I am absolutely a dog person. Their playfulness, loyalty and capacity for love are characteristics that keep me firmly in the canine field.
That being said, there are certain personality traits of cats I can’t help but admire. Like their capacity for idleness – cats do nothing like it’s their job. And that’s something I dig a whole lot.
The Lost Art of Doing Nothing
Practicing nothingness is an important part of living a simpler life, and one that is overlooked constantly. Because no-one wants to be thought of as lazy and somewhere along the way – between the practice of productivity, efficiency and multi-tasking – doing nothing and laziness became one and the same.
Trust me – they’re not.
Doing nothing – for even five minutes a day – will help melt away stress, bring you back into the present and give you time to let noise and stimulus and information out rather than constantly cramming it in.
If you can manage to find 5-10 minutes of idle time most days, you will begin to feel the impact within a week.
How to Do Nothing
It seems ridiculous that we need instructions on how to be idle, but it truly is a lost art. We’re so afraid of being labelled lazy or unmotivated or unproductive, that we have become averse to nothingness.
1. Find time
First you need to find a block of time. Five to ten minutes is enough.
Ideally this time will be out of work hours and when you are less likely to be disrupted by the people you live with.
If you have little kids, maybe pop a show on the laptop or wait until they’re asleep (because we all know the capacity for interruption that little kids have.) If your kids are older, or if you live with housemates, just let them know you’d like to not be disturbed.
2. Find space
Pick a space that makes you comfortable. This could be your bedroom, the lounge, outside on the grass, the park outside your office or your front steps.
Choose an uncluttered space that won’t add to your stress. For example, if you choose to lay on your bed, make sure it’s made and free of clothes/toys/handbags.
Turn off your mobile, resolve not to answer the home phone, ensure the computer is not on (or ideally not even in the same room), switch off the TV and the radio.
You can’t truly be doing nothing if your mind is occupied by thoughts of work or friends or Facebook. So switch off. The world will not stop turning – I promise.
Once you’re settled, take some deep, cleansing breaths.
Slow them down and focus on the air passing into your lungs and being pushed out again. Be mindful of the feel of your breath going in cold and coming out warmer. Make your breathing the one thing you are thinking about.
5. Stay focused
Your mind will wander. Unless you practice meditation already it will most likely wander immediately. Just keep bringing it back to your breath.
In and out. Cool and warm. Pull and push.
As you get better at emptying your mind – and keeping it empty – you will be able to let thoughts float into your mind without really engaging them. Like noticing a butterfly in the garden, but doing no more. “There’s a butterfly. How nice.” And then it’s gone again.
Stay as long as you can, just soaking in the idleness, focusing on your breath, giving your mind a break from the constant flow of information and activity.
Ideas for Idleness
Once you’ve mastered the art of emptying your mind, you can start to get a little more creative with your idle time.
You could try:
- Watching clouds
- Laying on the grass watching ants crawl around
- Picking up a handful of sand or dirt and repeatedly letting it trickle out between your fingers
- Laying on your bed watching the shadows
- Studying your ceiling
- Taking inventory of your body parts
- Watching dust motes dance across the room.
Or, if you’re really stuck, there is actually an app that promotes this exact idea of embracing nothingness. Check it out – the wave sounds are truly beautiful.
Do you embrace idleness? Or does it make you feel guilty?