Nothing. The dictionary has many definitions for the word nothing. The definition that I chose for this story is “no activity”. Nothing = no activity.
The art of doing nothing.
What is The art of doing nothing? For me, it literally means doing nothing. No activity. When I look around, all I see are people occupied with something. I see kids on their computer, browsing on their phone, watching TV, reading, playing an instrument, studying, eating, arguing, always something, something, something. I see adults always busy with something too; watching TV, on our cell phones, on our computer, working, cooking, cleaning, laundry, gardening, shopping, entertaining, socializing, reading, and a host of other somethings, something, something.
I never see anyone just doing nothing. Oh no, that can’t be done. One has to be busy all the time. “What will people think? That I’m not a busy person?” Being busy has somehow become a badge of honor. Why is that? At any given time all of us are always doing something, something, something.
I used to feel guilty doing nothing. There is always something to do. I should be cleaning the garage, or prepping for dinner, or reading that article, or reply to that email, pay that bill, answer that text, errands to run; something, something, something. Not just sitting doing nothing, nothing, nothing.
But then I realized one day that when I accept the fact that it is okay to do nothing, when I actually sit and do nothing; I am at peace. Just at peace. When I sit and do nothing I start noticing the little things around me. For me, it’s when I sit in my garden and look at the same plants I have seen a hundred times (the urge to weed or prune is always there) but I just sit and look, quietly observing. It’s very peaceful. The noises and surrounding distractions become background noise, and they just become a hum. I notice a hummingbird sucking nectar from a flower and I just smile (not jump up to take a picture. That is for another time). I notice a little bug just walking on the soil. I notice a snail ready to eat my flower and I fight the urge to squish it, that’s for another time. At that moment it is all about doing nothing. After 5, 10, 15 minutes of doing nothing, I feel energized. I’m ready to go and do something.
A few stories of doing nothing.
My Mother-in-law told me a story years ago about how she watched my my Mom doing nothing. Both of them came to help me when Sridevi my eldest was born in 1995. My Mom decided to take a break from baby caring and helping me, and took my Mother-in-law and my brother-in-law for a day trip to San Francisco. She took them to see the Golden Gate Bridge and drove up to Vista Point. Here all three of them took some pictures and were enjoying the scenery when my Mom-in-law sees my Mom sitting on a bench looking out at the bridge. She was just sitting there doing nothing. My Mom-in-law tells me that she wanted to talk to my Mom and say something, but she held back. She said my Mom looked very pensive and peaceful that it didn’t seem right to bother her. So she and Amar decided to just sit as well. My Mom sat there quietly for 30 minutes. My Mom-in-law still tells me this story when reminiscing about my Mom, and she will tell me with a smile “I always wonder what your Mom was thinking that day, she looked so peaceful in thought.”
My Dad’s favorite place to sit and do nothing is our front patio. He will sit there quietly just ovbserving the scenery around him. It’s his favorite past -time in the late afternoon. Doing nothing.
I’ve noticed my daughter Rani sometimes enjoys doing nothing too. One day I saw her sitting on the couch in our family room looking out at a winter scene. She had no computer, no TV on, no phone, no book, no cello; she was just sitting there. I asked her with a frown “What are you doing Rani?” Rani just answered, “Nothing.” To which I asked, “What do you mean, nothing“? “Why isn’t she doing something ?” I thought with a frown 🤔😕? To which Rani just replied, “I’m doing nothing Mom.” I watched her and saw that she in fact was doing nothing. She was just sitting on the couch looking out the window, just smiling and pondering. Doing nothing. I let her be. She looked very peaceful.
Hope you get a chance to do nothing this weekend.
Try it for yourself. The art of doing nothing.