There’s a common saying that goes something like “We are human beings, not human doings”. The problem with such busy lives is we get so stuck on the idea that we need to always be doing something.
Where this comes unstuck is that it creates a source of background anxiety in our lives about everything we need to do, even when a lot of it really isn’t urgent at all.
But our to-do list, be it mental or on paper becomes so long we convince ourselves we need to be busy every moment of the day to ensure it get’s done. We throw around sayings like “There aren’t enough hours in the day”.
But is that true? or is that an excuse we tell ourselves to avoid the self-care act of just “being” with ourselves and the potential discomfort of doing absolutely nothing.
I don’t mean the hours we spend after dinner watching our favourite TV shows. While it may be considered relaxation, are we truly doing nothing and simply “being”? From my own experience, I don’t think so.
We are still using distraction as a form of relaxation. That’s not to say it’s entirely bad. But we should also try and find the time to do absolutely nothing and relax into the potential discomfort too.
Doing nothing is nourishing for the mind and body. Doing nothing helps you relax to a deeper level in the parasympathetic nervous system. Just like meditation, doing nothing is a skill that has to be learned for a lot of us.
So how do we do nothing? And can we do something while doing nothing?
Sure, there are a few things that aid the act of doing nothing.
Firstly, there should be no distractions. If silence is golden then ensure the television is off, there’s no Spotify or radio in the background and you’re just there alone with your own self. This is the essence of being human.
Secondly, it can be good to practice doing nothing in nature sometimes. This can be something like take a walk to the park, lake or maybe amongst the trees and find somewhere to sit. On the grass, or a park bench where you are by yourself and simply sit there and do nothing.
Thirdly, try doing nothing while driving. This means remove the bluetooth earpiece to your phone, turn off the radio and simply drive in silence.
Now all of these things will have background noise. The sounds of life, moving and changing around us. The sound of your car, of traffic, or the sound of birds and the wind blowing through the trees. These things aren’t a distraction. These are the very things we can take in, absorb and immerse ourselves with.
If doing nothing seem’s unnatural to you, and you have little experience with meditation it’s important to remember your mind will likely protest too. It will bring attention to physical feelings of anxiety. It will bring attention to mental feelings such as “This is boring”, “Okay, that’s enough now” and many more.
All of these things are to be expected and are the very reason we need to practice doing nothing. We need to sit with this discomfort and transcend beyond it without reacting.
A thought is just a thought.
Then bring your attention back to your environment. Pay attention mindfully to the sights, smells and sounds around you.
Laying in a hammock? Look up at the sky and look at all the clouds. See if you can see patterns in them.
Sitting in nature? Listen out for birds chirping, look at the way the branches sway in the wind.
Remember, thoughts will come and go. We can expect that. It is completely normal and it is likely it won’t feel very relaxing at first. But with time, repetitions and practice it will become easier and more natural.