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Can You Happily Do Nothing

Updated on November 21, 2017

The Art of Doing Nothing. It used to be innate. Now, it has to be learned.

The Art of Doing Nothing

Have you noticed that most of us have yet to master the Art of Doing Nothing? Very few of us in this modern age have managed it. We awake in the morning and immediately "things to do," spring to mind. We don't concentrate on the obvious: getting out of bed, dressing, going to the bathroom. No, we're already way ahead of ourselves in our minds, thinking, thinking of all the things which are going to occupy our day.

The writer at forty-one years on age

Can you sit an do nothing?

We might have even made up a 'To do' List. Lots of go-getters advocate this. If we do, we're going to help ourselves be successful. That success, of course, coming in an undermined hour sometime in that nebulous future where we're going to at last feel happy and fulfilled. Today can wait. Look to the future. That is where salvation lies.

Oh, how different it used to be in our childhood. You can remember? Just? You know, when the last Friday afternoon at school finished and you were off to a six or seven week break - holidays!

No real 'free time' - not even for school children

Those in authority don't even allow that now. School children are lumped with assignments to do whilst they have that time off from the classroom. That started a long time ago. But in my earlier days, certainly at infants and primary schools there was absolute freedom on school holidays and...yes...we lived every moment of every day in that glorious moment called, Now.

If you read some of the essays written by authors of yesteryear you will find out that there was a time when even working adults did this: live in the present moment, savouring the joys of such things as relaxing in the summer sun and simply talking to friends about the way things are (were) in their world, with no grandiose plans of making everything better in the future. So many were quite contented with their lot as they watched the seasons come and go.

No longer!

3 am at MaQuarie Island. October 1976 - The MV Nella Dan steams in from the nor-east. Well, at least their radio operator is awake

People are affixed on tomorrow. It will happen one day. I will make it happen. I'm a planner. I set my goals using a formula that cannot fail. I've...yes, I have. I have achieved so many of those goals I set for myself. Then why am I still so discontented?

Is it the promise? Is it that imagined success everyone talks about, pursues, the Golden Fleece that will solve all my problems and take away this perpetual feeling of 'not quite being there' even when I only won the gold cup for top whatever only the week before last?

I'd love to say that I've found something that you haven't and that's why I'm writing this for you to read, assimilate and, thereby, become filled with joy imperpetuity. I haven't. I, too, have been caught up in the modern age of being unable to be with myself in the quiet. I find myself fighting - or my self image or ego does - with peace and aloneness.

Not that I don't like to be alone. I do. I enjoy both my own company and the company of others. But there is something in me which says, "Do something." Even if it is only to switch on the television set and become lost to myself and involved in a story's plot.

Sun coming up on that wind-swept, tree-less island - Macquarie

I challenge myself by walking around the house without the radio on, and without background music or a television set beaming its light into my home. But even then, I find myself busying myself doing something: cleaning, cooking, washing up, reading. Mostly though, nowadays, its turning on this personal computer and losing myself either among the social networks such as facebook, or dealing with the countless emails which come from all over the place demanding I take a look at them.

I can hardly remember a time where I've simply sat on a park bench without a book to read. Escape from now. Read a book. Oh, it'll probably be a book about how to 'be in The Now,' such as Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now, or A New Earth. Invariably, over the last three decades or so, it will be something to do with Spirituality, that is Spirituality without Religion; New Age stuff that's been around for the past 3,000 years but has now become popular.

And why has it become popular? Because people are seeking peace in meaningful and fulfilled lives and...that is something that will happen to them if they keep working towards that time. Oh, how we go around in circles, looking outside of the circumference and never within it.

Drawing closer. No harbour. We'll have to anchor off

The quiet and peace are within, we're told. But such is our conditioning, and the way we continue to condition ourselves with our behaviour that that remains something theoretical. We don't know how to reach it. Going into it at this VERY MOMENT is something our minds won't let us do.

Moreover, our minds won't let us do it because there is a part of our mind - which has usurped our attention and claims that it is us - that knows its days are numbered if the real us is revealed to us.

Perhaps that's why it, this self-image or ego does its darndest, and so often succeeds, in keeping us away from those times when we can 'sit and do nothing.'

Of course, once the discovery is made that we're not our thoughts, our egos become very agitated indeed. "He/She knows about me. I'd better step up my activity. God, if he or she knows that I'm not the real "I" I'm as good as dead.

Probably the thing our ego abhors the very most is deliberate control of it. This comes about through serious and regular daily meditation. Meditation! The ego cringes, trembles, screams out in anguish at its discovery by its owner, the real self. The fragment of consciousness which somewhere in our infancy fractured into a "I" and broke away from the Whole and Real Me, knows it's now a diminishing influence. It's losing its power.

We'll circle the whole island. The 1975-76 team are probably all still in bed.

What will I do? cries this ego self. I must have more drama. I must have more chances to assert myself. I must strengthen myself. But it knows, deep down, that it is on the way out. "Goodness! He sat on the park bench and looked at the flowers and trees and birds and there was no thought in his mind. I don't like that."

The man on the park bench with no thoughts in his mind could easily be you. But first of all you need to desire it to the point where you take action: that action being to do nothing but to sit and listen. Listen to what? Listen intently -without involvement - to the jostling inane chatter of ego trying desperately to take back what it has lost: you identifying with it.

The art of doing nothing, is not only an art, it's a science. Try it for yourself. And see what happens in your life without any planning whatsoever.

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  • k@ri profile image

    Kari Poulsen 2 weeks ago from Ohio

    I love being alone in nature. Watching the sun dapple the ground with ever changing shadows. Listening to the birds chirp and caw. It is the place I find the most peace. I really do not allow myself enough time there any more. I will need to do better. You have convinced me.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 2 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Just fantastic. You really nailed it here. I feel so silly some days. I actually set aside time for my son just to "freestyle" his thinking. That well earned time to just daydream. Of course a 7 year old does not sit still but so be that. The silly part is that I schedule his free time. Oh well.

    But maybe that is OK as he may schedule it for himself going forward.

  • Rochelle Frank profile image

    Rochelle Frank 2 weeks ago from California Gold Country

    I believe the Universe has a message for us if we only sit still and listen. It can be a scary thing if you haven't tried it much, but it is well worth the non-effort.

    Good one.