The Sweetness of Doing Nothing

This week we had an email from a listener interested in the magic of doing nothing.

My life is busy. I choose it to be this way so this is not a complaint. However, I do like there to be times when I can simply just stop and do nothing. I like to have time when there is nothing to do. A time when it is enough just to be and not to do. My way of life at the moment means that the only time that I get to do nothing is when we go away on holiday. It is also true when I am away working in Qatar. In Qatar, once I have finished my day, I am in the apartment and I have nothing to do other than to simply be. When I travel there is the added bonus of a seven-hour flight, when all I have to do is to sit in a comfortable seat watching movies of my choice or simply relax and contemplate while people bring me food and drink.

When I am at home or at work there are people that need things and there are also always things that need to be done. It is an endless list. It would seem that I, in a general sense, and like virtually everyone else that I know, have lost contact with the sweet art of doing nothing.

‘Dolce far Niente’

This Italian phrase means “the sweetness of doing nothing”.

The Protestant work ethic has driven British society for hundreds of years, even though we are mainly no longer a religious society. We are taught to feel guilt when we choose to take it easy.

Are you a human being or…

In your world is there ever any time to do nothing. I do not mean actively doing nothing like, going for a walk, or meditating, these are both productive things. I mean really doing nothing. Sitting in a chair on the terrace, lying by a pool drinking a glass of wine, no productivity, no outcome. It might be sitting with your back against a tree, staring at the sky or staring at the sea. When did you last stop without the feeling that you had to do anything? No house work, no DIY. A place and time when no one needs anything and nobody wants anything, a time when you do not need you to do or be anything other than to simply be.

…a human doing?

Sometimes the need to continually be active is based in fear. In the stillness of nothing we can hear, think and feel things that we might be seeking to avoid. Many of us fear doing nothing. Doing nothing can make us vulnerable to silence and in silence we might have to face what we do not want to. For many, simply being can create fear and anxiety. Doing something is a way of blanking out both our thoughts and our feelings. If we were to listen it might mean that we would need to attend, to change or do something and that might just be too difficult or scary. As a great sage once said…

…in the silence I heard the answer to my problem

We can go to great lengths to avoid listening to both problems and answers.

Come on hear the noise!
Noise is a powerful anaesthetic. When you wake do you need to fill your space with sound? It might be the radio, music or the TV?

How often do we see people walking down the road with ear buds inserted avoiding all sights and sounds around them? They are also avoiding the internal thoughts and feelings that would naturally accompany their walking. When we are in the car why do we need music. When people are running why do they need a soundtrack to run to? Why are we avoiding silence?

Gotta get up, gotta get on!
What happened to taking it easy, resting, shooting the breeze, having a chat, or simply doing nothing?

When was the last time that you enjoyed dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing?

Today could be the day that you discover or rediscover the art of simply being.

Take care

Sean x