My father tells me that my great-great-grandfather was a Dutchman. My middle name is passed down from that heritage – Holland. Hoping to visit the Netherlands one day, I was pleased to read a sizeable description of Dutch culture in the book, Niksen, Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing. The author, Olga Mecking, has been making her home there, and she spends time explaining how their culture plays into this idea of committing a few chunks of our lives to doing nothing is healthy.
She explains that although meditation and mindfulness are good, they are not quite niksen – doing nothing. Neither is pouring an hour of social media into our psyches.
Whether one is blocking time out on a calendar or stealing a few moments in the middle of a busy day, niksen might be best described as recuperating time. American culture prides itself on busy-ness and accomplishment. Downtime, creative time, Covey’s habit of Sharpening the Saw – all this relates to this Dutch idea of niksen.
Towards the end of the book, Mecking admits that sometimes niksen is not natural for everyone. If we are having trouble relaxing, there are ways to get there – to “cheat your brain” into the desired rest. This list of helpful things to do included a vocabulary word for me that I was not familiar with: interoception.
Mecking relates, “Interoception is a process by which our brains or minds make sense of the signals coming from our body. Disrupted interoception is now known to play a part in mood and anxiety disorders.” THIS CAUGHT MY ATTENTION. “Taking the time to sit and understand the body’s signals is a great way to spend time.”
The experts she researched suggested that we listen to our bodies and mentally ask the question, “How am I feeling at this moment?” and then scan ourselves for the answers. Hangry? Cold? Elevated heart rate? I began to see this as a very valuable tool – not only in identifying physical signals, but emotional issues too.
Fear pokes its head into my life often. Many autistics have trouble with self-regulation and revert to fight or flight reactions before taking the time to read the signals. Some may not have the ability to distance oneself from the emotion and ask, “Am I really in danger?” I have heard from MANY sources recently about not letting fear make decisions for us. The Bible says “Fear not” numerous times; it must be a foundational concept!
Over the years, and even recently, my wife has helped me identify fear as something that was holding me back. When I start to feel fear, I’ve found that that if I recognize that fear is present, I can begin to take control.
Doing nothing sounds like a worthy practice – I might even be a Dutch natural. But there are times where something I need to do is pay attention. When my heart is racing, my stomach is in knots, or I am spinning my wheels with no progress, realizing my current status can help me ask the question, “What is that feeling, and am I really in danger?” Fear is overcome by faith in my God and in the truth that I can do something besides worry. Listing a few brainstorms with my wife has helped, and then picking one of those ideas to act upon. It is very calming to know that I have taken action – made some forward progress – rather than sit and overheat with my wheels spinning.
My Mini has an information center that is mostly symbols. When something is wrong, a symbol pops up, and I might not recognize it. Taking the time to look at the manual and understand what the car is trying to tell me may be the first step to preventing a breakdown. Likewise, I’d like to keep my emotional and mental car on the road. Hopefully I’ll continue to get better at recognizing the signals and making fact-based decisions; spinning those wheels is not doing me or anyone else any good. Let’s keep shiftin’.
#ASD #niksen #Autism #fear #spinningmywheels