doing nothing, just being

By: Joan Jackson
Through her foreign language skill, Joan Jackson went from being a French teacher to managing an export company in Oregon. With this adventure came the opportunity to travel extensively throughout ...
Edited date: November 10, 2022Estimated reading time: 5 minutes


learning to relax

One intention that we can all apply to our lives involves striving to be a “human being” instead of a “human doing.” Admixed with our culture is the idea that doing nothing is bad, unpatriotic even. And yet there has been a fair enough amount of coverage in the press highlighting the fact that we all work too many hours and we do not take enough time off in order to maintain healthy, balanced lives. Most of us still accept the annual, two-week vacation as the norm. The bigger danger is that we are passing this lifestyle on to our children who are getting carpooled right along with us, in this—the relentless stream of organized activity that we call “life.” 

The problem this creates is that many of us do not even know how to relax once we do take the time. We’re unwilling to take the cell phone, laptop or Blackberry out of access range. Whether at work or at play, filling every moment has become an end unto itself. It is as if constant activity makes us feel more productive. It gives us a sense that our life has meaning—the “I am what I do” mentality.

If we can be willing to look at our idea of time in a different light, we can then begin to discover how to open our minds a little further, strengthen our inherent intuition and heighten our perception and awareness. If we can take notice of our busyness, we’ll start to see just how much our days blend together, one barely distinguishable from the other. They become a blur because we are not able to notice specific moments in time, and if we are not aware of actual moments in time, then we are living unconsciously. Life should be fun after all; why not be awake and enjoy it?

to “be” you don’t have to “do”

It is important for life and for any creative process to have quiet time to just, “be.” The imagination needs time to mold; it needs idle time to dawdle and putter. But unplugging is hard to do. Often, we’ll find that if we sit and do nothing, our minds become full of chatter. And if we do make the time to do nothing and be alone with ourselves, then all of a sudden we find ourselves alone with nothing to do! We get involved in so many activities which do nothing other than distract us from our own self. The trouble we have with doing nothing is that we never know when we are finished!

It is possible however to learn how to waste time and even feel good about it! An easy, first step in this process involves creating pockets of idle, unstructured time—time where our minds can just drift. Cats and dogs are great teachers, for they are able to sit and stare at nothing for hours on end and not feel an ounce of guilt! If we can start imitating this behavior a little bit every day, soon enough the process of unplugging will get easier and our habits will start to shift.

get busy doing nothing

Once we have carved out pockets of idle time for ourselves, we can start taking notice of what we notice. What is it that we see? What can we hear? It can be helpful to explore this idle time by journaling our thoughts and daydreams. Placing our focus on the sights and sounds of our immediate surroundings will bring us smack dab into the present moment. 

Little by little, as we start to restore our awareness, we’ll find that we listen better and talk less. We will feel content performing even the most mundane of tasks. With this renewed awareness, what we do or say matters less than how we do it or say it. Tone of voice often speaks louder than the words spoken. By spending time “being” rather than “doing,” we develop a keen sensitivity to how we interact with people and how we approach life. Shifting our habits ultimately allows us to elevate to our highest possible being.

There is a reason why the habits of the happiest, most successful people in life reveal that they focus their attention on the journey rather than the result. Placing all our attention on the result can be the cause of great unhappiness and dissatisfaction. By getting quiet and tuning into our own process, we can begin to let go of the outcome and discover how to just simply “be.” By learning how to better exist in the moment, we will find out what really matters to us. Doing nothing brings us back to our authentic self, to who we truly are. Ultimately, isn’t that what we really want out of life?

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