I was talking to a woman about my long drive to work, and she asked, “Do you listen to podcasts? Music?” When I told her no, she replied, “Do you plan your day?” Again I replied no. I could tell from the look on her face that she didn’t understand and thought I was wasting a colossal amount of time. I thought, “Clearly she doesn’t understand the value of doing no thing.
We are taught from a young age that we’ve always got to be doing something. If mom says, “What are you doing?” and we say, “Nothing,” she’s probably going to give us something to do that we don’t want to do.
When we go to school, we are told there is a right and wrong answer to everything and our job is to figure out the right one. So we learn to value thinking, which is doing something. We figure that if we just throw more intellect at it, we will find an answer.
If we are stuck in a rut or have a problem, one of the first things we are asked is, “What are you doing about it?” If we don’t know what to do, we will do things that don’t work like avoid it, drink, spend money we don’t have, or have affairs just so we can feel like we’re doing something.
“When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.” ~Lao Tzu
Let me offer you an alternative. Do no thing. Just for a while. When your head is busy with too much stuff, it needs to empty. Doing no thing is holistic. Animism embraces duality so emptying creates balance. We counter busyness with emptiness, stuff with no thing. It may sound counter intuitive, but relaxing and emptying gives us room to see solutions. When there is too much swirling in our heads, we can’t see the forest for the trees.
Often I start my day with no thing. I sometimes walk in silence without thinking, or I drive to work with no music, no podcast, and no sound. I sit in silence and give myself space to empty. That emptiness helps to keep we well boundaried.
I don’t waste time on things that aren’t important because I have greater clarity. I don’t ruminate, worry, or spin my wheels because I have inspiration, ideas, and solutions. We all do. They are all around us. We just have to make the space to see them.
Think of it this way. Have you ever seen those Where’s Waldo pictures? If you took away half of the items in those pictures, how much easier would it be to see Waldo? Now if you took away all the background noise, now how easy is it to find Waldo? That’s what you are doing when you do no thing.
So the next time you are challenged to power through something or are sitting up worrying, stop. Chill. Let your body relax. Release the tension. Breathe. Do no thing for a while. And let me know if it helps.