You can tell I’ve been busy recently as I haven’t found the space to blog.
I say ‘space’ rather than ‘time’ because I probably could have found an hour or so to scribble a quick post. But what I feel I haven’t had much of in the last few weeks is ‘space’ – space to process, space to think, space to connect to what I’m feeling deep inside, space for my creativity to flourish, space to do that most wonderful of things that I do so rarely: NOTHING.
Oh, to do nothing! At the thought of it, I take a deep breath and my shoulders sink down from their usual position far too close to my ears. If you have any tips on how to do nothing, I’d love to hear them. I always seem to be doing SOMETHING. Even my leisure time isn’t particularly leisurely. I’ve got a lot to learn.
I’ve mentioned before that I have a framed card on my bathroom wall of a woman snoozing in the sun, slumped in a deckchair. The message reads: ‘How beautiful it is to do nothing and then rest afterwards.’ I bought that card partly because the woman reminds me of my mum, who can sit in the sun until the cows come home, but partly because I need to be reminded everyday that it is, in fact, beautiful to do NOTHING and then rest afterwards. So far, though, the message hasn’t quite sunk in. In fact, it was almost two years ago when I last blogged about that same card and my need to do less (Great Expectations). A fair bit has changed since then and I deserve to give myself credit where credit is due but it’s a little concerning that very little has changed in the ‘doing nothing’ department.
Of course, NOTHING doesn’t have to mean sitting motionless or zoning out on the sofa in front of the TV. To me, it can also mean hanging out with friends, walking in the park or by the sea, rambling through a forest or up a hill or going for a cycle. But whatever the activity, to qualify as NOTHING I’d say it needs to be done without an agenda, without trying to achieve something or tick something off one’s list.
In other words, the walk in the park would be to enjoy some peace and space in nature, rather than to burn off a big lunch; the ramble would be to smell the pine forest or hear the sound of the sea rather than to reach a set point and then come back again; the cycle would be to switch off my thoughts, rather than to work through my feelings or train for a longer ride; and the time with friends would be timeless, effortless, unscheduled, fun and free.
Thinking about it, I’m quite far away from that kind of NOTHING, although I’m closer to it than I ever was. There’s always stuff I need to get done (or I think I need to get done), plans to make, things to achieve, dreams to pursue. And having realised I won’t have any friends to hang out with unless I put dates in the diary, I’ve taken to scheduling rather a lot.
I guess that’s the same for most of us and perhaps it’s inevitable and not necessarily the wrong way to go about things. Having a sense of purpose, direction, something to do or a coffee date planned can help ward off a depressive slump. And having a vision for our lives, as I wrote in my last post, gives us an impetus to do what we can to meet the desires of our heart.
But couldn’t there be one day a week, or perhaps two, of NOTHING? A day without an agenda, a day when we just go with the flow? A day when we go out for a walk without knowing where we’re heading or when we meet a friend without any plans and just see what we fancy doing – if anything – there and then?
I guess our ability to do nothing and then rest afterwards is a reflection of the degree of faith and trust we have in the world, in life and in ourselves. Of course, realistically, other factors come in to it – the number of small children or elderly parents we have to look after or the amount of disposable income we have. But whatever our circumstances, I believe faith and trust have a role to play.
Because doing nothing flies in the face of control and it’s when we’re most in fear – the opposite of faith – that we most try and control the outcome.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be tempted to look at those who are getting things done or achieving a lot and think they’re the ones who’ve got it all going on, that they’re the people to emulate. But perhaps it’d serve us better to aspire to be like those who are doing less, those who are quietly surrendering their days and their lives, those who are just letting it all flow on by.
As ever, though, I’m left with questions and contradictions.
How to square the ‘doing nothing’ or at least ‘doing less’ philosophy with what we know about the benefits of having dreams for our lives and taking action towards them? I don’t have the answers but for starters, I’d guess that we could keep the word ‘vision’ in the forefront of our minds rather than ‘goal’ and that when we take our action we don’t strive, grasp, grab, exhaust ourselves or stress too much when things don’t work out as planned.
Instead, we trust. And maybe take a bit of time out to sit in a deckchair.
Funnily enough, this blog wasn’t going to read like this. I’d planned to write about relationships and commitment or about my inner introvert. But here I am letting go of my agenda and writing about doing nothing, writing what came to me and what flowed.
And I’m looking at the big 2014 year planner I’ve put up next to my desk – with the idea of being more organised with my time – and thinking the first thing I need to do is to write NOTHING or NO PLANS in capital letters on one day every week.
So perhaps the message is starting to sink in, slowly, gently, in its own time, which I guess is quite fitting really.