It’s a quiet afternoon at the Green Residence. My husband is at the American Academy of Religion (AAR) conference in Atlanta. My daughter is taking a recovery nap (Halloween party/sleepover last night). My dog is napping, because that is what she does.
And me, well, I’m writing about nothing. How’s that for an awesome Saturday afternoon activity?
Those of you who know me personally know that I’m not good at doing nothing. I am your stereotypical Type A perfectionist with an insane amount of drive to be productive and “successful” (whatever that means).
I became acutely aware of my problem with doing nothing when I was in college. One time, I ended up in the science building without my book bag (can’t remember why) and basically had to sit around for 20 minutes or so without being able to do anything (I didn’t even have a stack of flashcards to review!). The first few minutes were sheer panic. “Oh my God! I will be wasting 20 minutes of good study time!!” Then, it turned to trouble-shooting. “If I just had a pen and some paper, I could start putting down some thoughts for that assignment…” Finally, acceptance. I sat and did nothing. And it was good.
Yet, I’m not one to sit and do nothing unless I have no other choice. I always make sure that I have reading materials for flights and doctor visits. My smart phone ensures that if I’m stuck at a red light or in a carpool line, I can get through a couple of emails or check Facebook. And until recently, I couldn’t even fathom eating alone and not doing something productive at the same time.
Lately, I have started thinking a lot about doing nothing and the benefits thereof. Coincidentally, the topic has come up several times in the last couple of days. One of my friends posted a quote by her 14-year-old on Facebook: “It has been so long since you didn’t have something to do that you don’t appreciate the value in doing nothing.” I wish I had realized this at 14! My mom definitely has a knack for being able to put “to-dos” aside and just sit and relax. I’m still learning…
In reading the eBook, Focus, I was reminded to become comfortable with doing nothing:
One thing I’ve noticed is that when people have to wait, they become impatient or uncomfortable. They want their mobile device or at least a magazine, because standing and waiting is either a waste of time or something they’re not used to doing without feeling self-conscious. Instead, try just sitting there, looking around, soaking in your surroundings. Try standing in line and just watching and listening to people around you. It takes practice, but after awhile, you’ll do it with a smile.
But wait a second! Doesn’t this go against everything that we believe in? Aren’t we a nation of industrious and productive people who get things done (whether with quality or not)? Well, I don’t think you can truly be productive without taking time to do nothing. Think about it… How can you come up with great ideas or be creative if you fill up your entire day with meetings and appointments and shopping and driving and classes and chores and surfing the web? Simple answer: You can’t.
We’ve gotten so obsessed with productivity and always feeling like we have to be *doing* something, that we are not giving ourselves time to reflect and just be still. Ironically, it’s completely acceptable to sit and do nothing as long as there is a box in front of you showing you images of who you should be, how you should dress, and what you should eat. (In fact, this takes less effort than truly doing nothing.)
I’m challenging myself to do nothing. At least 15 minutes per day. I’m going to call it meditation. Eventually, I want to build up to two 15-minute sessions per day. And stick with it. I’m not sure how it will impact my life, but I have a hunch it is going to be for the better.
Well, I’m off to do, well, nothing.
Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering. ~ A.A. Milne
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