Do you ever do nothing? I was thinking about doing nothing today, and I realised that it has two very different connotations, neither of which is very useful.

  1. ‘I did nothing today’ implies that you wasted your day, achieved nothing worthwhile.
  2. ‘Just do nothing’ implies sitting in some form of calm meditative state that most of us never manage to reach.

Behind both of these connotations is the concept of some sort of failure on our part, of not being good enough.

In the first example, we berate ourselves for not doing anything ‘important’. We may have allowed ourselves to relax, watch a movie or read a book, instead of household chores. We may have talked with a friend for a while, played with the dog – and we discount all of these things by calling them nothing! Should we not be proud of ourselves for breaking out of the spell of duty and obligation, and for giving ourselves a bit of a breather, where we can recover from the pressure we usually put ourselves under!

In the second example, we berate ourselves for being no good at something that most people find really difficult – a level of stillness of the mind and body that Buddhist monks spend years of training to achieve. Yet all of us do sometimes reach that quieting of the busy mind – maybe by gardening or walking in the countryside, or listening to music we love.

So I thought that it was time we took on a third, more useful connotation of doing nothing. Doing nothing means not doing anything because I had to do it, from obligation, duty or self-pushing. It means I’ve only done what I felt like doing.

Now that’s better isn’t it!

I find that if I allow myself to sit and stare out of the window for a while in the morning, something begins to motivate me to action. I might decide to clean that window, or to write a blog, or to clear some of that post that’s piled up.

And if I stop whatever I’m doing when I’ve had enough of that, and allow myself to sit down with a cup of coffee and a book, rather than feeling I must finish now I’ve started, my energies re-gather in me, and there comes a point where I’m off again. This time I may finish whatever it was, or I may do something different.

What is happening is that I am following my natural ebb and flow. That means that what I do is done easily and effectively, and I stay in a relaxed yet energised state.

It’s not easy to trust our natural wisdom like this – we have been taught to over-ride it since early childhood – but it is a far better way to maintain a healthy balance in our lives.

So let’s redefine doing nothing. It means:

  1. Doing things I enjoy, that are relaxing, that enhance my relationships and my life
  2. Doing things that calm my mind and give me a break from its chatter
  3. Doing what I feel like doing, for as long as I feel like doing it

Come on let’s all do lots of nothing!!

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