The Joy of Nothing
Do you meditate? Do you practice mindfulness? Do you regularly do breathing exercises?
Yeah, who has time for that shit?
Our days are too full, the passing of time too fast, for most of us to sit around doing “nothing.” Places to go, things to do, constant demands from society and from ourselves to be perpetually productive. I always feel like I have to be doing something. If I’m not working or writing or working out or making something, doing some task that produces tangible results, gives some validation to the time and space I’m borrowing from life, I feel like I’m failing, like I’m wasting time, and I feel guilty for it.
Unhealthy as that is, I don’t think it’s at all unusual. Despite living in a society of endless time wasting opportunities, where social media and streaming videos and videogames are always at our fingertips, like a cocked gun ready to burst our brains with cheap dopamine hits, we’re also endlessly pestered, often via those very time-sucking mediums, with the message that we should be doing something more. We should be out having wild hedonistic fun, making money hand over fist, putting our mark on the world, living our best lives.
The reality is that most of us don’t and won’t ever live like that. Most of us are pretty damn boring and sad, at least by the standards we’re bombarded with. It’s hard to do nothing and not feel like we’re doing something wrong.
When was the last time you took a nap? Just sat down at your desk, or in a recliner, or even in bed, and let yourself doze off for a while in the middle of the day. That is a monumental waste of time. Think of all the things you could be doing during that ten to sixty minute nap. I used to completely reject the notion of naps and thought that there was something wrong with anyone who took them. What a stupid waste of time and daylight, sleeping in the middle of the day. If by chance I fell asleep any time outside the scheduled night time hours, something was wrong, and I probably felt bad about it and myself. Now that I’m older, and if not wiser at least more tired, I love a good nap. Few things are nicer than turning the lights off, closing your eyes, and disappearing into your own brain for a small piece of the afternoon.
In addition to the occasional nap, I’ve gotten better about mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, the things I told myself I didn’t have time for, that were a waste. I don’t do any of it as much as I should, because the more I think about it, the more I believe that we should all be taking nap s and meditating for hours every day. And, contrary to what our capitalism-indoctrinated brains tell us, doing nothing, when it comes to rest and mindfulness and these other “waste of time” activities, they’re actually among the most productive things we can be doing. They might not help you make more money or finish a project faster, but done right they will help you feel good about that, feel good in general.
Because most of us are bound by society’s strictures and can’t afford the time or expense that productive nothing-doing takes to do properly, we have to find loopholes. Practice measured breathing while working on something, step outside of your home or workplace and take a short slow walk, focusing on the things you see, zone out for a safe moment on the job, learn to sleep with your eyes open. Take little bits of time here and there for the sake of your own health and sanity. Let your body relax and your mind wander.
Doing nothing is wonderful. Doing nothing is one of the greatest uses of our time, and
makes our time on this planet more endurable, even pleasant. Done right, there are few things we could be doing that are better than nothing.