The Sweet Act of Doing Nothing

Today we’re fortunate to have a guest posting written by Karen Susman.  Karen is a professional speaker, author and life coach. She has a gift for networking, as well as a very warm, personal — and often humorous — way of connecting with people. Whenever I spend time with Karen, I leave feeling energized and motivated. Her e-newsletter ‘Next Level Tools‘ is one of my must-reads. You’ll understand why when you read this article, excerpted from an essay Karen wrote after she returned from a trip to Italy.

Dolce Far Niente Right Now!

Palermo, Monreale, Trapani, Cefalu, Agrigento, Corleone. After eight days of sightseeing in Sicily, our bus was heading for Taormina for six days of relaxation. As mandolin music from The Godfather filled the air, our guide, Gaetano Salemi, told us we were going to learn Dolce Far Niente. Dolce Far Niente, he explained, is the sweet act of doing nothing. This is different from lolling about or (horrors) wasting time. This is doing nothing on purpose. Sicilians embrace Dolce Far Niente by sitting in the square or cafe with friends and talking. Just watching the world go by is permissible, too.

If you’re used to racing from here to there and getting great joy from checking items off your to-do list, doing nothing on purpose is hard work. To smooth our business and hurry-up-what’s-next withdrawal, walking tours and bus trips were scheduled for those who got the shakes just sitting. The pool provided a litmus test for what stage of Dolce Far Niente the tourists were in. Some had cracked their laptops and were busy tap, tap, tapping. Some read serious hard-cover books with redeeming value. And, some were lying like beached whales; blobs doing nothing. These folks had gotten into the spirit.

After taking a bus, a train and a hydrofoil to the Italian mainland to see some bronze statues, I expressed my joy that the next day I was going to spend my time sitting like a lump in the beautiful gardens near our hotel. A fellow traveler, Marie, responded, “You can be a lump on the plane.” Marie didn’t want to miss anything. From my perspective, sitting like a lump was going to add something to my trip. Dolce Far Niente is far from doing nothing. Dolce Far Niente allows all the brain dust to settle. It makes room for more knowledge and experiences.

After six days, I became proficient at Dolce Far Niente. Now I crave it. But like a craving for the world’s best cheesecake comparable to the wedge you tasted in New York back in ’82, Dolce Far Niente time and venues are hard to find.

Starting today, I have scheduled bits and pieces of Dolce Far Niente where I can grab them. Perhaps I’ll sit on my porch swing for a few minutes each day or go for coffee without my laptop. I’ll sip outside instead of drinking a grande in the car on my way somewhere. Bailey, The Wonder Dog, is my guide. He’s a master at sitting or lying on the grass and just staring. I’ll try that. During these glorious autumn days, plan some Dolce Far Niente time. Ease into the sweet act of doing nothing. Dolce Far Niente could be the most productive to-do on your list.

~Karen Susman

P.S. Readers, how about challenging yourself to spend a little sweet time doing nothing sometime in the next 24 hours? If you’re successful, do tell. We’d all love to hear about your experience practicing Dolce Far Niente.

Palermo, Monreale, Trapani, Cefalu, Agrigento, Corleone. After eight
days of sightseeing in Sicily, our bus was heading for Taormina for
six days of relaxation. As mandolin music from The Godfather filled
the air, our guide, Gaetano Salemi, told us we were going to learn
Dolce Far Niente. Dolce Far Niente is the sweet act of doing nothing.
This is different from lolling about or (horrors) wasting time. This
is doing nothing on purpose. Sicilians embrace dolce far niente by
sitting in the square or cafe with friends and talking. Just watching
the world go by is permissible, too.

If you’re used to racing from here to there and getting great joy
from checking items off your to-do list, doing nothing on purpose is
hard work. To smooth our business and hurry-up-what’s-next withdrawal,
walking tours and bus trips were scheduled for those who got the
shakes just sitting. The pool provided a litmus test for what stage of
dolce far niente the tourists were in. Some had cracked their laptops
and were busy tap, tap, tapping. Some read serious hard-cover books
with redeeming value. And, some were lying like beached whales; blobs
doing nothing. These folks had gotten into the spirit.

After taking a bus, a train and a hydrofoil to the Italian mainland
to see some bronze statues, I expressed my joy that the next day I was
going to spend my time sitting like a lump in the beautiful gardens
near our hotel. A fellow traveler, Marie, responded, “You can be a
lump on the plane.” Marie didn’t want to miss anything. From my
perspective, sitting like a lump was going to add something to my
trip. Dolce Far Niente is far from doing nothing. Dolce Far Niente
allows all the brain dust to settle. It makes room for more knowledge
and experiences.

After six days, I became proficient at Dolce Far Niente. Now I crave
it. But like a craving for the world’s best cheesecake comparable to
the wedge you tasted in New York back in ’82, Dolce Far Niente time
and venues are hard to find.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

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