The constant obsession with ‘doing something’ is a disease of modern civilisation. Perhaps it comes from the ‘work ethic’ generated by ‘productive’ economies. If a society judges itself on what it produces, then it will tend to develop ways of pressurising individuals to join the production process, or else feel guilty.
This is manifested in the anxiety counselling clients often present with. They become haunted by a sense that there is something they are not doing. Even retired individuals find ‘things I should be doing.’ It could be a piece of legal administration, or tidying up a part of the house. The thing often does not get done, but the person spends months with a nagging, guilty feeling, beating themselves up about it.
That’s why its worth getting used to doing nothing. Productivity is not everything. Life is not all about the circle of work and pay.
How could we learn to meditate properly, if we are constantly in need of being economically productive? How can we find a healthy balance, if we are always needing to prove something to ourselves?
Children and animals know the art. True, children are often bundles of energy, and often whinge, but they do know how to switch off then their body tells them to. Animals don’t seem to be haunted by a productivity obsession – or if they do, they don’t worry about it when they are resting.
Anyway, doing nothing isn’t really actually doing nothing. When you are a living organism, then recovery begins the second you give it a chance to.
While you are asleep, your body undertakes thousands of processes designed to restore you to good function. This includes your brain, and even your mind, which undertake a number of sorting and arranging processes, both informational and emotional.
In the same way, when you rest during the day, your mental health is enhanced. Even if you stop and chat to friends, it gives your mind a chance to operate in a different way. When you are working, your ‘controlled mind’ can exhaust itself trying to focus in some rather artificial and unnatural ways. In contrast, when you take time out, your more ‘automatic mind’, with its ability to associate freely, can perhaps daydream a little, and flow through different thoughts.
YOUR DEFINITION OF NOTHING DEPENDS ON…
Your definition of ‘nothing’ depends on what you call ‘something’. If you only feel you are doing something when you are working, then doing nothing will be not working. If you only feel valid when you are helping people, then doing nothing will be resting from that, and recovering yourself.
Perhaps start to think of ‘nothing’ as the opposite of your usual delusory obsessions. If you are a workaholic, then do nothing, and balance your life. If you are addicted to getting other people’s attention, then do nothing, and have a rest from that.
Perhaps assume that whatever you call ‘something’ needs its opposite. Don’t feel too guilty not working, not helping people, not getting other people’s attention. Your mind and body will be grateful for your ability, now and again, to do nothing.