Time for a Life Sabbatical?
How hard is doing nothing?
Harder than doing something, it turns out.
At least for me.
When my coach prescribed three days of doing nothing other than just being with myself, I thought that wouldn’t be too far off from how I already did life.
Until I had to say goodbye to everyone on facebook. And couldn’t read or post at GVU. Or write or respond here. Or check emails.
Holy hannah, that’s unplugged!
I also ignored the phone and doorbell (except when Michele Woodward called – I mean, come on, I’m not Superwoman), and the only appointment I made was for a full body massage, which seemed appropriate for the self-connection intention.
But the other hurdles were managing strong inclinations to clean, organize, read, watch tv, exercise, garden, play with the dogs, brush the cats, … anything but sit quietly with myself.
Apparently I’m more outwardly focused than I realized.
Which I wouldn’t have guessed. I mean, I’m the one who makes fun of my boyfriend for habits of always plugging into to something in order to avoid the “quiet.” He doesn’t drive in the car without music, he prefers a tv on in the background, he doesn’t know how to slow his own brain to get to sleep at night and flat out refuses to try meditating.
In my opinion, my sweetie is a bit of a wreck on that point – but I’m good at this. I can spend hours on end just by myself, doing nothing.
Or so I thought.
Doing nothing isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Doing nothing is not a vacation. It’s not goofing off. It’s not “following your feel good.” bsscorpio8 says that “although ‘doing nothing’ may sound simple,it actually requires discipline” for activity-obsessed Americans.
But Americans aren’t holding the market on this goal oriented living. Sid at Flow Psychology observes that many cultures consider doing nothing to be lazy and irresponsible.
So why is it worth practicing?
Personally, I wanted to be as good at being with Me as I am at being with others. I wanted to master the art of presence. I wanted to better embrace the truth of myself.
(Plus my coach told me to.)
But the benefits of doing nothing are widespread, including (click the links for great articles):
- making room for something new
- improving your health
- sparking your creativity
- supercharging your manifesting
- creating peace of mind and raise healthier, independent children
- increasing productivity (Alex says: “The less you do, the more you want to do.” Paradoxical, but true, I found.)
- relieving stress
- allowing for reflection
(Regarding the importance of reflection and creativity, on a recent episode of Project Runway a designer complained that even while she knew she was going down the wrong path with a particular dress she was working on, because of the time constraints of the challenge she never “came up for air” to realize it, and to reassess and redirect. That’s one thing when you’re screwing up your dress on reality tv; it’s another when you’re doing it to your life.)
More arguments for practicing nothing: Dr. Adizes believes doing nothing is the prerequisite for change. Joann Davis writes that “Our souls need time to think, dream, and reflect. We benefit from doing nothing, from going out to play, from giving from the heart and spending time in nature.”
Doing nothing for three days also helped me truly know what I missed (writing, creating) and what I didn’t (obsessive facebook checkins, jumping from one activity to another).
I think doing nothing works best when you do nothing without an agenda – otherwise you’re actually probably doing something after all. But regardless of how or why you play with it, I highly recommend you do, because there’s something very powerful about getting quiet, getting to know yourself, and making some extra room in your mind and your life.
I’ll close with a quote from the very wise Pooh:
“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”