I am actively studying “the art of doing nothing.” It is an art. A wise friend said to me, “Do something, just sit there.” Do you know how hard it is, to do nothing? To just sit there? No reaction. No action. No thoughts. No plan. Just be. Just rest…?
It is a real art to study nothing. How does one start to study nothing? Well, the secret is you must start with something and let it grow to nothing.
It’s so counter-intuitive that I have to keep pinching myself to make sure it is real, and I am still awake and actively doing nothing. How does doing nothing work?
A friend emails and says, “We need to drive home from Florida. How would you do that during Covid?” Prior to taking up my studies, my first action would have been to kick right into high gear, researching all the mandates and rules and regulations about travel. Now, with my newfound studies, I practice doing nothing. How?
I look at the question. I watch the “gear-kicking-in” thoughts float past my mind. I wait for them to leave. I have to will them to leave. Will them to pass. I actively let them go. I watch them leave my brain, my thoughts.
Then and only then I answer her text. “No clue, sure there is a lot of info on each state’s website.” And I resume, sitting and doing nothing.
I would normally jump right in because of an underlying assumption that there is a reason she is asking me. Perhaps she thinks I am the right person to ask. I would know the answer because I worked in government, I understand policies, I keep up-to-date on the news.
I would believe she is asking me because I have insights into how laws are written and therefore it is only me who can answer this question. My main assumption is that the weight of her choice to drive home is mine to bear, and I must help her.
I must not only give a thorough answer, it must be factual and complete. I must think of every contingency and lay it out for her.
Now, in my study of doing nothing, my new underlying assumption is: Many people are qualified to answer the question, not just me.
I could be proud of myself that I followed my new path, but then the doubts start creeping in. I have one thought or one idea. If I just follow that one idea, then maybe that will help her. That will be what makes the difference.
I must actively stop that from happening though. Literally sit on my hands and let it pass.
Then I have one more thought, and perhaps I can check that out and send it to her, I know it would really help. But I have to remind myself that I did respond and give her an idea of what I would do to figure it out.
I let go of the guilt that I am not a good friend. That I did not do enough. I allow myself to be whole in that moment. I am whole, whether I assist or not. I do my best to stay calm and centered.
Perhaps you feel overwhelmed of requests too. If so, you too can start to practice the art of doing nothing. Let go of what you would have done. Focus on your own mindfulness.
Follow me. I sit. I sip my tea. I watch the clouds pass by. I think about what a lovely drive she will have from Florida to Buffalo, New York. And then I let that thought go. Can you do nothing too?
Have you heard of the art of doing nothing? Would you actively consider starting on that path, at least some of the time? What consequences would this practice have on your peace of mind? Please share your thoughts below.
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