I like this poem by Charles Bukowski. I also like hearing him read it. There is something deep, something unhurried, something alive about it, and I think it is a truth that everyone can bring into their daily lives.
For many, life is a mixture of things that you like to do, and things that you don’t like to do. Or there are things that you enjoy, and things you don’t enjoy, things you do easily, and other things you might avoid, because they are associated in some way, with pain.
We will take a very mundane example. Vacuuming, or cleaning, or cooking, or doing dishes. Something that in itself is not massive hard work, but can feel draining if your mind is hungry for stimulation. These things are often referred to as boring, because they don’t involve you consuming much stimulus at all. There is a silence, an obvious silence, that the mind does not want to bow down to. It creates distractions, resistance, pain, to avoid the moment, the emptiness of the moment.
As Bukowski says, doing a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it. With style - which I find is a similar word to presence, or fun, or life - what was dull is no longer dull, no longer a painful thing to avoid. It can become full of energy. Simple movements that would normally be overlooked, can become noticed. A quality can be there, a certain art to movement, a grace, an ease, “a way of being done.”
“A way of being done,” is a beautiful line. To let the life move you, to not take the burden of doership on your own head, and to notice that your movement, your body, your mind, functions by itself. There is no need to remind your heart to beat, or your lungs to breathe, or your digestion to function. They occur naturally, they are done by themselves.
If there are unavoidable tasks that you can’t enjoy, bring in style. Style, apparently, is the answer to everything. Even while the mind may be complaining, look for ways to simplify, see how easy each movement is, see the simplicity of it all. You don’t need the constant stimulation, but for a while the mind might feel as if it does. Let it be, notice the art in simple movements.
When the striving to be somewhere else, or to be doing something else begins to fall away, it is seen that actually, this is fine. What I’m doing is fine. It’s not so bad, not so painful. There is no need to hurry away from it, since when I hurry, I usually make mistakes and end up taking even longer.
Bring style into the very simple things, the things that were previously overlooked. Fold clothes with style, walk with style, breathe with style, sit with style, speak with style. In other words, act with presence, with lightness.
Here is a video of Bukowski, reading the poem…