We all know how to do nothing. We all know how to lay around and waste time. But many of us are too busy to do nothing, and when we do it, our minds are often on other things. We cannot relax and enjoy the nothingness.
Doing nothing can be a waste of time, or it can be an art form. Here’s how to become a master, and in the process, improve your life, melt away the stress and make yourself more productive when you actually do work. We call it the Art of Doing Nothing.
Doing nothing, in the true sense of the word, can be overwhelming if you attempt to do too much nothing at once. Do small nothings at first. Focus on 5-10 minutes at a time, and start your practice session in a safe place – at home, not at work or in a busy public place. You may also not be ready to do nothing in the middle of nature, so do it in your bedroom or living room. Find a time and place where there are not many distractions, not much noise, not a lot of people to bother you. Shut off all distractions – TV, computer, phones.
Now, close your eyes, and do nothing. During formal sitting meditations, doing nothing with your thoughts is the main component of a powerful technique. Just letting thoughts be, the skill of doing nothing with thoughts and being able to rest naturally. After 5-10 minutes of doing, nothing, you can quit. Try to do this every day, or as much as possible, because it is not possible to become a master without practice.
The first place to start in the quest for mastery over this art is in your breathing. Start first by breathing slowly in, and slowly out. Now closely monitor your breath as it enters your body, through your nose, and goes down into your lungs. Now feel it as it goes out of your body, through your mouth, and feel the satisfying emptying of your lungs. Do this for 5-10 minutes, if you can.
An important part of doing nothing is being able to completely relax. Relaxing starts by finding a comfortable place to do your nothing – a soft chair, a plush couch, a well-made, clean bed. Once you’ve found this spot, lie in it, and wiggle around to make it fit your body better.
Next try the breathing technique. If you are not completely relaxed by now, then try self massage. Start with your shoulders and neck. Work your way up to your head and even your face. Yet another great way of relaxing is an exercise where you tense each muscle in your body, one body part at a time, and then let the tensed muscle relax. Start with your feet, then your legs, and work your way up to your eyebrows.
Tasting and feeling
Doing nothing is also great when accompanied by very good beverages or food. Good tea or coffee, wine, hot cacao, and other sensual beverages go very well with the Art. It’s best to take these beverages by themselves, with no food, and without a book or other distractions. Focus on the liquid as you sip it slowly, savoring every bit of the flavor and texture and temperature in your mouth before swallowing, and feeling the swallow completely. Close your eyes as you do this. Truly enjoy this drink.
Foods are also great: berries, rich desserts, freshly made bread, soup, or whatever it is that you love. Be sure you eat it slowly, savoring every bite. Chew slowly, and close your eyes as you enjoy the food. Feel the texture in your mouth.
Doing nothing in nature
Once you’ve passed the above stages, it is time to practice this gentle art out in nature. Find a peaceful place – in your front home if that’s peaceful, a park, the woods, at the beach, a river, a lake – places with water are excellent. Places out of reach of the sounds of traffic and city life are best.
Out here in nature, you can practice the art for 20 minutes, an hour, or even longer. There are fewer distractions, and you can really shut yourself off from the stresses of life. Don’t just let your mind wander everywhere – focus on the natural surroundings around you. Look closely at the plants, at the water, at the wildlife. Truly appreciate the majesty of nature, the miracle of life.
Incorporating the Art in daily life
This is the final stage of mastering this Art. Don’t attempt it until you’ve practiced and become competent at the above stages.
Start by doing nothing while you are in a queue, at the doctor’s, on a bus, or for a plane. Wait, without reading a newspaper, without talking on the phone, without checking your email, without doing any work, without worrying what you need to do later. Wait, and do nothing. Concentrate on your breathing, or try one of the relaxation techniques above. Concentrate on those around you – watch them, try to understand them, listen to their conversations.
Lastly, try doing nothing in the middle of chaos, in your workplace or other stressful environment. Just shut everything out, close your eyes, and think about your breathing. Do this for 5-10 minutes at a time, building up to 20-30 minutes. If you can do this, in the middle of a stressful day at work or with the kids, you will allow yourself to focus more fully on the task at hand. You will be relaxed and ready to concentrate, to bring yourself into a state of flow.
Finally, the Art of Doing Nothing cannot be mastered overnight. It will take hours and hours of practice, of hard work (doing nothing isn’t easy!). But you will enjoy every minute of it! Try it today and let us know how you get on.