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A Deep Summer Pause and the Art of Niksen

Around this time of year I always feel my energy dip slightly. Maybe it's the heat or the cumulative effect of all the activity of summer, or both. Either way, August is a time when I feel compelled to rest.

So, I think this is the perfect month to practice niksen, the Dutch art of doing absolutely nothing on purpose.

By now, most of us are familiar with hygge, the Danish concept that encourages us to embrace the cold months by, to sum it up very simply, creating a cozy atmosphere with warm blankets, a few candles, a warm drink, and our loved ones. While I absolutely love the idea of hygge (I mean, living in a cabin in the mountains, it might be the only way to survive winter with your happiness and sanity intact...), I am admittedly more drawn to the idea of niksen lately.

Niksen roughly translates as "to hang around" or "to be idle." I guess you could say it's the art of letting your mind wander. Of staring up at the trees with no particular agenda. Of being bored, even.

Here in the US, the idea of just being idle is anathema to everything our culture seems to value. We're often judged by how busy our work and social lives are; it seems as if the more stuff you pack into a day, the better you are as a person. 

We don't give ourselves time to exist. Just exist, without any expectation and without guilt.

Admittedly, giving myself a free pass to do nothing is something I still struggle with. If I find myself confronted with an empty afternoon, I automatically start to look for tasks to fill it. Instead of relaxing, I just start tackling whatever is on my to-do list for the next day, or brainstorm about how I can grow this little business, or dive into a project that needs doing around the house... 

But the thing is, something happens if you make space for the nothing. It's during our moments of idleness that ideas bubble up to the surface (shower thoughts, anyone?). By essentially letting your mind wander slowly in the background, you make room for inspiration.

If we want to live our best lives and make things happen, maybe we should just take a minute and completely stop trying to make anything happen.

I think August is the perfect month to practice niksen. To let ourselves relax, expand, drift. Here in the northern hemisphere, this is the month of deep green, of slowness, of hazy sunlight and long afternoons. Many of our ancestors would have considered this a good time to relax, too; the fields have been plowed, the seeds have been planted and tended, and now we just have to wait patiently for the harvest.

In the southern hemisphere, the quiet and stillness of winter is still holding the land, asking for rest and reflection.

It's a time to pause.

So, if you have a chance - even just a few minutes - to do absolutely nothing, push the guilt out of your mind and embrace niksen. Sit in the sun. Swing in a hammock. Look out the window. Take a nap. Let your partner or a friend watch the kids while you drink a cup of coffee and stare thoughtlessly into space. Listen to the birds. Watch the clouds go by. If you can, turn off your phone. Just let things be as they are in the moment.

And, if you want a super easy, delicious, basically-no-work drink to enjoy while you do nothing, I recommend throwing together a sun tea filled with relaxing herbs. If you have a place to gather fresh plants, just wander around and choose what strikes your fancy. Personally, I like to add peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, violet leaf, red or white clover, hibiscus, and sometimes even garden herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme. Good quality loose green tea often works well, too. Have fun experimenting with it! If you don't have a garden to harvest from or a place to get fresh herbs, dried will work ok, too. 

 

 

 Be well friend, and let yourself rest.

 


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