There comes a time in the lifecycle of humans when it becomes necessary to engage in contemplation, reflection and/or cognitive activity. Meditation, prayer, fasting, saunas and steam baths have all been used in the past to channel and focus mental activity at such times.
This entry serves to introduce an alternative - gentle, graceful and widely practised in Africa - the sedate social activity known as stoep-sitting. Stoep, pronounced 'stoop', is an Afrikaans word, which in turn was derived from Dutch.
What is Stoep-sitting?
It is a mental activity in which the participant analyses their own particular situation, weighs up the issues and resolves problems with a dignified, comfortable and relaxed physical posture. By definition, this activity is carried out in the sitting position, in order to free the brain of the activity of keeping the body erect.
Proper support to the thighs, buttocks and back is of paramount importance and your seat surface should be a soft, natural material that does not induce perspiration, skin irritation or produce distracting sounds mimicking socially-unacceptable bodily functions. Then of course, you must have a stoep on which to place this seat.
What is a Stoep?
A stoep is an architectural space consisting of a horizontal surface with at least one open side. It should offer protection from the elements of wind and rain and permit control of sunshine and airflow to avoid drafts. Most importantly, a stoep must have a vista, a view of a beautiful natural phenomenon. The sea, mountains, lakes, a bend in a river and waterfalls, are all acceptable. (Should the reader discover a location with all of the above in one place, kindly contact the Researcher who will immediately erect a stoep there!) This offers the visual stimulation necessary to empty the mind of negative thoughts and focus on the issue at hand.
What Do you Wear to Stoep-sit?
No uniform or specially-designed clothing is necessary to engage in stoep-sitting. Everyday comfortable attire in keeping with ambient atmospheric conditions is in order. Serious stoep-sitters totally exclude suits, dinner jackets, ties and glossy satin materials. Natural fibres such as cotton are preferred as these are softer on the skin and extend the endurance of the stoep-sitter. The wearing of anything with a Gucci, Dior or similar designer label will, most likely, be totally unsuitable and should never be imposed on the stoep-sitter.
Well-fitting or self-made items of apparel will further improve the well-being, sense of self-worth and inner peace of any stoep-sitter.
What Do you Do When Stoep-sitting?
There are a number of activities that combine to form a successful stoep-sit. Solitude is permissable but the interspersal of periods of silence with short sessions of relaxed conversation is preferred. The purpose of the stoep-sit is to shed the burden of the everyday physical world and become aware of the inner self. The sharing of one's thoughts and ideas during the short conversation sessions is acceptable but this should not be abused as it may interrupt fellow stoep-sitters in their own mental activity.
Persons of male and female gender with a propensity to verbosity will be rapidly excluded from stoep-sitting sessions by means of non-verbal facial expressions, negative remarks, rude hand gestures or even physical eviction in cases of extreme verbosity.
What are the Benefits from Stoep-sitting?
The practice of stoep-sitting reduces blood pressure, relieves stress, and improves mental attitude and general well-being. The stoep-sitter will be able to relax better, think better and become a better member of society. The partaking of soothing liquid refreshment during stoep-sitting further enhances this effect. Herbal or conventional tea, fruit juices and even alcoholic beverages in appropriate quantities further eliminate feelings of malaise in the stoep-sitter.
Liquid intake should not be excessive as this may force an untimely interruption of the stoep-sit in order to visit the toilet. This could disturb the overall beneficial effect of the stoep-sit, resulting in an inexplicable need to repeat the session.
What Long-term Effects Can you Expect of Stoep-sitting?
Regular stoep-sitters have a relaxed, friendly and approachable demeanour. They adapt their everyday life to make provision for more stoep-sitting and are keen to share their stoep-sitting expertise with others. In extreme cases, zealous converts to stoep-sitting have been known to totally resign from the pressure of urban civilised society in favour of almost exclusive practising of stoep-sitting. (In the previous century, this used to be called dropping-out, but negative connotations have discouraged present day use of this term.)
Some stoep-sitters are so content in their activity that they will even decline to get up to have a afternoon nap, preferring to drift from stoep-sitting into napping and back again in one continuous, uninterrupted process. Such devotion to stoep-sitting should never be confused with common sloth or general laziness, 'veranda-vegetating' or 'patio-parking', although the unenlightened may initially be confused by superficially similar characteristics.
Alliance to Other Activities
Serious devotees of stoep-sitting can be clearly identified by their practice of taking regular walks to exercise the body and clear the lungs between stoep-sitting sessions. The partaking of wholesome meals, reading of books, newspapers and periodicals on the stoep can further identify these experienced stoep-sitters. This devotion has been known to result in under-utilisation of the other living spaces of houses, but this is usually corrected during cold spells or bad weather when stoep-sitters converge on the living room. At such times, the practising of fire-watching combined with soup-drinking will generally reduce the symptoms of withdrawal suffered by the stoep-sitter.
The Grades of Stoep-sitters
The initiate often discovers stoep-sitting by accident or by the timely invitation of a more experienced stoep-sitter. They are clearly identified by their unsuitable attire, their discomfort at being permitted to relax and by the repetition of 'Isn't this just beautiful?' or similar phrases.
The novice engages in stoep-sitting on other people's stoeps whenever the opportunity may arise, whether by invitation or coincidence.
The senior intentionally engages in stoep-sitting, deliberately making extensive use of other people's stoeps. They can be found in private homes, affordable hotels and bed and breakfast establishments equipped with suitable stoeps.
The veteran purchases, builds or rents their own stoep and makes frequent use thereof.
The expert has little need of other living spaces or activities in their life and will spend the majority of their time engaged in stoep-sitting.
The retired is easily identified by the tombstone or memorial brass plaque erected on the stoep.
I am Interested - How Do I Begin?
No tutor or special training is required. Of course, it is easier and much more fun to be initiated by a veteran or expert stoep-sitter, but self-taught stoep-sitters abound.
Find an appropriate stoep, dress suitably for the prevailing weather, secure a comfortable seat and allow the vista to seep into your conscious mind.
Shut out external sounds, either mentally or by using earplugs, and savour the sensation of sitting quietly. Permit the troubles of mundane daily existence to fall like autumn leaves from the tree of your psyche and feel the strength of your inner-self rise. Dust the cobwebs off those ideas you parked a while back or recollect the memories of a quieter time.
Mentally take a child's journey through life and smell the breeze, taste the roses, touch the grass. If it's sunny and there's nobody about, take off your shirt and feel the sun on your skin for a few minutes. Allow your senses to re-boot, reset and re-calibrate. Take your life back into your hands and get in touch with yourself.
Just don't close your eyes - you'll miss the vista if you fall asleep!