Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself
Decades ago, as a school teacher, my Mom found a way to manage her class. With a lot of class – I might add. While the staff complained about how hard it was to control the students and keep them quiet, she introduced a revolutionary idea.
In the timetable, she introduced, alongside subject classes, games, crafts and other academic stuff, the “Do nothing period” Everyone was curious about exactly what might happen during this 35-minute time slot. She told them that she intended doing nothing, and that they were free to do whatever they wanted. They could talk their heads off, they could yell, they could just sit quietly, take a nap – whatever they wanted.
Of course they thought it (and she) was weird.
But you know what? It worked like a charm.
The first day, they freaked out.
The second day was a little more subdued. I mean, there’s their teacher just sitting quietly watching them, so it must have felt a little odd.
The third day, some of them were just sitting quietly and drawing, or just fiddling with stuff.
By the fourth day, many of them sat quietly.
The strange thing was, this class was considered the noisiest in that section.
The next week, Mom introduced meditation to these 8-year-old children. Some of them would fidget a bit, while some would become drowsy. But almost all of them calmed down in 20 minutes, stayed quiet for the next fifteen and felt refreshed at the end of the class.
They were more attentive during class, and performed better. They generally seemed to enjoy everything more.
This practice continued for as long as Mom taught in that school – which was around 6 years – and she incorporated it in all the classes she taught, including high school.
What she really introduced was the necessary downtime those children needed to recoup their focus and energy.
“…But what I like doing best is Nothing.”
“How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.
“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, What are you going to do Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and you go and do it.”
“Oh, I see,” said Pooh. “This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing right now.”
“Oh, I see,” said Pooh again. “It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear and not bothering.”
“Oh!” said Pooh.”
― A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Most of us have busy schedules and an ever-growing to-do list. We keep wishing for time “off”, but I am guessing that it really doesn’t happen. Stress quietly builds up. We start getting just a little dissatisfied with life. We start whining a little bit.
Instead, what if we became conscious of this process and incorporated the habit of doing nothing for at least a few minutes every day?
Just sit still with a blank mind, as if we were just clearing out that mental space to let in fresh air? Quite like taking a clean plate for a meal?
When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing – just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park?– Ralph Marston
Doing nothing is not actually doing nothing. If you look at it from the point of view of interacting with someone, you actually become a little vulnerable. When you stop steering the conversation and allow things to flow naturally, you actually begin to understand the person better.
At the same time, you also project confidence in yourself. You have the power to stop doing nothing when you wish and you portray that that things you are involved will be just fine even if you take a break!
Doesn’t that feel good?
Doing nothing is pretty much like a skill you have to learn, which is ironic, since it should come naturally. It isn’t just about not doing anything because we are obviously always doing something. Nevertheless, we must cultivate this necessary survival skill. We must learn the pleasure of being idle, savoring the moment, focusing on our senses.
Sometimes, it is okay to have no agenda. Remember the days when we just met our friends and wandered aimlessly with nothing to do….and not looking for anything to do? Don’t they return as the warmest memories?
Doing nothing feels like floating on warm water to me. Delightful, perfect. –Ava Gardner
We’re so caught up with “finishing this” and “getting that done” that we no longer take time off to reflect. A recent study found that the risk of a stroke is 33% higher in those who work a 55-hour week compared to those working 35-40 hours a week. Another study proves that a ten-hour or more workday raises the risk of coronary heart disease by 80%.
Simply put, if you spend most of your day at work or commuting to it or thinking about it, work on making the time to rest, without feeling guilty about it.
We need time off away from our mailboxes and our other devices, shut off that background noise and get away from the information overload that threatens us all the time. We need time to think. Let’s move off from the assumption that doing nothing is being irresponsible, lazy or wasting time.
We have to disconnect to reconnect, both with ourselves and with others.
If you’re still thinking I am crazy to suggest doing nothing, consider some of my favorite do nothing activities and come up with some of your own:
- Just go sit on a park bench/ stand at the bus stop and watch people go by. Observe passively. I like to imagine stories around them. I especially enjoy watching children in conversation.
- Sit with family and friends. Talk, or don’t talk. Let the silence hug me. If there’s music, great. So refreshing.
- Take naps. They make you more productive. Just try it. Doze off in the middle of the day and tell me how it feels like.
- Take a break. You feel good when you take a break. Do a crossword puzzle. Read a thriller. Color a page. Read and share jokes
- Switch off your phone. Your thoughts are more fun than mindless scrolling through social media and feeling bad about wasting time.
- Spend time with family. Watch a soap and laugh together
- Binge-watch your favorite TV series.
- Curl up on your sofa with your feet up, favorite beverage in hand and be lazy.
- Doing nothing is good for your health. Being mindful makes your life better, happier.
Nothing really matters!
In this media-drenched, data-rich, channel-surfing, computer-gaming age, we have lost the art of doing nothing, of shutting out the background noise and distractions, of slowing down and simply being alone with our thoughts.
Will you spend some time doing nothing every day? ♥