As I understand it Annie Dillard is an American author well known for her style of writing that uses a very patient and very detailed level of observation to record what she sees in nature. In the words of Maria Popova (a fascinating writer/blogger with a crazy cool mind), “she reflects the idea that presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.” I don’t know what to do with that.
I want to feel like a robust person. At any point on the timeline of my life, I want to step up and be accountable and produce well for the community, and the family and the friends I have.
The experience of getting up in the morning, excited to get going on the day–I very much value it. The feeling of going to sleep very satisfied with the day–I very much value it. I would say those feelings are driven from my relationship to productivity.
There are times, however, that I feel pretty distant from having days like those. My sense of
value takes a hit, my tendency to host resentment spikes, and stuff gets dumb, slow and
Fast forward I was talking to Carla the other day, partly unloading some feelings of being
undone with the state of the world and...I don’t know various other elements of life, and I knew I wanted to point readers towards the body scan video she recorded when we were shut down in 2020. When the state of productivity was like a blindfolded baby on rollerskates…uncommon and poised for disaster.
Me: I don’t want one more voice out there telling me what’s what, or what can be, or how to breathe or how to move, or what to f’n do. I love guided meditations, and relaxation practices, I believe with everything that I am that they are good for me, but I don’t want to be told anything today. Somehow I don’t feel body scan is bossy-
Carla: Well yeah, there’s no goal to that practice. Not even to relax. The purpose is to feel sensation. That’s it, nothing to achieve or change.
No goal?! I don’t know what to do with that. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity…“how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
I want to strain less, and I don’t think I notice a lot of strain when I participate with the body scan video. If I can spend my days with less strain, and be robust in and for this world, and that is my life…well that’s the goal! (go easy, I’m new here) I absolutely think being productive and being present are rad. I’m not sure that they are found in the same activity and I think we likely thrive when we pursue the art of both.
Personally, it would seem that I need a bit more presence to bring balance to the conversation. As I write this piece I realize that there is necessarily more stillness, more quiet in endeavors that operate our systems of presence. Productivity is not a still or quiet operation. If we are often/always building ourselves around producing the goals, I’m afraid that may have a big role in what makes us sick and disconnected. “Build pockets of stillness into your life,” Maria Popova, once again. To me, that phrase is poetic and gorgeous and pivotal.
In good health,
Body Scan video by Carla