For a few weeks in August, Cha Bay escaped to an island off the coast of Maine and did … NOTHING. We disconnected from the Internet, and the only way to get to any commercial retail store or entertainment was to take a ferry to the mainland. Some people get bored by doing nothing and would want to reach for their phones or for some distraction, but that is because doing nothing is actually a skill that needs to be practiced.
Our lives are set by routines. Schedules are dictated by jobs, school, kids, and obligations. During any free moments we scramble to do the chores of daily living, and then it is Monday again and it all repeats.
We gain a lot by keeping busy. It feels good to get things done. Our identities are defined by how well we work, and by what we do. Giving it up is hard. If we were suddenly given an 8th day to the week, most of us would quickly find other things to do and consume. We would finally learn how to speak another language or play that instrument. We would finally make it to the other side of town to check out that restaurant everyone has been talking about. It would all get absorbed into the To-Do List, or the Bucket List. Time doing nothing is time wasted – right?
Doing nothing is not the same as wasting time. When done right, doing nothing is a pure state of being. It is time to just be, without expecting results. You allow yourself to see things as they are, without needing to critique, defend, or improve it. You give yourself time to notice the world you are in, to take in the gifts from the universe, to rediscover yourself. You come back relaxed and better able to concentrate.
This is why doing nothing is an art form. One has to know how to cut out the noise, and how to get away from the self that tells us to always be productive. Escaping to an island helps, but even in the middle of a busy city, in the middle of your day, you can take a moment to simply do nothing. It is a skill that needs to be practiced, even if only for 5 minutes a day. This is what you need to do:
1) Take a deep breath. Feel how that breath travels through your body. Focus on your breathing and enjoy the sensation.
2) Notice where your body may be holding on to tension. Breathe some more and let the tension go.
3) Focus your senses on something. Drinking tea is a great idea! Notice the temperature, color, aromas. Notice how it feels in your mouth and how it warms or cools your body. If there is no tea around, you can focus on anything: people watch, eat your lunch, sit in the park. Just don’t multitask. Go through each of your senses and take notice. What do you see, hear, smell, feel, taste?
This sounds a lot like being mindful, but the difference is that you can be mindful while doing things to be productive. When doing nothing you aren’t expecting anything. You are simply taking in the world and appreciating it.
After you let yourself just BE in that state of suchness, you will come back to the world more refreshed, more productive.
After our time away, we have come back ready to create and will keep our little bay of calm here in NYC. We love it when people comment on how “zen” it feels in our little corner of the world.