Doing nothing shouldn’t take much effort, yet we fail to do it effectively all the time. I know what most of you might be thinking right now: I do nothing all the time. Lazing around in the bed and wasting time is something we do almost every day.
And yet there might be some who’ll think it’s logically impossible to do nothing, because in doing so, you’re actually doing something. While they do have a point, let’s not give much heed to these smart-asses 😉 and move on, to nothingness.
Doing nothing can be highly relaxing; it is a great stress buster. But we never seem to have the time to do it properly. Instead of appreciating the nothingness of a moment, our minds wander to different places, or persons, or objects. The mind is just too busy to even enjoy the nothingness.
The Italians have an expression for what I’m trying to say here: l’arte di non fare niente. It roughly translates to the art of doing nothing. Another similar expression is dolce far niente, which means sweetness of doing nothing, or delicious idleness.
Now that we have settled on the importance of taking pleasure in doing nothing, you must be wondering how exactly you can realize it. It won’t be an easy task in the beginning, but once you’ve mastered the basics, everything will start to make sense (or not).
Tame the Distractions
The first step in perfecting the art of doing nothing is to get rid of all the distractions. I know it’s extremely hard to do that in the present age. Getting rid of all the people around you is one thing, but how do you avoid distractions such as TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones?
And then there are also social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, which can be highly addictive sometimes. These modern devices and technologies have made our lives very simple, connecting us with people and stories all over the world. Yet, they’ve also made our lives that much more complicated, and for the same reasons.
I can’t imagine living my life without them, but I also realize that they are not necessities. How can you be free of distractions when your gadgets need constant attention from you throughout the day?
The best way to avoid distractions is to isolate yourself from the rest of the world, both physically and mentally.
Finish any important tasks you might have, inform people who constantly bug you about your unavailability, lock yourself up in a room, switch off all electronic devices, get into comfortable wear if possible, turn off all lights (or close the curtains), choose a calm and relaxing position, close your eyes, and enjoy the nothingness.
Pro Tip: The best time to do this is just before you go to bed.
While this may seem like a stupid task at first (and it certainly is in a way), that’s exactly the point of doing it. However, you must take care that your mind isn’t spending too much time thinking about worldly stuff; this is the real challenge.
Once you get a hang of doing it in private, you can try doing the same in public places.
Breathe In, Breathe Out
If there’s one thing we can’t live without, it’s air. Our bodies have a highly evolved mechanism to inhale and exhale air. This bodily function is primarily involuntary (you can voluntarily stop breathing for some time though) and keeps repeating throughout our lives, whether we pay attention to it or not.
Concentrating on this involuntary activity while you’re relaxing will ensure that you’re doing, well, nothing. Your mind may try to wander, perhaps even try to comprehend the awesomeness of this blog (don’t try this if you care about maintaining space-time continuum), but don’t let that hinder your progress.
Just focus your concentration on breathing for 5-10 minutes, and nothing else. And then you’re done.
Master the Art of Relaxation
One of the main skills required to master the art of doing nothing is learning how to relax your body properly. Only when the physical body is in sync with the surroundings will your mind start to feel comfortable.
This sounds like doing meditation, and it is to a certain extent, but it’s more than that. This is an art form, of doing nothing whatsoever.
The best way to relax is find yourself a comfortable place to sit or lie down – bed, sofa, chair, recliner, mattress, floor, or any other surface you like. Adjust your body once you are in place; wiggle and jiggle so that you’ve found the best spot to relax.
Once you’re set, return to the breathing technique and have a go at it. It really does feel wonderful if done right.
You can also try massaging your major muscles such as shoulders, back, chest, etc… It does feel weird at first, but you’re alone anyway and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Don’t get carried away and reach for your extra-sensitive body parts (though even that can feel relaxing in its own way).
Another relaxation technique is to tense all the muscles in your body, right from your toe to your head. And then slowly relax each muscle group one by one until your entirely body is free of any tension. Start by relaxing your feet first, then your calves, thighs, abdomen, chest, back, shoulders, biceps, forearms, palms, neck, and finally your facial muscles.
It’s entirely up to you how you want to relax.
After attaining a certain level of mastery, you can also try doing the same outside, in a park or any other secluded place away from the city noise. If you can get yourself amidst the nature, that’ll be even better. There will be a few distractions here and there, but you’ll learn to appreciate them nonetheless.
Pay Attention to the Little Things
Little things do matter. Learn to embrace them. I’m not talking about superficial things like love and relationships here.
I’m talking about things like the rush of air in your nostrils as you breathe, the smell and sight of food (and not just the taste), the splash of water on your skin, the feeling of warmth in your bed, the fleeting blindness between blinks, etc…
When you’re doing something, just pay attention to the little things such as the ones listed above. The world is just too visual, or in some cases, too loud. Try to empower your other senses like touch, smell and taste too.
Eating food? Chew it slowly. Savor its taste and temperature. Feel its texture with your tongue. Having a drink? Sip it slowly at first. Feel the drink glide across your throat. Explore all the tastes that it brings along thoroughly. Close your eyes if you can; that’ll further elevate the experience.
Look closely at all the plants and flowers that you pass by daily. Observe how animals and birds interact with your surroundings. Listen to their barks and chirps. When was the last time you saw the sun set over the horizon? If you pay attention, even the littlest of things can hold your interest for hours.
It’s almost like trying to review each and every aspect of your life, but for yourself.
Apply The Art of Doing Nothing in Everyday Life
This is the stage where you stop being a padawan and start embracing your inner Jedi (or Sith if that’s what you prefer). May the force (of doing nothing) be with you.
Places where you have to wait or stand in queue are perfect for applying this art. Waiting in line at a ticket counter? Sitting outside a doctor’s office? Waiting for a bus or train? Perfecto!
Don’t pick up any newspaper or magazine, or read any advertisement plastered over the walls, or use your mobile, or worry about what you’re going to do later. Just don’t work your brain much. Do nothing.
The breathing and relaxation techniques discussed earlier will come in handy here. Observe the people around you if you want to though – watch how they’re behaving; listen to what they’re conversing; just understand them in general.
Another area where you can apply the art of doing nothing is while you’re driving. It can be a bicycle, a motorcycle, or a car. Concentrate on the road ahead and your driving, and nothing else.
If it’s a bicycle, you don’t have much to worry about apart from shifting gears (if it’s a geared bicycle) and braking. The same applies to motorcycles, except there’s the trio of clutch, gears and throttle involved, and since the speed will also be on the higher side, you need to pay closer attention to the road. Use horns and pass lights judiciously.
For cars it’ll be a bit different I assume (I don’t have any experience with them as I don’t drive cars). Turn off the music player and other distractions though.
The best part about concentrating on only your driving is that you’ll be rewarded with better mileage 😀
Jogging or running is another activity where you can apply the same (though one can always argue that you’re already doing it since all your effort is concentrated on it).
Mastering the art of doing nothing won’t be easy. It will take you days (or even weeks) of practice get it right. Just give it a try. Doing nothing will be far more enjoyable than something you’ve done lately!