There beside Mount Barney on the bank of a muddy creek life stretched out slowly ahead of me. I shouldn’t have checked my emails as soon as I finished meditating but I did.
If you’re an A type personality or slightly hyperactive like me doing nothing is hard. Even if you’re more laid back and less prone to stress it’s still hard to do nothing because of expectations from others for us to do something. Anything. In the modern world doing anything at all is better is seen as better than doing nothing.
Typically I find it hard to do nothing. So hard I’ve even written about things like how to cope with boredom but, with the help of mindfulness for beginners, a crash course in how to meditate and a wake up call from my old friend depression I’m beginning to see the wisdom in doing nothing.
We spend too much time switching from one job to the next, going from one place to another or swinging between emotional states and all that frenetic energy makes slowing down harder and harder. If you need lessons in how to do nothing here’s what I learnt last week during a weekend spent under canvas with the family.
1. Recognise why you keep yourself so busy
With my new found awareness I realise working makes me feel important, useful, wanted.
And even though I’m then told everyone else said no to sky diving and I don’t exactly know what it is I’m still excited. I think sky diving involves jumping out of a plane but whatever it is I can hardly wait.
2. Reduce self-imposed pressures
Then I come to my senses, look around at the Scribbly Gum trees, Australian King Parrots and Red-necked Wallabies and realise how pathetic it is to work while you’re on holiday in order to feel good about yourself.
So I focus more on awareness and on being myself. I find myself a little bit. We’re there for a friend’s 50th birthday camp out but I don’t try to be sociable when I don’t feel like it. I don’t try to be the life and soul of the party even though I’m an introvert. I don’t drink or smoke or talk about how hard that is even though I quit those temptations almost six months ago in January.
I wander around the campsite watching humanity and wildlife but still have time to talk to people who want to talk to me. I go to bed early. I read by torchlight. I sleep in a tent surrounded by the hums and buzzes of the bush and my family. It feels good.
3. Release your responsibilities
The next day it’s more of the same but different. Same worn clothes, same camp fire, same creek. Our hair smells of smoke, our socks are filthy and we haven’t eaten a vegetable since we left home. The kids love it.
I resist the urge to try to change anything, find the picnic blanket, pick up my pillow and wander back down to the creek. I take my mobile phone because it has my guided mediation practices on it but I keep it locked in Airplane Mode so it can’t ring or beep as emails or text messages arrive.
I breathe, I listen to the birds and watch the clouds over Mount Barney. Another 30 minutes of my life have gone by when ding tells me the meditation time is over. I open my eyes and turn the phone off. I don’t need it, I don’t want it. Another habit has been broken.
We only went camping for two nights but it seemed like forever. Forever and nothing. The kind of nothing that everyone needs.
Do you ever take a moment to do absolutely nothing? How do you do nothing and where?