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The Healing Power of Doing Nothing

The Healing Power of Doing Nothing

How comfortable do you feel doing nothing? For many of us, when we do 'nothing' we like we are doing 'something' wrong. We feel guilty, and quickly begin to see ourselves as idle and lazy ... even as 'good for nothing'.

Non-productive time has somehow become denegrated and devalued in our culture. It feels like an indulgence at best, and a flaw at worst. But is it really indulgence or flaw? Is it not perhaps a necessity?

There is a constant pressure to be productive, engaged and responsive in this modern world; yet this pressure tends to clog the currents of our being, hijacking our bandwidth and rendering our minds full of noise and bustle. It takes us over.

A life of endless doing prevents a more considered and fruitful life. We tend to be more reactive. We struggle to access a deeper level of being that would actually, paradoxically, lead to more informed doing.

Over the last few years, I have seen more and more of my friends, loved ones, and clients expressing a profound yearning for more quiet, more time spent resting in being, and less bustle and noise.

I believe there is medicine in this. Some deep wisdom is calling us back.


The Soul's Pace

Yellow flowers in the meadow with the sunlight pouring through

Settling into a space of quiet being is deeply nourishing for us - for our creativity, our sanity and our overall wellbeing.

When we pause, we give ourselves time to slow down and take a look at where we are, who we are and where we are going. Time spent in being is time to assimilate and integrate. The repose this offers acts as a much-needed counterpoint to the intensity of our lives, helping us to come back to ourselves, to rest, reflect and recover. As we relax and settle inside, we are more able to feel the currents of our life and rest in their momentum, feeling how we are being guided to move forward, and allowing this movement to happen in the most fluid ways.

This is something we want to be making time for.

In Jamie Smart’s book, ‘Results’, he includes a brief story that illustrates this beautifully. It made me gasp in wonder when I first read it.

‘There’s an old tale about anthropologists studying a tribe of Aboriginal Australians on walkabout. The tribesmen would walk or run, sometimes for hours, then suddenly stop completely still. Sometimes they would run for an hour then stop for a few minutes. Then, they would run for only a few minutes, followed by an hour’s pause. Running, walking, pausing … The [anthropologists] concocted theories and explanations, but they were unable to discern any kind of pattern they could use to predict when the Aboriginal people would move and when they would be still.

Finally, the anthropologists approached one of the elders to ask the pupose of these mysterious pauses.

‘We’re waiting for our souls to catch up to us’, the elder replied.

Waiting for our souls to catch up to us. How is this something that this tribe knows to do but we, in our sophisticated modern lives, do not? Why have we abandoned something so crucial to our wellbeing and our happiness?

We are living in a time when the prevailing cultural myth says that being busy equates to being successful. At the same time, resting in being has been turned into a negative: it is deemed to be time where we are ‘doing nothing’. Busyness = good and productive. Non-doing = bad and wasteful.  

A Deep Return

grasses in the field the foreground grass is in detail and the others behind are blurred

Allowing ourselves time to slow down, to potter and pootle, to reminisce and reflect, restores our inner balance. Our mind naturally falls out of its busyness. We start to feel a sense of spaciousness opening up inside us. Allowing our thoughts to wander, we find wonder. Anything that is jangling and knotted inside can untangle and relax. Things that are happening at a deeper level of our being can percolate, arise and reveal themselves in their own time. Profound questions emerge from our soul. Pertinent answers gently appear.

There is a re-ordering that happens that is essential for our mental wellbeing and our soul .

Without time to pause and be, we are just running. Everything is accumulating inside us, creating walls of pressure. But with time to pause and rest in being, we are more considered and more sure-footed.

As I mentioned earlier, many of the people I work with are exploring the possiblity of having a quieter life.

There is some deep return going on.

A return that takes us from time online to time in alignment, from time endlessly interacting and discussing to time in quiet and gentle companionship, from time indoors to time outside with one’s feet on the earth, one’s body in the water and one’s heart strings thrumming to the stirring of a fresh breeze. From time spent listening to other people’s thoughts and ideas to time spent watching beliefs and thinking drop away.

a woman sitting under a tree with her back to the camera in the sunlight

Can We Afford to Do Nothing?

I remember as a child how I loved to sit on the windowsill in my bedroom and daydream and stardream, finding any opportunity to get lost in my imagination. I would let my mind drift, and watch as thoughts formed like clouds in strange and wondrous ways, only to dissolve again or morph into something else. I loved this time-outside-of-time, where I could sit for hours, letting my mind wander, with no teacher or parent marshalling my thoughts.

What imagining and envisioning happens in these times? What seeing and knowing gets quietly revealed? What new worlds are woven and spun? Who are we becoming when we rest in this state of being? What is this extraordinary power?

This is the creative energy of the Divine. It comes cleanly to the fore when we allow the noise in our head to abate, and ourselves to simply be.

What I remember from my stardreaming sessions as a child is feeling quiet, content and sated afterwards.

Last year, during an acute illness, I felt drawn to making more time for for my soul to catch up - for resting in being. Since then, I have kept clear stretches of time for wonder and wandering. A lovely side-effect of this is that I now feel more focussed and productive than I have ever been. I get more done in two or three hours of work than I used to get done in a whole day. I come to my work so clear-headed and relaxed that it is easy to shift things along, to see what needs doing in what order, discern what doesn’t need my attention, and tend to what does.

Is it indulgent or irresponsible to have time resting in being? Is it something that a busy hard-working parent, CEO, student or breadwinner cannot afford to do? Perhaps, it is something we can’t afford NOT to do… Where is there but here and now? What is there but being? 

When we rest in being we are recalibrating, reconnecting to our sanity and good sense, stoking our creative fire, opening to deeper insight, giving things time to shift and settle, moving out of reactivity, allowing a natural sorting and sifting to happen, making space for yin to counterbalance the dominance of yang.

This is rich time.

This is balancing time.

It is time that soothes and smooths the flow of our life and allows us to be more present and more effective.

close-up image of a lovely yellow flower with a blurred background of yellow flowers behind

Trust What You Love Doing

How often, when you berate yourself for ‘doing nothing’ are you actually doing something you love or something that your soul needs?

The Australian Aboriginees recognised that our soul has its own pace: it has impeccable timing and wisdom. We do not want to stand in the way of, ignore or cancel this. We want to live a soul-full life.

There are things that we love doing that harm no one, that are simply creative, restful, calming, uplifting or regenerative. The fact that they feel like this gives us feedback. If something feels resonant and good for us then maybe we can trust that it is - and that it is deeply relevant for our soul and our wellbeing?

Rather than dismissing and denouncing this, we want to be taking note of it: making time for and dwelling in that which lifts, calms and renews us. When we make space for that which is resonant and relevant to our soul it has reach: it will go places, both within us and withinin our lives, leading us down unexpected and lovely pathways.  

Like the Australian Aboringinees, we are in a living dialogue with our own soul; we are simply less used to listening to this.

Let yourself gaze into the distance, go and rest on the sofa or under the stars, abandon a mountain of jobs for the mountain you see out of the window. Go outside and smell flowers. Listen to water murmuring over rocks, and remember what the birds and trees mean to you.

Let the tightness of your thoughts unravel. Let yourself pause and rest.

And do it because it is medicine. 

If you think this newsletter would be helpful for a friend or family member, please feel free to forward this to them. And if you have any thoughts, comments, or wish to share any insights with me after reading this, please let me know - I would love to hear how this has landed with you.

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