The Fine Art Of Doing Nothing

man on sand

We live in a world where we’re encouraged to accomplish as much as possible, to take vacations we fill with experiences that broaden our perspectives and take us outside our comfort zone. Many will brag about their busy-ness or all the things they’re doing. Yes, even I have written and promoted ways of doing such. Knock off those bucket list items by excelling at being a “human doing” as opposed to a “human being.” What if the biggest challenge is to do nothing?

I’ve taken this challenge personally… and I love it! Might it also work for you?

Enjoying a beach home, I’ve given up the urge to busy myself and instead slow down. I get up when my body tells me, make a smoothie, and either embark to the beach, the health club, or one of three water options. The pool, ocean, or hot tub beckon and some days I manage all three. For excitement, it’s a choice of hiking, working out, finding a new restaurant, a trip to Costco, strolling or sitting in a chair on another beach, and attending a Farmer’s Market or music event. Many days writing, reading, and even a nap might fit in. Wining and dining with my wife might fit the bill. And because golf has become so damn slow, I skip that altogether – no urge to compete or win anymore. My snail mail is delivered elsewhere and I have greatly reduced my time on email, social media, and television though an occasional movie, sports event, or mindless television show will occasionally intervene. I go to bed when ready and then repeat the entire process.

I’ve become better at slowing down and enjoying a sunrise or sunset, and am apt to have my camera with me more often. With much appreciation and time to enjoy the awe of my surroundings, my eye for a good picture has become much sharper. While I overhear many a political discussion, I keep my thoughts private. It’s just nice to observe. So too, I’ve spent much time contemplating, meditating, and appreciating. Now my life has three major goals. They are staying healthy, learning and growing, and serving.

Filling my life with as many accomplishments, experiences, or bragging rights have been cast aside. Yes, indeed I’ve slowed down. I’m more inclined to listen to my internal clock and free myself from the noise that we’ve allowed to dominate us. Meeting a new friend, reconnecting with an old one, discovering a new restaurant or spotting a seashell has replaced old tasks.

Feel hot? I jump in the pool or ocean. Feel tired? I take a nap. Feel social? I talk to the strangers. I’ve had more opportunity to take better notice of my surroundings: the gradations of blue in the ocean, the sensation of soft the sand between my toes, the ocean wave breaks, the amazing clouds and micro climates, and the rock formations of ancient volcanic peaks. Walks to and on the beach become intimate studies of the magnificent environment around.

In these moments it has dawned on me that by doing nothing, I am actually doing something. I am cleaning my mental slate, reminding myself that there is more to life than to-do lists. I am resetting my senses and renewing my energy along with rebalancing my values.

If you’re antsy, here’s what I suggest: book a trip to a quiet destination. Leave your phone in your room. Turn off the news. Master balancing in a hammock or on a pool float. Swim in a pool, lake, or ocean on your back and marvel at your weightlessness. Take off your shoes and contemplate the sand or soil beneath you. Take a hike. Take a nap or read a book. And don’t forget that experiences such as these can be just as transformative as packing things into your itinerary. Sometimes, the less you do, the better.

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