Isn’t it nice to have those moments in life when you’ve checked off every last box on your agenda and can just let your mind and body relax? I’m sure that happens to you all the time, right? Yeah, right.
Are you still waiting for all that free time to show up before enjoying the fruits of doing absolutely nothing? Do you know how to “do nothing?” Are you too busy or have too many thoughts running through your head to relax and enjoy those ever-present moments of sweet nothingness? Do you even know what that is?
For some, doing nothing is a waste of time, but for others it can be an art form that enhances their ability to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Follow this simple plan to master the Art of Doing Nothing, and in the process improve your life, melt away stress, become more patient, and make yourself more productive when you actually do have stuff to do.
Step 1: Start small
Doing nothing, in the true sense of the word, can be overwhelming if you attempt to do too much nothing all at once. Most of us simply don’t know what to do with ourselves when we have nothing to do, which is why it’s best to start small. Focus on 5-10 minutes at a time, and start your practice sessions in a safe place — at home, not at work or in a busy public place. Find a time and place where there are not many distractions, not much noise, not a lot of people to bother you. Just make sure your surroundings are quiet and comfortable.
Step 2: Remove distractions
Shut off all distractions — TV, computer, cell phones, regular phones, Blackberries, and the like. I know this might feel impossible to do, but doing nothing is tough when you’re surrounded by blinking gadgets beckoning for you to do something. Although you may initially get that panicky feeling that swells in your chest when you realize you drove all the way to the grocery store without a cell phone, I promise, it will be all right. I’ve been there, and I lived to tell about it.
Now, close your eyes, and do nothing. Do nothing. Simple, huh? Perhaps doing nothing is more of a meditative mindset than a physical possibility. Of course, you’re always doing something — you’re sitting, you’re thinking, you’re breathing — but if someone were to call you and ask what you’re doing, of course you’d say, “Oh, nothing.” But luckily you’ve already turned your cell phone off, so you don’t have to worry about pesky distractions or telling others that you’re busy doing nothing.
Just sit there for five minutes and do nothing.
This is all you have to do to attain a basic level of do-nothingness. Commit to this practice for five to 10 minutes a day and observe what happens. To take this practice to the next level, continue on to the next step.
Step 3: Breathe
The first place to start to master this simple art is with your breath. If this sounds suspiciously like meditation, just remember you’re not meditating, you are doing nothing. (Okay, you can call it meditation if you want to:)
First, breathe slowly in and slowly out.
Next, on the inhale, notice how the breath enters your body through your nose, journeys down to your lungs, and expands your diaphragm.
On the exhale, feel the lightness of the air as it slowly escapes the body. Feel the satisfaction of empty lungs. Try to do this for 5-10 minutes.
You may notice while you are doing nothing that your mind starts to tell you that you need to do something. If it makes your mind feel better, go ahead and trick it by telling it that you are “doing” breathing. The mind just wants something to do. Of course, you’re not actually doing anything since you can’t help it whether you breathe or not. You’re just letting the body do what it does naturally: BREATHE. No effort, no work, just simply doing nothing.
Amazingly enough, if you commit to just this little bit of doing nothing, chances are good that you’ll find that you like it a lot. Of course you won’t become a master of the Art of Doing Nothing overnight, but once you become proficient with these simple steps, don’t be surprised to find yourself wanting more and more nothingness. Doing nothing is not easy. It takes practice. But, if you commit to taking a few minutes each day to do nothing, it will become easy, natural, and a definite item to check off your daily to-do list.
[Inspired by Leo at Zen Habits]