and telephone to friend’s house.
  2. Move magazines and books from bedside table into uninhabitable, messy bedroom.
  3. Put television in garage.

Taking TV to garage in preparation for meditation

The first day …

I’d like to say it was all amazing. But often it wasn’t. And it sometimes was. 

First it went like this.

Spending a day in silence part I

Then, like this.

A day of silence

Then I started thinking about noises I could hear outside, like kids going to school, cars going past.

I thought about how sad I still was that some old friends hadn’t want to be friends; even though I understood and wasn’t annoyed anymore.

A day of silence Part III

I thought about times like when my friend Rachel and I went door to door “collecting for charity” with an empty spaghetti tin. How ashamed Mum was. How she said she couldn’t tell my dad or my brother or sister because I was just too deceitful and bad. And how, for the next ten years, no matter what awards or accolades I got at school, I knew that Mum and I knew the “truth” about me.

Spending a Day in Silence Part IV

Then the yucky thoughts became not so yucky. And the voice telling me to get up and do something—anything—got quieter again.

And then, I got this “Hello Xanadu! Isn’t life wonderful?” feeling.

I felt connected to everything.

Spending A day of silence Part VI

And then I’d start to worry again.

Like when the lawn guy came round but I couldn’t bring myself to answer the door and spent the next few hours curled in a ball worrying about not paying him.
Spending A day of silence Part V

Around in circles like that.

Other strange things happened

Regular, everyday foods started to taste like they’d been prepared in the finest kitchen by the finest chef.

Tinned Peaches

And one time … okay, two times … I was so anxious, I wanted to—for the first time in my life—

knife

Cut myself.

I mean, why would I want to do that?  I’m a real baby when it comes to cuts and scrapes.

It just seemed, for a while, that it might distract me from my thoughts.

Eventually my thoughts shifted to something else. And the kitchen knife returned to being just a good option for slicing potatoes.

Was I mad?

I decided I wasn’t. Actually, I was starting to feel better. Just a little bit.

After about five days, I called my friend. And, with his guidance, I began to understand what was happening.

Having a silent retreat

He said that what I was doing was meditation. He said that the “follow your breath meditation” was one way, but so was this.

I told him my mind was systematically going back over, well, it seemed like everything. And he said, “Yes, this is what happens.”

He said letting my thoughts run, without trying to change them, was very healing. He said my mind was looking for “sticky bits” and would sometimes go over things multiple times.

The mind going through past memoriesI decided to carry on.

After a few weeks, drunk on the idea that this might actually “fix” me, I decided to dedicate the whole year to it.

This seems strange now. In my defense, I was pretty messed up.

NOTE: If you’re feeling in need of some “fixing,” stick around. You don’t have to do anything as extreme as I did; in fact, it’s better not to.

The practical and glamorous day-to-day practicalities

I lied. It wasn’t glamorous, but let’s pretend it was.

Princess getting changed

The basic routine: Get up. Eat breakfast.

princess sitting2 Sit for a couple of hours.

princess sittingHave a cup of tea.

Princess drinking tea

Sit again. Eat again. Sit again. And so on.

I didn’t use a clock or time myself or anything. I knew, roughly, the time of day by how hungry I felt and by noises, like the school bus going past.

Exercise: My two dogs, Maltese terriers Max and Rocky, and I went for walks along the beach most days.

princess beach walkThe Bookstore: I processed orders and paid bills for a few hours each week.

princess bills

Fresh vegetables: I grew most of my own.

A princess gardening

Groceries: I shopped as little as possible, always buying in bulk.

I later discovered that locals speculated about what I did with all the milk I bought. Was I bathing in the milk? Making milk soap? Correct answer: I was making protein drinks.

buyingmilk1

Isn’t it boring sitting around, doing nothing?

Yeah, about that: No.

Aside from hurtling between feeling so wretched you want to stab yourself and a sense of blissful enchantment, you get ideas.

Which you want to write down… because they’re so profound.

Great Ideas You Get When You Meditate

I ignored most of then. But then one day …

I was curled up, wracked with some insecurity or another, when a thought arrived in a reassuring bunch of words. The words were like an antidote to how I was feeling. And they had rhythm, which was nice.

So I made a poster out of them. Nothing fancy. Yet, they were surprisingly calming.

I made over 50 in the end. They span the gamut of common, but faulty, beliefs that lie at the heart of our insecurities, unhappiness, fears and worries.

For instance, this one called “Perfect” helped me not worry about things I could have done differently.

Life Cards, Lisa EsileThis one, “Possessions,” reminded me that, while we hitch our sense of self worth to any number of external things, we’re none of them.

Life Cards POssessions

And this one, “It Doesn’t Matter,” reminded me that things aren’t nearly as critical as I think.

Life Cards it doesn't matter

I’d stare at them for hours which, when compared to staring into space, felt like watching TV:

Life Cards

I call them Big Calm Cards. (Originally called “Life Cards.”) You can read more about them here.

(They’ve been out of stock for a while—not telling how long, it’s too embarrassing—but August they will be back “on the shelves” (under my bed in a large box). I’m working on noo-look packaging now. You’re welcome to pre-order. Hope you will, actually.)

It’s good to find out how to do things more easily

It’s not that I’m lazy. Well, sometimes I am lazy. It’s just that finding a way to do something that takes less effort, less time, etc., makes sense.

Take something like keeping your paperwork straight, an annoying job for most of us. It’s just better when you find a way that makes it easier for you.

THE LISA PAPERWORK HANDLING METHOD™:

1. Open all mail. Do not try to file anything. You’ll only fail. Put all invoices, account statements and other critical material, like that insane gluten-free chocolate cake recipe, in box under desk for “when you’re ready.”

2. When you’re ready (box is overflowing or you need to find something), empty box onto floor.

Messy Box

3. Now’s your time to shine. Collate. Highlight. Staple. Hole punch. Put into a binder. Make dividers by turning a page on its side and stapling a tuck. Nothing fancy, just get it done.

How to Look Organized for People Who Aren't Naturally

If I were a file-things-immediately kind of girl, I’d do that instead. But I’m not.

And so, just as my paperwork handling method is true to me, doing nothing is my way to feel grounded and “meditated.”

And, the great part is, no matter how unmotivated or cranky or tired I am, I can do it.

Why Doing Nothing is so effective and easy

There are no hurdles. You don’t have to do anything other than stop.

Anyone can do this!

You can put your book down and just sit there.

You can turn off the TV and just sit there.

You don’t need to be anywhere special. You could be sitting on a plane or waiting for a bus.

When I think back to all those years I spent feeling bad about not meditating, I’m sure as heck certain I could have turned the radio off and just sat there for half an hour … especially if I’d known how good it would be for me.

Meditation

The thing is — and this MAJOR IMPORTANT — you absolutely, completely don’t have to do it for a long stretch to get the benefits!

Just do nothing for a little bit and then a little bit more when you can. It adds up. Or, as your math teacher would say, it’s cumulative.

We’re brought up to believe if we want to feel good, we need to DO something to make it happen, like:

  • Want to relax? Practice this relaxation technique.
  • Want to feel more spiritual? Read these books.
  • Want to be a happy adult? Get good grades at school and take extra AP classes.
  • Want a good job? Go to college. Although, this is rapidly becoming: Want a good job, a real education and avoid a lifetime of debt? Get a job.

But sometimes doing nothing is more powerful than doing something.

Every time you pay less attention to your mind, you can hear your heart more. Your belief in yourself gets stronger. You start to feel more secure. You feel less dependent on things to feel good. And you begin to know you’ll be okay, no matter what happens.

You might not notice any difference … at first, anyway. But every time you do nothing, things shift.

This morning I read that Jon Morrow, one of my favorite bloggers, spends 30 minutes each day doing nothing. Of course he does! In fact, most highly productive, creative people do.

How does the story end?

Did I fix myself?

Am I, like, calm all the time?

What happened to that pretty pink dress?

Well, things are different all right.

I live in Los Angeles, for starters. I got married. I started this blog and I’m learning to sing, play guitar and roller-blade.

I haven’t fixed all those faulty beliefs because it doesn’t work like that. However, being aware of them makes it easier to own my own crappola and not dump it all over my husband.

I still don’t practice meditation, the formal kind. And I never, EVER worry about it.

And the pink dress wasn’t real. It was pretty, though, wasn’t it?

pink dress on chairA

What about doing nothing? Do you still do it?

For a couple of years I craved it and did it often. But, as time passed, I found myself doing it less. Which is cool. It’s nice not to be in a place where the best thing to do is to stare at your bedroom wall for months on end.

But, every now and again, I’m reminded about how freaking priceless it is. I had a moment like this recently, sparked by returning home exhausted from a holiday down under.

Last year we won a trip to Australia (raffle at Santa Monica Music Festival)!

Thank you, Tourism Australia. And Qantas who really is a wonderful airline. They didn’t even ask me to say that.

Flying to Australia on Qantas

Our holiday looked like this.

My Holiday in Australia and New Zealand

  • 7 time zones
  • 8 flights
  • 6 boat rides
  • 20 different beds
  • 1 speeding ticket
  • 1 killer bird fiasco (next article)
  • 412 meals of Corn Thins™ and hummus

Normally, I can easily adjust to the local time. I do that thing where you set your watch to the new time as soon as you get on the plane.

But we were doing it every two or three days.

I was so tired, putting my head on my tray table felt like lying on a bed of silky cushions. I couldn’t even catch a 30–minute recharge nap in the hotel without falling asleep for half a day.

Dealing with Jetlag

The point is, as lovely as it all was—and it really was wonderful—by the time we arrived home, I felt disconnected and depressed.

For the next few days, we stayed inside. I puttered about saying, “Look, we’re still in one place.” We watched the last three episodes of House of Cards. Sort of. I slept through two.

On Sunday night, my husband Franco said

Conversation about watching Stevie Nicks DocumentaryWhich was tempting.

Except the sheets were clean. The floor under the bed was clean, as in washed, as in on my hands and knees washed. I am amazing. Or I would be if I didn’t feel the urge to tell you, thus proving how rare this was.

Covnersation about going to be early

Difference between resampling and resizing an image(Re-sampling is when you reduce the size of an image in bytes without reducing the dimensions. Blogging geeks: I use ImageOptim 2)

In bed!

In Bed with clean sheets!I looked at my laptop and thought

Thinking about resampling images in bed
But this feels so good already.

Then I look at my book.

Reading in bedAnd the same thing. Sure reading feels good. But as good as this?

Nothing was more pleasurable than just lying there.

venice bed 4

I barely moved, like, for a couple of hours. Or an hour. I can’t remember.

The trick our mind plays on us

It’s easy to think that, to relax, we have to watch TV or read … to do something, in other words. But this is just our mind wanting us to keep busy.

May I suggest that you experiment with simply doing nothing?

Let your thoughts do as they please, which they tend to do anyway. Watch them if you want to. Or just lie there and not consider them.

Either way, you can bet they’ll want you to get busy.

In bed

Experiment with what happens when you don’t do what they say.

It might not feel like you’re meditating, but you are!

The unexpected and humongous life lesson that bowled me over

Meditation (whichever way you do it: traditional or my lazier version) is just a tool. It’s a tool that can teach us we aren’t our thoughts. It’s a tool to help us connect with that bit of us beneath our mind. And, it’s a tool to teach us we don’t have to do every dopey thing our mind tells us.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter whether you do it or not.

It is a great way to help you feel more calm, grounded, and a bunch of other good things.

But it doesn’t actually matter.

This is confusing. Especially since I’ve just gone on about how killer it is. Bear with me.

The mistake people make when trying to heal is to become blind to the bigger picture.

You want to feel good, right?

(Me, too.)

So what do we do? We try and learn how to do this.

Bravo!

But, in the process of trying to heal and be more peaceful, we can judge ourselves mercilessly.

We think there is something wrong with us for not being 100% completely self-assured. We see our insecurities as signs that we’re doing something wrong. And if we try a certain technique then fail at it in little or big ways, we feel bad for not succeeding.

(You wouldn’t believe the mess I got myself into worrying about whether I was being successful at “doing nothing.”)

This is looking at it topsy-turvy.

Inner peace isn’t a destination in front of us. It’s already within us, waiting to be uncovered. And what it all boils down to, is simple. Self love. 

Our screw-ups and insecurities are not barriers, they’re the way through.

This is why you should never feel bad about NOT meditating

Since our aim is to uncover our sense of inner love, it’s counter-productive to ever feel inadequate about not meditating. Being cool with whatever you do, is more important.

You’re practicing self-acceptance.

Now, when I learn a new idea or technique, and I fail to some degree, I use it as an opportunity to practice.

I started my year of silence to try to get somewhere. But, as time went by, I realized that everything that caused me pain was on the surface of me, in my mind, in the faulty beliefs I’d picked up along the way.

I’m still eager for my insecurities to pass. But now, I don’t worry about them. I know they’ll leave in time.

toilet paper on shoeThe more I accept who I am—in all my foul and wanton glory—the closer I get to feeling genuinely and unconditionally okay.

You are the owner of a wise, creative and powerful self-correcting system

If you feel like your life is on a lean (in the toilet), know that if you make a bit of space for yourself, things often jiggle themselves back into place all on their own.

Get help when you need it. Talk to people. Watch movies during the day. Be lazier than you think you should.

And when you feel like you’re standing in a pool of inadequacy, know that this is just a trick your mind is playing on you. You’re doing fine.

Be kind and gentle with your wonderful self!

Blowing a Kiss

Thanks so much for your time. :)

If you’d like to say hi, share any thoughts and/or insights you’ve picked up along the way, or say which is your favorite picture (I think mine is the Rolodex one),  I’d love to hear from you, and I’m sure others would, too. Just write a note in the comments section below. I’m not always able to respond to emails so this is the best way to connect!

Lisa,

XX

PS: Have you read my book? It’s free.

You can download it by clicking on the link and then signing up. You’ll also receive my email newsletter.

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paperbackbookstanding 150

 

 

Comments

  1. I LOVE THIS! Thank you for finally doing it, Lisa :) Love the drawings, the story, all of it. Off to do nothing now…

    • Thanks Amy! I loved your article this morning on Huff Post too! Do You Think You’re in Denial?

      PS—if you haven’t met Dr Amy, check her out! Dr Amy Johnson Really. She’s wonderful.

    • My favorite is the one when you’re in bed, thinking “I should text Franco and tell him what fun I’m having.” Your article helped me realize why I needed the times I have chosen to do nothing, and that I need to do more of it soon. Thank you, Lisa! And thank you, Amy, for passing this along!

  2. Tim DEan says:

    Lisa, I enjoyed your article. It was very interesting to me because I have been on this journey for so long and in the past few months I have made a great deal of progress. What I am saying is I can totally relate to it. It is obviously not a perfect science and I go with the 90% – 10% rule. 90% of the time my attitude, faith (not religious) and connection to everything around me is awesome or at least very strong. 10% of the time I may have doubt, stress about the future (money, career) and who I am supposed to be (true self). It is a process and I like the way you explain it and of course with your nutty sense of humor that I enjoy. Have a great day!

    Tim Dean

  3. Carolyn says:

    Hi Lisa!
    Great article! My favorite drawing was the rolodex one too, however, I really like the high heel one as well. Although I don’t have a formal meditation practice that I follow, I find myself taking moments all throughout the day. I read your free book and loved it, and also appreciated when you answered my email back around the holiday time.

    Thanks for your positive messages! You are ultimate! <3!!!!

    • Hi Carolyn!
      Ah, the high heel one. Cool. Thanks so much for taking time to read this long article and saying hi! Have a great day. Nice to connect again:)

  4. Lisa thank you for sharing this. I doodle alot and your art is very good and goes with your story very well.Was going to read later but was pulled to do it now. I also have a problem meditating but have learned that 10 minutes of just trying is good.Even 5 can help.As I am learning to understand my life and how to accept myself as a gift and nothing less I am seeing that alot of the garbage that floats in my head is waiting to be tossed where it belongs. Thanks again your story helped me toss some garbage out.

  5. Wonderful. Inspiring. For such a grounded piece of writing, it actually yanked me up into the sky and let me look down on seemingly disparate things in my life, and showed me how they’re all tied together.

    I may have to just sit and look into space for a while, taking it all in. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  6. Wow Lisa well done you…this has realky helped me to take a step of the treadmill an slow down, stop beating myself up an pratice self love an to sliw down an enjoy the dance, i’ve alwYs lived the simple an stupid approach to life but felt it was because im lazy or uneducated now i know its a form of meditating an evolving Thanks Lisa xx

    • The “simple and stupid approach to life” sounds like a wonderful way to go. That’s such a lovely way you’ve put it, you’ve really given me something to think about. Thank you for stopping by and saying hi:)

  7. Hi Lisa! Thank you for this marvelous article! It completely took me away. Your words are like an enchanting fountain that flows naturally, spontaneously, continually, softly along a mountain of peace. I love how you took the idea of meditation as a practice and how throughout your story you showed us how the practice in itself is not as important as the idea of meditating, the idea of watching one’s thoughts and emotions and life and how to learn self-acceptance and self-love.
    I’m subscribed to your email list and already read your book but would love to read more often post from you! It’s so inspiring for me and so wonderful!
    Plus I love how you associate words to pictures and I’m astonished by how beautiful your pictures are and how simple they are. I used to draw when I was a kid but stopped because I thought it wasn’t good enough, but now that I see how you show beauty through simplicity you really inspire me to get back to drawing and express myself through that!
    I know that writing such long articles takes time and energy but I really encourage you to do more! You’re an artist! I loved all the photos and all your words! And I wish you good luck on this life journey!
    PS: For some reason, in the JOB OPTIONS IN GRANITY section, the first “here” link is displaying an untitled blank web page for me, maybe you need to change the link or fix it.

    • Thanks Omar! And thanks for the heads up re the link. Will look into it. Must have got messed up somewhere along the way. I encourage you to try drawing again if you’re drawn to do that. I’ve come to realize, that we can all express ourselves using pictures—it’s just a matter of finding our style—and that you don’t need to be a drawing ninja to do it! Thanks also for your encouragement! I have a few more shorter articles in the pipeline. Good luck on your journey too!

  8. Thank you Lisa, just thank you :-)

  9. Absolutely love this, thank you for sharing!!!

  10. Corinna says:

    Hi Lisa! Your wonderful article is PERFECTLY timed for me. Unusually, my roommate and friends are going camping this weekend, and I am staying home. Thought I’d take the opportunity and do some kind of mini retreat. So many possibilities of how/where/with whom and with what paraphernalia I might do that. You calmed all that down, so now I am looking forward to a very simple time of doing “nothing.” Thank you! : )

  11. Sharri says:

    Hi Lisa, great blog! Wow, silent for a year?? I wish! Four kids =never a silent moment. They even sleep loud. You have reinforced an idea that I discovered after the birth of my 1 yr old: sitting quietly is just as good as “meditating”. I close my eyes and let go whenever possible-while nursing (like now, or in a few when I finish this post), while showering, washing dishes, or folding laundry. Yeah my thoughts try to take me there. I just look at them and try to be objective and understanding. A few minutes of this peaceful sitting is usually enough to recharge my batteries. So thanks for the positive and inspiring words, now I know I’m doing something beneficial for my mental health.
    A year of silence would be nice tho…

    • Yep – you are definitely doing something beneficial! Your way is the way to do it, I reckon. And you know, I love how you put it, that you try and be understanding of your thoughts. Nice way to look at it. Best wishes!

  12. Brava, my friend! You’ve made quite the masterpiece! I loved the meditation “thought bubble” series. So flippin’ funny and true. I love your mastery of story telling with pictures and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

    • Howdy fellow Californian lady! Ha. Yes, the thought bubbles – wondered if I’d gone too far with that one! Thanks for reading it and saying hi!!

  13. Thanks Lisa, I know that my thoughts are just thoughts and I don’t really need to take notice of them, but it’s always good to get a reminder. You put things so well and made me smile big time :-) My favourite image is the one where you are blowing a kiss :-)

    • Thank you, Janette. It is good to have a reminder isn’t it. About the kissing image—do you know, all the images for the article have been done for a while, but this one I did 3am this morning! Uncharacteristically, I couldn’t sleep. So got up, had a cup of Rose tea, drew it, and went back to bed. Funny thing it was. Thanks for your note:)

  14. Hey Lisa – An other great article that hit home. I have also noticed how our mind does not want to be still….will keep at it…it’s nice to do nothing!. Thanks again for the insightful information. The high heel did it for me!

  15. Julie Mann says:

    I loooooved it! Laughing out loud. And I just spent a year healing from the death of my husband…could relate in many ways!

    • Hi Julie! I love that it made you laugh out loud! And that you could relate even though your and my healing was sparked by different things. Best thing to hear. Best and loving wishes to you ☺

  16. Wow!!!! So good!! Like your book, reading it went by too fast! I am soooo thankful I found you and your website!!
    Thank you for all you share, you have helped me more than you could ever know. Oh and by the way, the Rolodex pic was the BEST! I laughed out loud!! :-)
    xo

  17. Rachael says:

    Awesome story Lisa! You share an important it’s okay to “do things your own style” meditation message. I needed to hear that. Thank you :)

  18. Hi Lisa,

    Another great book I loved reading. It reminds me to love and cherish ME. It’s also a great reminder to let all the crazy thoughts that are constantly running through my mind to just be! Have a great day.

  19. Luah Tomas says:

    Hi Lisa!
    I absolutely loved how you were able to turn such a deep topic into a light and a creative message to all of us. I imagined how intense it must have been, but you shared you story in way that make us think “maybe i’m more normal than I thought”! This is all ok! Somehow I also realized that I meditate more often that I thought, because I tend to just sit and let my thought fly… thank you for sharing your story, for making me laugh, and for being your true self for us. :)

  20. Jennifer McMullan says:

    Good stuff. I particularly resonated to this bit:

    “Every time you pay less attention to your mind, you can hear your heart more. Your belief in yourself gets stronger. You start to feel more secure. You feel less dependent on things to feel good. And you begin to know you’ll be okay, no matter what happens.”

    I actually practice & enjoy my regular daily meditation / yoga practice. Just this evening whole sitting in zen quiet with a sangha I heard myself tell me,
    “You don’t have to bring anything to make them like you. Just show up.”

    So I breathed. And I sat there. And I found ease. And I appreciated that I showed up. And I woke up to me authentic life just a little bit more.

    Keep doing the good work, little sister. The world thanks you from it’s very heart!

  21. Thank you so much, Lisa, for giving us another of your wonderful books! I always find them to be cute and expressive in a good way! I’ve been going through similar things, and I’ve had chronic fatigue for around 18 years now (since I was 20), and my sister has it too, and hers is quite bad these days. I really appreciate how you are helping us freely and generously. Thank you so much for your work!

  22. I love your cute pictures and your style is so engaging and authentic and relaxed and funny! Thanks for all your help!

  23. Nevene says:

    Hi Lisa,

    Thanks so much for this really great article!! I feel truly inspired and you have given me a different prespective of my own life that I must say I have really needed. Your a wonderful person for sharing your insights and advice with the rest of the world, a real gem:) So thanks again and much appreciation – a fan from down under Australia x :)

  24. Crystal says:

    Thank you so much for this Lisa. Your book and this article have helped me become a lot more in control of my thoughts and feelings. This article in particular hit home for me because I continously find my mind being judgemental of my actions or my lack of action. From this moment forward, I will stop comparing myself to others, stop judging myself so harshly, and do everything with love. Thank you again for being a source of inspiration for all of us. May the Universe continue to bless you. :)

    • My pleasure, Crystal. And remember to practice being ok with yourself, even when you forget to do all those things! (It’s the secret ingredient!)

  25. Very cool. Thanks for sharing your vulnerability, like that. Xo

  26. Abel Tom says:

    Hi Lisa,
    I think you and Dr Amy Johnson are two most beautiful people in our universe.You have unveiled this deep and yet simple secret about the human mind.You introduced me to Amy and I have never met such a sweet person.Today because of the two of you and the insights you have shared about thoughts…and doing nothing,I have my balance,am aligned and am back to life.I bless you so much with love.Abel

    • Hi Abel Tom. Amy really is wonderful isn’t she. I feel honored to be mentioned in the same sentence. Thank you. And wonderful to hear you’re feeling balanced and peaceful. Bless you, too.

  27. Michael S says:

    Your story reminds me of a Buddhist saying ” If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him “.
    Sometimes no script is the best script and for too long I have been trying to follow everyone else’s script only to become more frustrated. I really appreciate your candor in sharing how normal it is to feel like ” what is wrong with me and why can’t I get it? “. It’s always refreshing to read your stuff Lisa and it confirms that I’m not alone. Good on Ya!!!

  28. Sandy Barychewsky says:

    Hi Lisa:
    I loved the article. Thank you for getting it done. I put it aside toread and tonight I had trouble sleeping so I had the time to enjoy it. You are so sweet and funny. I thought the acupuncture drawing was so funny but I think the rodex drawing is the best. Keep the articles coming they are wonderful……Sandy :-)

    • Thanks Sandy! That sounds like the perfect time to read it. I know that sleep experts say not to read online when we can’t sleep, but I often find it helps me to read a couple of articles I haven’t had time to get to. Nice to hear from you again:)

  29. Namrata D'souza says:

    This article is so perfectly timed for me! Esp when with all the stress at work and fights at home, I wonder what’s wrong with me….self acceptance seems so hard :p :) love this article and will re-read it many times to remind myself that in the end ‘It Doesn’t Matter’ … Thank you Lisa! :)

    • Great to hear it was well timed, Namrata. (We can thank the universe for that!) Yeah, self acceptance is tricky, easier when you remember that you can double down and accept yourself for not accepting yourself! A sneaky trick I use often. Thanks for saying hi!

  30. Just superb Lisa! Thank you.

  31. Thank you for that lovely heartwarming story. Would love to know how you ended up in Granity (I’m in Masterton NZ) and what took you away from us. I feel like I’ve spent most of my young life learning how to be disciplined, and now at 53 I’m learning to let some of that go. All the very best.

    • Hi Deb (In Masterton!),

      Well, I was already living in the South Island (I grew up in Wellington, Tawa). And I was looking for somewhere to settle. I can’t remember if I found it by driving past, or I did a TradeMe search. Anyway. I moved fairly soon after. My life was in a lot of flux for a long time. Maybe it’s easier to make big moves like this then.

      As for LA. I came for three weeks, on a wild hunch. (This was a wild one for me) And then fell in love. Got married. And stayed! I don’t tend to have grand plans. Just follow hunches.

      Nice to hear from you and New Zealand! Masterton is a wonderful little place. Hope your summer this year wasn’t as dry as last!

  32. Hello Lisa. Thank you for your praiseworthy understanding of healing and beyond, it is refreshing to read that health and well-being can be achieved without pitchforks.
    Once more thank you.
    Don

  33. Hi Lisa!

    The word that keeps coming to mind as I read your writing is, “tonic.” As soothing as that cup of rose tea!

    And yup, every time I let myself be led astray by my babbling brain, I run headlong into false leads, dead ends, and tight squeaks almost too narrow to turn around in, so to speak.

    By the way, Rolodex pic gets my vote too!

    Which brings to mind an idea — wouldn’t it be interesting to do some crowdsourcing for another set of Big Calm Cards?

    Maybe favorite quotes that people ‘set to music’ with their own original artwork.

    Kind of a fun thought.

    Thanks for being you Lisa!!!

    • Thanks for your note, Cynthia!

      Well, that’s an idea I hadn’t thought of! A crowd sourced deck. Hmm. Interesting!

      And I always love hearing the words people use to describe my writing (raw, loose, etc). And now, I can add tonic to the list. Nice. I like that!

      XX LIsa

  34. Blythe Bratcher says:

    Thank you for this! My whole life has been turned upside down recently and I keep hearing LOUDLY in my head ‘go home and rest’. I feel like it’s the only solution right now, go sleep in my bed at my parents house 6,000 miles away for a month.. Then maybe try and come back to ‘reality’ and ‘fix’ things. I’m glad I’m not the only one that resorts to this option, rest, what a concept! Thank you Lisa, love your articles, and the pictures. Shows us all how alike we really are.. Stick figures in pink dresses and all ;)

    • You’re very welcome, Blythe ☺ Pleased to hear it resonates. Yeah, rest. Can’t beat it, really. Although it took me quite a few years to realize that rest didn’t just mean doing completely nothing—but also things that inspire me and are fun. I guess it’s like rest for the soul. Big warm restful wishes to you. Take care of yourself!

  35. Lorraine says:

    Fabulous, fun, insightful writing. Great way to start my morning – thanks!

    Lorraine

  36. Fellow Lisa,

    Heehee! Oh, my! This made me smile and giggle! Thank you though for such a great article, filled with such love, humor, and creativity. I very much relate as someone who’s been healing chronic fatigue the past year, often feeling guilty for resting or doing NOTHING. I tend to think of “meditation” as anything we want it to be, even washing the dishes. I’m a mindfulness junkie, but I liked it before it was popular (ha ha ha, very hipster thing to say! LOL!). Lately, when I’m at cafes sipping on tea, I can’t help but to wonder what happened to all of the “slackers.” Everyone is working at cafes! I couldn’t help but to think about how fun it would be to go to a cafe together in some hot pink dresses and talk really, really loudly. Hmm, maybe next time I’m in Los Angeles I’ll invite you. Heehee!

    Note: my fave picture above was the one with the parents. Ha ha ha! Now the whole world knows…that’s the one that made my Gingerberry Kombucha tea go up my nose giggling. TMI, I know.

    • Thanks fellow Lisa! ☺ Ah, a vote for the parents one. I like that one too. The arms in the air and all!

      Nice to hear from you again. I sometimes think of you when practicing my guitar! (What a fun instrument, I so love it. Well not my scales, that just hurts my fingers.) Hope you’re still enjoying yours.

      :)

  37. Lisa dear!!

    This is SUCH a wonderful article!! I spent the whole afternoon reading it. LOL. with a significant break ;-) and god! it was so interesting and insightful. I must say you have a real knack for humor and your drawings…thought not Picasso masterpieces are really amazing to look at and admire ;-) The most helpful thing I picked up from here and pick up from all of your writings generally is ‘just stop believing your mind and let the thoughts be as they are’ That’s a really transformative thing and one that is not exactly vouched for or talked about by many inspirational gurus.
    I love to read all of your writings and the illustrations are beyond awesome! ;-)
    So looking forward to your next dose of awesome-ness.

    With oodles of love and a military salute for your year of silence,
    Esha

  38. Mary Jo says:

    Thank you. I really enjoyed reading your article. This is my first time with you. What I appreciate the most from you and this article was how deeply quite I was able to go within myself. I haven’t had that peaceful feeling for a long time. I too like to do nothing, however, I have 2 boys, 2 dogs, and a big house. So to get to my peaceful place I put a chair in my laundry room, take my knitting and some tea, and sit there while the laundry is going. The sound of my needles clicking and hum and warmth of the dryer are a recipe for deep rest without sleeping. Plus, my Dad (passed on) owned a Laundromat while I was growing up and I loved going there with him. So the sounds and the smells of the laundry bring me close to him. It feels like we are sitting together doing nothing. Thank you.

    • You’re welcome Mary Jo:)
      Thank you too, for saying hi. And for sharing your cozy tale of snuggling up in the laundry. What food for the soul that sounds like. I really am touched to hear that reading this may have facilitated in some small way your crawling down inside yourself. Wonderful. Have a great son-filled, dog-filled, weekend!

  39. Fantastic as always, Lisa! I was recently wondering about the details of your year of silence and i’m so glad you posted this. Immediately after reading it I sat in bed for 30 minutes or so and successfully resisted the urge to check my phone/read/get up to put a stray sock in the drawer. It was instantly clear how seldom I just … stop! So, thank you! xx

    • Thanks to you too for saying hi and sharing how you just sat. How cool. It is easy not to do it, isn’t it? Happens to me all the time. And then I remember! XX Lisa

  40. Richie says:

    Thank you for taking the time and energy to put your experience into words. We all share so many of the same thoughts, feelings and issues and it’s comforting to know it’s not just us. I think that in our current time there is an even greater need to do nothing. We are constantly bombarded with information and so may distractions are always within easy reach. It is an amazing time but one that will undoubtdly have wide ranging repercussions. That is probably why there is such a rising interest and popularity of mindfulness. I also read an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review about the Essentialist movement. Even in big business it is becoming more common to encourage slowing down and taking time to do nothing. Taking the time to weed through thoughts and “stuff” and learn the difference between what matters and what doesn’t. Hopefully this all indicates a pendulum shift and society as a whole will slow down a bit again. For now we can just do what we can to bring ourselves peace and hope it is contagious. It is brave for your to put your innermost self out there for the world to see. I have been playing around with blogging myself just as a vent and sometimes find it difficult not to sensor or adjust my writing to what I think will be more acceptable.

  41. Jessie says:

    Hi Lisa
    Well, you’ve gone and done it again. Fascinated me with your writing that is. I love how it feels like we are sitting together and you’re talking tome, being real and just you and I’m just me and we are having a ball. I use your cards (Life?) in my practice (or whatever the heck it is) and people love them. The simplicity and the profoundness (is that a word?!) touches people. But I guess you knew that. Anyway, loved this story and it makes perfect sense to me. We have a Vipissana Yoga Meditation location in our area and you can go there for 10 days and do nothing. You sit, you eat,you sleep. I’ve wanted to go and I’ve been scared to go. Now I think I’ll go. Thanks. Blessings my friend.

    • Véronique says:

      Hello Jessie,

      Vipassana was a wonderful experience. I did it 2 years ago and wish to go again. Just go…

  42. Véronique says:

    Merci Lisa! I’ll post the following at work tomorrow on the quote board: “Inner peace isn’t a destination in front of us. It’s already within us, waiting to be uncovered. And what it all boils down to, is simple. Self love.” By Lisa Esile

    Very refreshing and humble article. Easy to read and fun! I enjoyed the drawings with your parents “panicking” as well as those with Franco (you sleeping on his laps). The heel with sheet “seek approval” has also spoke loudly to me since I have just realized how paralyzed I can get when I know that something I would like to do/buy/experience is not on the parental list of “things that are expected from Véronique”.

    Thank you for the reminder that doing nothing time is precious…

    Keep up your great work, lady!

    Avec amour,

    Véronique :-)

  43. Jelena says:

    I love the drawings about the meditation process and problems, the ones at the beginning of the article.
    I enjoyed reading this soooooo much! This is an original idea and I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and try doing nothing. It would be a great challenge for me since I like to keep myself busy ALL the time.
    Thanks again, Lisa!

    Greetings from Serbia

    • Greetings Jelena in Serbia! So nice to “speak” with you. Very reassuring to hear that the habit of doing doing doing is universal. Not just a New Zealand or American thing then!

  44. Thank you so much for this and for everything Lisa. I will read any and everything you write. You’re a beautiful person with a beautiful spirit and it shows in all you do.

  45. Isabel says:

    So enjoyed reading this! Thank you!

  46. Hi, Lisa! I was also pointed here by Amy (one of my favorite people on the planet) — and, while it took me a month, I’m so glad I came! This beautiful, soothing, grace-bomb of a blog post made give a great big exhale and let the quiet settle over me for a moment. I love the message of “You’re doing it right no matter what; you can’t do it wrong.”

    I know myself well enough to know that I would fail miserably at doing nothing for an entire day, much less a year — but you’ve inspired me to try it for 30 minutes…AFTER I go get and read your e-book ;)

    So happy to have “met” you!

    • “….made ME give a great big exhale…” (editing fail ;))

    • So happy to meet you too, Lynn. Thanks for stopping by. And isn’t Amy wonderful!

      You know – I would have put myself in the “I can’t possibly sit still and do nothing for a day” category too. Ha. 30 minutes is about what I do it for at the moment. Makes a difference, I reckon. Love to hear how you found it.

      Anyhoo, thanks again for your note. Lovely to connect.

      =)

  47. Hi Lisa, my favourite picture…the soldier with the closed eyes and his gun. my favourite as it made me laugh out loud. just something about it. love your story. love your drawings. love that you studied in Dunedin where I live and freeze :-) Its a great place but its at the end of the world ….. Anyhow thanks for all your writing, and thank you for putting me onto Amy Johnson whose book “being human” I just ordered. And this is amazing because I just dont read.
    All the best to you !!! Petra

    • Hi Petra in Dunedin, Thanks for your note=) I love hearing from folks back home. Really is a wonderful town – and surrounded by some of the most amazing outdoors experiences. And there’s no traffic to wade through to get there! Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by. Hope you have a good spring down there! Love Lisa XX

  48. Candice says:

    Hi Lisa – thank you so much for sharing your story. I find it hard sometimes to just stop and be but your read is a great reminder that even a few minutes will do the trick! Thank you again – I enjoyed it immensely!

  49. Thank you for sharing your story and for illustrating it so beautifully.

    Such an important reminder to let go of our busy-ness (at least from time to time!), and just “be”.

  50. Hi, Lisa!

    Great article and great site. And the information in the book is amazing :)

    I have a question for you. If the mind is very stormy and wants to take over, believing if it doesn’t get its way with analyzing and thinking something ‘terrible’ will happen (e.g. be humiliated), what would be the best thing to do? Let it take over or try to detach from it, knowing it will continue to try to take over incessantly? Or maybe something else?

    Thank you!

    • Thanks Cos!=))

      Well, in my experience, when we ignore our stormy thoughts, they don’t continue incessantly. A happier bunch do eventually come along. I think of my mind when it’s like this as a child having a bit of a tantrum. Also, when I notice them as just being thoughts and as you suggest, can detach from them a little, they don’t sting quite as much.

      If I’m feeling flat (depressed) I do try to just ignore them. If I didn’t, I’d completely mess up my relationship (because my thoughts are telling me people are being critical and so on when they’re not).

      Does this answer your question?

      • Yes. Thank you.
        Just that I find it sometimes hard to believe that ‘ignoring’ the thought will ever be more helpful than ‘chipping away at it’ using the mind (analyzing, fighting it etc.). I guess I am worried that I can not ever improve or heal myself.
        But, well, I guess this is just my fear and I should have faith.

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