Doing Nothing

My friend Adam says that in the society we live in, the most radical thing to do, is to do nothing. So many of our normal everyday activities are about commerce and consumption. Doing nothing, by definition, does not involve spending money or consuming resources.

Nothing is not the same as apathy. The latter is a careless reluctance to act or engage. Nothing, is a consciously chosen action, and it is not the same as idleness, time wasting, or boredom – if you get it right!

Doing nothing, is entering a stillness of body and mind – perhaps a little like meditation, but without discipline or intent. As such, it is a state of openness and acceptance, working with what life gives, being wholly in the moment and experiencing it. Good ways to do this include watching wild birds or animals, gazing at the clouds, watching the patterns of light changing through leaves, looking at rain falling, or snow. It is quiet time, without haste or hassle. If life ‘in the fast lane’ seems both dangerous and pointless to you, then step out, stop. Sit or lie, recline, lounge and otherwise let go for a while. You don’t have to be doing, making, earning, spending and consuming all the while. You do not have to be a cog in the great machine of the economy, churning relentlessly but going nowhere.

This is not time wasted. It is time for the soul, for breathing deeply and releasing tension. Stepping out of the chaos, it becomes possible to think, and from there, possible to make good decisions rather than rushed, ill-conceived ones.

My current ‘nothing’ time is first thing in the morning. I’ve taken to going to bed early enough that I get the sleep I need, and currently have the wonderful luxury of being able to wake naturally. Often I’m the first one awake in the household. I stay in bed for a while. I stretch and let my body get up to speed, rather than leaping out and forcing it into action. I contemplate anything and everything in a loose and unfocused way. Sometimes this results in plans and ideas, sometimes not. Either way is fine. When I feel ready to emerge from the duvet, I do so in a state of calm readiness for the day. As it happens, I work more effectively as a consequence, but that’s not the main motivation for doing it.

Doing nothing does not drive the economy or make a profit for anyone else. It does not feed money into government coffers, or push up the GDP that governments are so turned on by. It is conscious disengaging from the system. I will go back to work later, but for now, I will learn from my cat, stretch, enjoy the warmth and not move too much. Each morning, I have my moment of saying ‘No, I am not just a slave of the economic machine.’

Experts like my friend Adam, can spend long, happy hours doing nothing. For those under more financial pressure, it is going to be harder. If all you can find is a few minutes, grab them, and use them to full, glorious effect on consciously not doing anything of any economic value to anyone else. Relish the escape. Live.

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