Have you considered the importance of doing nothing? I don’t mean vegging out and watching tv or reading your social media feed. What I’m referring to is consciously taking time to relax the mind and be present in the moment, in your surroundings, in your life.
The importance of doing nothing is definitely a learned skill for me, and I suspect I am not alone in this. Certainly I remember one of my uncles, whenever he came to the house, always told us kids “work hard, save money.” As a result of cultural teachings such as this, our strong work ethic may actually be slowing us down. We rush around with to-do lists and scurry to check things off, always adding more as we delete tasks. It’s easy to get harried and caught up in this frantic pace, and sometimes our rewards are tied to how much we accomplish.
The Importance of Doing Nothing
My ‘doing nothing’ time out is usually in the forest. Here I can feel the energy of the earth and trees nourish me. Recently I’ve been missing that forest time. The longer I go without it, the more things seem to accumulate on my to-do list. Funny thing, you would think if you don’t take time off you would get more done. Yet it actually turns out to be just the opposite.
Doing Nothing is like clearing the cache on your browser every once in a while to allow the browser to function more efficiently. Similarly, we need to give our brain a break. My latest forest bathing session was more restorative than a massage, a long soak in the tub, or even my daily Qigong practice at home. As a result, I came back home feeling fully relaxed and renewed. The next day, I easily checked off all the projects I needed to get done.
A ‘doing nothing’ break actually enhances our creativity, our flow. It helps us to act with ease and less effort. Even though I know this, at times I find it so hard to give myself that break. The key is, we have to be ‘okay’ with it. Let go of the type of ‘work hard, save money’ teachings that bind us, and allow ourselves to play again, to enjoy just being.
In Qigong there is a term called Wu Wei, which translates as non-doing. My understanding of this is not pushing too hard, or going too fast, not being excessive. Wu Wei is about relaxing the mind so that things flow naturally. For example, think of a time when you were so absorbed in what you were doing and the time just flew by. Maybe you were sketching a landscape, walking along the shore, listening to music, digging in your garden. It’s a form of mindfulness, when you become totally at one with what you are doing. Indeed, Lao Tzu, author of the Tao te Ching, said “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
There is no right or wrong way to ‘doing nothing.’ It might be something as simple as laying on the grass and watching the clouds drift by. Or it could be formal meditation, or Qigong practice when you get into that relaxed state of mind. It’s letting your brain rest and bringing your senses alive. This is an important difference between doing nothing and laziness. Being lazy doesn’t engage your senses.
I’ve learned that I need to schedule ‘doing nothing’ sessions regularly. How about you? Set aside time to clear your mind. Get away from the electronics; get out of your normal environment; and most importantly allow yourself to go with the flow of the natural world. I would love to hear what your favorite ‘doing nothing’ past times are in the comments below.
Photo: Kasper Rasmussen on Unsplash