March 26, 2019

What Happens when we Allow Ourselves to do Absolutely Nothing.

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“We are human beings, not human doings.” ~ Rick Warren

This morning something that shouldn’t have upset me, really upset me.

I was forced into a situation where I had to just…sit. With how busy our lives are, this would seemingly be a great thing—but it wasn’t.

Allow me to explain.

My husband and I were off on a shopping mission in the busy streets of India when I realised I couldn’t go a moment longer without eating. We had limited time and he’d eaten, so we decided to split up so I could get breakfast, and he’d come back to grab me in half an hour. He was wearing our backpack and was in a rush, so in my haste, I grabbed the only thing I needed—my purse, to pay for brekkie.

Ambling hungrily off the dusty track into the café, I actually uttered an expletive once I realised I had forgotten both my book and (shock, horror) my phone—my two sources of entertainment whilst waiting for my food. 

This expletive was met with the question, What do I do now? That was honestly my first thought. What do I do? What can I do? Do I really just have to sit here staring at the tablecloth twiddling my thumbs once I’ve ordered? Torture! Because don’t we all so desperately feel we need to do something all of the time?

What a curious notion it is that we constantly need to do. We constantly need entertaining or to feel as if we are getting something “done.”

The idea of sitting in a café with no Wi-Fi device, no book, no magazines, and no people to talk to literally angered me. It was such a “waste of time.”

So, there I found myself, in a beautiful, Indian, make-shift bamboo hut café, surrounded by palm trees and sounds of the forest, presently beginning to notice the things around me. Suddenly, the anger dissipated, and, with great calmness and clarity, I began observing my mind in a way that I usually only can during meditation. Not to mention the fact that I observed my surroundings far more vividly than I would have with my head stuck in a book.

I keenly observed the wry smile of the waiter as he proudly approached me to serve my food. I noticed two boys playing soccer across the road, playfully teasing one another in a different language. I experienced my chai with complete mindfulness—taking in the warmth, the smell, the tastes lighting up each part of my tongue with every mouthful. All moments that would have been completely lost on me had I been scrolling through my Instagram feed or sending an email. 

Once I accepted that multitasking wasn’t an option, I gratefully accepted this lesson in being rather than doing. And the rewards? Presence, acceptance, gratitude, aliveness, and, I’m going to go ahead and say it, peace.

We’ve become such an achievement-based society we sometimes forget that all we really need to “achieve” is some inner zen, some clear thought, and a little chunk of happiness. And maybe, after all, those things can only be achieved by sitting and doing nothing every now and then. 

So, what do we really need to do today? Probably a little more nothing and a little less something.

For me, this is definitely still a work in progress, because after about seven minutes of doing absolutely nothing in the café, I asked the waiter for a pen and a piece of paper to write this article.

But—a whole seven minutes! We’ve all got to start somewhere. 

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