The value of doing nothing

If I were in kindergarten, I would be crying. I was losing a real-world game of hide and seek and time was running out. Instead of looking for someone, however, I was looking for something. In this case, the right words to a book review I was trying to write for my blog. The words simply didn’t want to be found.

I put off the task for several days, hoping that my creative subconscious would work on the project while I attended to that little thing called life. I dutifully kept my normal schedule: work, chores, cooking and walking the dog, hoping I could sit down and knock out the review once it had time to brew in the back of my mind.

The longer I put it off, however, the harder it became. So I sat down, determined to write something—anything—to get started and still, the words would not come. What did appear was a realization that my creative block was deeper than it seemed on the surface. I wasn’t blocked; I was unmotivated, toward writing and toward life itself.

I could hypothesize all kinds of reasons for my lack of motivation: I had a busier than usual fall, working on a big writing project, wading through rivers of projects at work and dealing with a lot of personal change. Yes, all of these things can take a toll on the human spirit and they certainly did with mine. Yet a little voice kept nagging me to stop complaining, get moving, get writing and get on with my life.

After meditating, I decided to ignore that little voice. I poured myself a cup of coffee, sat down and did absolutely nothing for several hours.

Whose voice is that anyway?

The reason for ignoring the little voice in my head was simple: it was my ego. As he’s prone to do, my ego was feeling anxious about not completing the writing project. Hard work, attention to detail and deadlines are the handmaidens of the ego and he wanted to make sure I didn’t forget it.

It took me a few days to recognize the voice of the ego, but there were a few tell tale signs that helped me make a positive identification. Repeatedly, I was hearing a lot of “should” and “need to” statements coming from the voice. Things like, “you should really finish that book review,” or “You really need to be doing something with your blog,” or “You shouldn’t be slacking off right now.” I grew irritated with the voice.

The ego wants us to move forward, work and make sure that we are living up to the standards set by society, our families and our responsibilities. The ego doesn’t see the benefit of slacking off; instead, he takes us to task on completing our to-do lists.

After a little introspection, I was more than happy to ignore the ego this time.

Following impulses

Impulses toward action are a wonderful thing. Impulses come to us from deep in the soul and inner self, urging us to move in the direction of our fondest goals and desires. We tend to be distrustful of impulses, however, because they frequently seem foreign to the rational mind. When we don’t understand an impulse intellectually, we tend to dismiss it and miss an excellent opportunity for growth.

So if following impulses is a good thing, why was I having the impulse to do nothing? Why was my psyche telling me to sit one out, regroup, and let the world move on by for a few days? And why was I fighting it?

Inaction as action

This may be hard to digest, but the act of “doing nothing,” is actually “doing something.” We have simply conditioned ourselves to believe that we must constantly work toward some arbitrary goal or we’ll fail miserably at life.

While the intellect views inaction as wrong or lazy, the spirit looks at inaction as:

  • Replenishing the body and spirit
  • Allowing the inner self to come up with fabulous new ideas
  • Giving the universe the space and time to arrange details in our favor
  • Arranging events that are more advantageous or avoiding situations that are harmful

When to accept “doing nothing”

I won’t argue that it’s hard to accept “doing nothing” as a much-needed part of daily living. It’s easier to accept this notion on vacation and even then, “doing nothing” seems suspect. How do you know when it’s okay to do nothing?

Generally, it’s best to discover whether you’ve got the impulse to do nothing or if you are instead trying to avoid doing something. I’m referring here to procrastination, where the urge to “do nothing” or the urge to “do absolutely anything but” something is key. Procrastination is avoidance and you probably have a whole handful (or mindful) of reasons why you don’t want to do something.

Sit down, get quiet for a few moments and let go of thought. You’re trying to feel your way through this exercise. Let your body talk to you through feeling (emotional or physical) and intuition. What kinds of things do you discover?

When I did this exercise, I felt a slight fatigue in my body; but, more than anything, I had the urge to sit in my favorite chair. I didn’t feel the urge to read or write. There was no impulse to surf the Internet. My body told me it only wanted to sit and be still for a while. For how long, I didn’t know.

It did take a few hours for my ego to stop whining about my inactivity. I reassured him constantly about the benefits of this new plan and how much better life would be in the long run. After I truly gave in and relaxed into inactivity, I could feel a shift in my energy and in my enthusiasm.

Accepting the impulse toward inaction is important. It’s not the norm in society and your friends, family members and coworkers may chastise you for it. Your own ego may chastise you as well. However, it’s in the fighting of the impulse to do nothing where energy gets blocked and problems appear.

Reality Challenge™

Doing nothing can be a scary proposition. It can also be one of the most fulfilling things your soul can experience. This week, I invite you to look for–to feel for–times when your spirit is telling you to slow down and take a break. The same holds true for your body, as the impulse to rest is equally as important to the body as it is the spirit.

If you identify the impulse to do nothing, accept it. Remind your ego that you’re trying something new and to stop whining. Allow yourself the luxury to do nothing, at least as much as you can without “have to” responsibilities. Try it and feel for a shift. Your spirit may thank you.

 

 

 

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kerri Richardson
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 20:22:11

    I was going to leave a comment, buy my spirit wants to do nothing. 😉

    Reply

  2. T.L. Parks
    Dec 14, 2012 @ 12:41:47

    I think you pretty much nailed it. As a fellow writer and blogger, I too struggle with the urge to forcefully forge ahead and get something…ANYTHING done…at a time, when my spirit truly is in a restful yet efficient state, but to the outside world it may appear that nothing is happening. When you honor the pauses that the soul needs to take, you get more done and in a deeper and more meaningful way. Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply

  3. T.L. Parks
    Dec 14, 2012 @ 12:48:06

    I think you pretty much nailed it. As a fellow writer and blogger, I too struggle with the urge to forcefully forge ahead and get something…ANYTHING done…at a time, when my spirit truly is in a restful yet efficient state, but to the outside world it may appear that nothing is happening. When you honor the pauses that the soul needs to take, you get more done and in a deeper and more meaningful way. Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply

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