Black Women On What The Art Of Doing Nothing Means To Them
I remember Monday mornings at my old job when everyone (although they hated that it had ended) was eager to tell the whole office about their weekend. These were conversations that I deeply resented. One, because I had little interest in hearing about my coworkers' personal lives, and two, because they were instant reminders of how burnt out and misunderstood being in that place made me feel. Every week it was the same thing: They'd ask me what I did during the weekend and could never believe their ears when they'd hear me say that I didn't do anything. Then, they would guilt-trip me into believing that I was wasting the best years of my life by staying hidden inside my cave and refusing to socialize.
To this day, I'm still wondering why it was so hard for them to conceive that the time we have off from our responsibilities isn't necessarily meant to be spent doing any other activities and that it's OK to choose to rest. That joy and fulfillment can also be found in unplugging from the world and reconnecting with ourselves.
In hindsight, I must admit that I was choosing to escape life every chance I had was more reflective of how miserable I was than the happiness I felt from retreating.
Indeed, a hard truth that I failed to acknowledge before I had the opportunity to discuss the art of embracing doing nothing with four amazing Black women and what it truly means to them is that my me-time had turned into toxic self-isolation. All because it was easier to run away from a life I didn't enjoy rather than making hard decisions that would change the course of my future for the better. The major takeaway that I got from speaking with the women below is that stillness shouldn't (just) be an exit door—and just like everything else in life, it has extremes that finding balance will prevent us from falling in.
Dr. Thema Bryant
Courtesy of Dr. Thema Bryant
Licensed Psychologist & Professor at Pepperdine University
"Indulging in the art of doing nothing is such a radical decision, particularly for women of color because our worth and value are often associated with our busyness. For the longest time, women of color have been put under this pressure to work hard for everyone else. There's often little attention given to our care, wellness, let alone our needs. So, for us to be revolutionary enough to say that those [things] matter and to choose to do nothing at all during moments of our days and life is a declaration that says, "I am worthy and I am enough. I don't have anything to prove."
"I was introduced to stillness by my mother. She's a minister who teaches, particularly women of African descent, about prayer. A lot of people associate prayer with talking but it turns out that a major point of prayer is in silence and stillness. It's a sacred rhythm between activity, action, accomplishment, and taking the time to be still, to reconnect, to be grounded, as well as to be filled. All of which to ensure that when we pour, we are not operating out of emptiness. Growing up, I followed my mother's path and practiced stillness through prayer and meditation. Later, I also added physical movement that allows the mind to be still such as dancing and walking. I believe that there's a need to push back on the idea that the art of doing nothing can only be practiced by sitting still with our eyes closed and our legs crossed.
"To me, the art of doing nothing means slowing down our pace, becoming more aware, operating with gentleness and compassion to ourselves, etc. It's more a way of living than it is an approach to living. It's not something that we're required to schedule or practice during a specific time frame only. It's something that we can decide to do at any given moment."
"However, it is likely that sometimes, the urge to escape our own company by burying ourselves in work or finding something entertaining to do manifests itself. When this happens, it is important to truly understand that being in our own presence is not a punishment. Considering it as such or seeing it as a chore is the best way to miss the gift of it. It becomes another task to add to our to-do lists instead of being a pleasure that we're giving ourselves to stay still and do nothing but to reconnect.
"As a psychologist, I work a lot with trauma survivors and I noticed that people who have gone through very difficult experiences sometimes cope by staying busy. It's their way to prevent their thoughts from taking over their minds. But one thing I know for sure is that busy and distracted don't serve as a definition for healed. And unhealed traumas must be addressed at some point. One of the ways to do that is to practice the art of embracing doing nothing."
Visit Dr. Thema's website drthema.com.
Courtesy of Amber Janae
Professional Expert in Content Strategy & Digital Marketing
"For me, the art of doing nothing is simply being as I am and not feeling any guilt, pressure, or a desire to be anyone or anything other than who I am in the present moment. I believe that women in general should learn to embrace stillness because it's our way to just be. It is the space where we become one with ourselves. It is important to understand that stillness is something that we choose; it does not choose us.
"Many spend a lot of time ignoring their intuition or that inner nudge guiding them in the direction to pause and just be for a while. When you're ready to discover and connect with the parts of yourself that have remained a mystery, you will make time to be still.
"To embrace stillness, you also have to let go of the misconception that stillness simply means not moving or staying in one place. You can force yourself not to physically move for days, weeks, and months but it doesn't guarantee progress is being made. It's not enough to be still, you have to disconnect."
"For me, the art of doing nothing is less of a practice and more of a natural state of being. The benefits that I've gained from such have been loving and trusting myself more than ever before—and not allowing anything to change that. Self-care isn't a one-off thing I do when I am having a bad day or week. I am forever intentionally creating a safe space for myself internally and externally; therefore, I am always practicing a form of self-care. It is less of a single method or action; it is a way of being... It is an organic way of life in my world.
"Personally, I do not believe that stillness is scary. There are very few things that I fear and stillness isn't one. Fearing growth, evolving, or becoming a better me which are the things that we embody when we choose to remain still isn't a natural act to me. In my opinion, if you're actively choosing entrapment, then it more than likely means that you're afraid to face yourself. You live in fear of what awaits you on the other side of self-discovery. You're running from your truth and not ready to embrace, accept, or face the parts of you that need healing."
Follow Amber on Instagram @ajscribes.
Courtesy of Tempest Linh
Freelance Writer, Martial Artist & Tarot Reader
"I learned the true concept of stillness through my journey as a martial artist, which started in 2018. I practice American Kenpo Karate and Tai Chi. My head instructor, a badass Southeast Asian woman, taught me the principles of meditation (Anapanasati) and stillness that I currently practice. Typically, when people think of meditation, they imagine themselves seated in a lotus position and devoid of all thoughts. But that's not what true stillness is to me—it's honestly not realistic, especially in today's climate.
"Stillness is when your mind is racing, but you're not consumed by those thoughts. It's when something can pop up in your mind and you don't ruminate over it. When you can observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment, and just let yourself be."
"Martial arts is my main outlet for practicing stillness. The practice happens when I'm faced with my 'not enough story', as my head instructor calls it. The 'not enough story' is an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. This happens when I feel like I'm not learning a form or set of techniques fast enough, or when I do learn it I feel like I'm doing it all wrong. It's that nagging inner critic that we all have. The challenge is to move through it, even when I feel like I'm just not good enough, and this mindset trickles into daily life outside of the dojo.
"With that said, even in knowing and experiencing the benefits of stillness, I still struggle to resist escaping my own company. Sometimes, the thought of being alone with myself, and my thoughts is kind of terrible. Even showing up to karate can truly be a struggle—and 2020 made it especially hard. We normally live in a world that's made of distractions, so being forced to pause and sit with ourselves truly allows our 'not enough' stories to come out and be heard. Then, our insecurities become glaringly obvious. I've experienced many existential crises when faced with mine. Being pummeled by your own thoughts and anxieties can be a bit too much; mine, for example, are like monsters and a lot of the time, I just don't want to face them.
"Eventually, it gets to the point where I can't avoid it anymore and I have to sit with myself and get realigned and refocused. But that's when I remember to breathe, find one truth in the madness of my thoughts—because our brains lie to us a lot—and stick to it. I would like to grow to a point where taking the necessary time for myself becomes a daily practice, not just something that I do when I'm fed up."
Follow Tempest on Twitter @sunstorm_.
Courtesy of Radiah Rhodes
Founder at Evók and Smart Pressed Juice & Well-Being Innovator
"The word I'd use to define stillness is 'light'. To me, stillness is where your truth and all the answers that you're looking for reside. It's also an art for which you don't find the time to practice, you create it. Every season, I follow The Inner Game Plan™, a step-by-step process to practicing stillness that I came up with 10 years ago with the intent to save myself and which I'm now able to share with the world. I schedule two to three hours of uninterrupted time and space so I can go through each exercise and stay aligned. I've committed to this process as a way to live my life that makes my well-being the priority and the source for everything else. It allows me to build assurance in my spirit and such peace in my soul from knowing that I stopped, prioritized, inquired, listened, and honored what is within me.
"If it wasn't for stillness, I wouldn't have been able to discover my truth, flow, nor the power of who I am. Because I know me and what works for me, I, therefore, know how to wield it in the world for the good of what matters most to me with very little effort. There's authentic power in stillness."
"With that said, I didn't get to the point of fully embodying stillness without experiencing fear. Stillness is scary. First, it feels like if we take our foot off of the gas pedal that's gotten us this far, everything is going to drop when we stop. We deeply believe that our 'doing' is the only way to get things done. Then, there's the fear of the unknown—or the unacknowledged because we've been suppressing so much. It's catastrophizing whatever you might uncover. I remember always feeling like I couldn't allow my thoughts or feelings out because then I'd have to do something about them and it was either going to be drastic or cause the loss of something significant if I acknowledged the truth.
"'If I tell the truth about my job, I'm going to have to quit,' I'd think. Or 'If I tell the truth about my marriage, I'm going to have to get a divorce.' In my head, there was so much riding on me: family, finances, community, the culture, the country...all of it. It's easy to think that if we stop, everything will fall apart. That was a catastrophe to be avoided at all costs in my world. However, I came to understand that the pain of suppressing and avoiding is far worse than any discomfort or challenge that stillness and owning your truth will put you through."
Follow Radiah on Instagram @radiahrhodes.
Featured image courtesy of Amber Janae
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The most Gemini woman you'll ever meet. Communications & community enthusiast, I run a media platform centered around spirituality, and I'm always looking to connect with fellow creatives. Follow me on Instagram & Twitter @savannahtaider
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7 Sex-Related Problems That Ruin Sex (And Possibly Your Relationship)
Not too long ago, while in an interview, someone asked me to define one of the main purposes of sex in a long-term relationship: “Probably the most intimate form of communication that we have is sex because it’s an act that connects one’s physical, mental and emotional state to another human being simultaneously — and communication doesn’t get much more profound than that.”
That’s part of the reason why the term “casual sex” irks me to the billionth degree (check out “We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'”); it’s because, even if you think that sex with someone is next-to-nothing, there is so much going on within you (oxytocin highs, if you’re unprotected, fluid bonding, chemical reactions in your brain, etc.) that doesn’t know if someone is “the one” (in your mind) or not. So, in many ways, it acts like they are (check out this YouTube video from a Catholic woman who studies some unexpected ways that sex affects us physically here; sex goes deep, y’all!).
Yeah, sex is so much more than a notion, and that’s why I’m a firm believer that it is such a barometer for long-term relationships overall — because, as I’ve shared before, I once read that, “Good sex in a relationship is 10 percent of the relationship while bad sex in a relationship is 90 percent of the relationship because sex tends to set the tone for what’s happening in the rest of the house.”
And that’s why I think that there are certain sex-related issues that can not only damage your sex life with your partner but could also end up ruining your relationship if you’re not careful (very careful). Let’s get into seven of them now.
1. Being Unaware of Your “Body Clock”Giphy
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who’ve come to me in some serious trouble, in part due to their flailing (or partly nonexistent) sex life. When I ask them if they went to premarital counseling (if you’re engaged, please do; you have a 33 percent greater chance of avoiding divorce when counseling transpires), many say “no” and the ones who say “yes” usually say that it was no more than 3-5 sessions and the topic of sex barely came up (le sigh). Meanwhile, with my premarital meetings, I try and stick with intimacy for three months if I can because there is a lot to unpack, from what you learned as a child, to your first time (or if you are a virgin), to your needs and fantasies, to how you see it from a spiritual perspective — like I said, there is a lot to unpack there.
Take the mere practicality of sex, for example — and more specifically, your body clock. Do you prefer to have sex at night or in the daytime? A lot of couples struggle with intimacy because one prefers the former while the other likes the latter. Do you keep track of when you’re ovulating? It’s pure science why you are probably hornier during that time of the month (because your body is signaling that it’s time to conceive) vs. the fact that you might not be the most interested in sex when you’re PMS’ing. Are you premenopausal? Hormones shift a lot during that time, and here’s the thing — while menopause only lasts a year, the premenopausal stage (which typically starts between 45-55) can last between 7-14 years. Even paying attention to when you have more energy (some do in the day…morning sex, anyone? While others do early in the evening) can play a role.
So yeah, getting to know your body clock (and discussing your partner’s clock with them) can play a role in how much — or how little — sex you have…and that can add life or drain it from the relationship overall.
2. Comparing Your Present with Your PastGiphy
There is a wife of almost 20 years I know who, when I asked her if she thought that her husband was good in bed, she paused for a second, shrugged her shoulders, and simply said, “I was a virgin when I got married, so I have nothing to compare him to. I mean, he’s good to me.” On the flip side, there’s a now divorced couple who I also know (who almost made it to 20 years) who had multiple partners before each other while also having a deep interest in porn who once said to me, “Sometimes, there’s as much as 15 people in our bed because of all of the people from our past and the porn that we’ve seen that’s running through our heads.” Yeah, y’all can act like body counts don’t matter, but there is so much evidence out here that says otherwise — that couple just gave one that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should.
You know, one of my favorite throwback shows is King of Queens (Kevin James, Leah Remini). A few weeks ago, I watched a rerun where Doug and Carrie were talking about the images that come up in their minds, sometimes during sex. Neither was too happy about it, and I can totally see why. I mean, if sex was just about “getting off” (and it’s not), then whatever. However, AGAIN, it’s also about connecting with your partner on a mental and emotional level, and that’s hard to do if you’re there with them in the body while you’re fantasizing about a celebrity, a porn actor (porn is usually acting, don’t let it fool you) or an ex (check out “You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?”).
And what if that is what’s going on? I once spoke with a sex therapist about this very thing. What she said is people should be less concerned about celebs (if it’s on occasion) and more concerned about that ex because rarely is sex with an ex…just about the sex.
And that’s why this point made the list. If you’re physically with your partner and mentally or emotionally with your ex at the same time, please don’t ignore that. There are definitely some unresolved issues there that you need to work through, whether it’s with a therapist, counselor, or coach, a trusted friend (who won’t add fuel to the literal fire), or even with your ex — although you might want to run that by your partner first because…I’m pretty sure you’d want him to do that with/for you. RIGHT?
3. Not Being Clear About Your Sexual NeedsGiphy
Question — if someone were to walk up to you right now and ask you what your top seven sexual needs are, along with what your top five sexual dealbreakers are, would you be able to answer? It really is kind of wild how many people get upset with their partner for not being able to sexually satisfy them when even they can’t articulate what they need/require in order for that to happen. Yeah, it’s another article for another time about how many people UNREALISTICALLY (and yes, I am yelling it) think that someone loving them well means that they should be able to read their mind. Nope.
It truly can’t be said enough that sex — especially good sex — is about communication. Hmph. It makes me think about a clip that I saw from Tonight’s Conversation podcast (can’t find it at the moment; sorry) where a woman asked how she should tell her partner that he hasn’t been pleasing her, I believe she said for years. My first thought was if he doesn’t know that, she must be faking orgasms (more on that in a bit) which is not only lying — well, it is —, but it’s also pretty counterproductive because while he thinks that he’s “getting the job done,” she’s not fulfilled and resentment is setting in.
Please don’t let rom-coms (fiction) and social media (which is oftentimes fictitious) have you out here thinking that a good lover is someone you automatically gel with who knows exactly what to do; sometimes that is the case, and oftentimes it isn’t.
So, if the sex-related issue that you’re having in your relationship is that your sexual needs aren’t being met, first do you (and your partner) a favor by doing some sex journaling (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”) so that you can tangibly see what those needs are and then plan time within the next week or so to pour a couple of glasses of wine, put on some 90s R&B and discuss with your partner what you need. Because actually, what a good lover is, is someone who listens and retains. This brings me to the next point.
4. Minimizing Your Partner’s Sexual NeedsGiphy
A husband once told that when he and his wife were in premarital counseling, something that he mentioned was a bona fide need was fellatio. According to him, his wife told both him and their counselor that she loved giving head. Fast forward to eight years of being in their union, and guess how many times that act went down? A measly four. FOUR TIMES (check out “Sooo...What If You HATE Oral?”).
It’s another message for another time, the amount of people who will “false advertise” during the dating stage in order to get to their goal of marriage. It’s also another message for another time how much that is a form of manipulation that tends to backfire in ways that the manipulator is oftentimes not prepared for.
For now, what I will say, is never think that just because something may not be a need for you that it isn’t a legitimate one for someone else. I mean, how would you feel if that’s how someone treated you? Yeah…exactly.
Yet that is just what happens in a lot of relationships, including when it comes to their bedroom. They will think that their needs should be met, hands down, yet when their partner comes with what’s important to them, all of a sudden, there is dismissiveness, nonchalance, and/or excuses — and how could that not rear its ugly head on so many levels?
Your partner’s sexual needs are essential, even if they are not your own. Never assume that you automatically know everything about them. Also, never assume that what worked two years ago is what will “scratch the itch” now. Hmph. Come to think of it, while you’re sipping on that wine and clearly articulating to him what turns you on, use that as an opportunity to ask him to return the favor. Listen with humility, receptiveness, and intent — the best kind of relationships process their partner’s needs with this kind of vibe…across the board.
5. Taking the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” ApproachGiphy
Lazy lovers. When you hear that phrase, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If it’s someone who is just lying there during sex, that would certainly qualify; however, I’m actually speaking of a different kind of laziness here. Believe it or not, some synonyms for lazy include words like apathetic, inattentive, tired, passive (cough, cough), procrastinating, neglectful, and slacking. So yeah, if you and/or your partner can use any of these words to define what sex is consistently like between the two of you — red flag, red flag…RED FREAKIN’ FLAG.
Speaking of being passive, another potentially serious sex-related problem is taking on the attitude that if something ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. What I mean by that is, just because you know that getting on top and riding for exactly six-and-a-half minutes is what will get your partner off, that doesn’t mean that it should be your automatic go-to all of the damn time.
Why? Because. While a part of the fun of having sex is “reaching the peak,” another component that should never be underestimated is discovering new territory: trying new positions, creating a sex bucket list, taking (more) sexcations, playing sex-themed board games (put that phrase in Amazon or on Etsy’s site and go ham!)…you know, doing what will inspire creativity and deter either of you from becoming bored.
That said, a husband of 17 years once told me, “A man can be satisfied with the same woman. We just don’t want the same kind of sex with her.” Words to live by. Yes, indeed.
6. Using Sex as a Deflection or Coping MechanismGiphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good” — and with good cause. Words cannot express how many divorced (or soon-to-be divorced) women have told me that a part of what kept them in their marriage, for as long as they stayed in it, was the fact that the sex with their husband was beyond amazing…even though so much other stuff completely and totally sucked. Hey, good sex isn’t a bad thing (c’mon now); however, if it’s the only real thing that’s keeping you with someone, it can turn out to be a toxic deflector.
The reason why I say that is the purpose of sex isn’t to make love; it’s to celebrate it. And if all you’re doing with your partner is f — king and fighting or avoiding issues by stripping down or thinking that sex will “make it all better,” all the while not really knowing what the problem/issue is or what needs to be done to get down to the root of it, that is using sex as a pacifier and again, that’s not what sex is designed to be. Sex doesn’t deserve the pressure of being the end-all to “fixing” ish.
So, if what’s transpiring in your relationship lately is very little talking and a whole lot of sexing, and then once the sex is over, something still feels “off,” that’s a good indication that you’re misusing sex on some level. Get out of the bed, put on a robe, and do some talking (preferably in a room other than the bedroom; leave that space for sex and sleep only as much as possible). Because remember — as much as the wives that I mentioned said that their husbands once had them climbing the walls, those men are still ex-husbands now. Bottom line, sex is good, yet when it comes to keeping a relationship together, it will never be enough. Again, it was never designed to be.
7. Faking ItGiphy
I will never be a fan of faking orgasms. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini (we may be a lot of things, but “fake” isn’t really our style). Maybe it’s because I’m a very word-literal individual, and I know that fake means things like “prepare or make (something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent)” and “to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive.” Or perhaps it’s because I don’t get how acting like you’re sexually fulfilled when you actually aren’t is doing anyone any good. Whatever it is, whenever a client (or someone in general because men fakealmost as much as women do) tells me that it’s something they do, I immediately find myself on a mission to shut that mess down (check out “Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP”). ALL THE WAY DOWN.
The main reason is that, regardless of if the motive is to hurry things along, not hurt your partner’s feelings, or it’s something more cryptic than that (cough, cough, some form of manipulation tactic), there’s no way around the fact that fakeness is tied to deception and deception is a word that should never be connected to a healthy sexual dynamic.
Besides, one could argue that faking is a form of deflection as well because…wouldn’t it be better to just get it all out in the open WHY you are doing it than to keep pretending when life is too short and great sex is too good to not get the absolute most out of it, as much as possible?
Besides, again, chances are that if you’re faking that you’re sexually pleased, you’re probably faking something else in your relationship (or situation), and how could that possibly be good, right, or beneficial?
Yeah, when it comes to being satisfied across the board, please don’t fake it. State your case in the way that you’d like to hear something said to you, and let the chips fall where they may. If you’ve got a good man, he’s gonna — no pun — rise to the occasion. If his ego can’t handle it, well…that’s something that you should find out sooner than later — when it comes to the bedroom and outside of it? Right? #shoyouright
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Featured image by Giphy