An old friend and mentor of mine once advised, “If you don’t know what to do, do nothing.” At the time, I was struggling with a decision and the advice was to slow down, not to rush it. My mentor wasn’t suggesting laziness, apathy, or avoiding the decision, but was simply reminding me that it is OK to take time, to set the issue aside, to do nothing for the moment if I wasn’t ready or if the right decision wasn’t clear.
In the video documentary The Quantum Activist, Amit Goswami, discusses the importance of being and doing, joking about how to “do-be-do-be-do”. We need pauses in between activity. We need time to do nothing, to simply be, to rest, to experience silence, to breathe, and to clear our minds. There are many ways to do that from observing your form of Sabbath to meditation to prayer to reflection to walking in-and-listening-to nature. When I don’t know what to do, I have found that doing nothing, simply being allows something transformational to occur. The “answers” come of their own accord, or the “problem” evaporates without my conscious effort. I can return then to livelihood, effort, relationships, and communication with a renewed spirit.
As the Indian Sage Tilopa counseled, “Let go of what has passed. Let go of what may come. Let go of what is happening now. Don’t try and figure something out. Don’t try and make anything happen. Relax, right now, and rest.” What an incredible reminder to relax, not only about past regrets and future worries, but also about what is happening now.
In the rush of activities and our busy lives, we may actually have to schedule doing nothing on our calendars. Sometimes, my spouse and I will block a day on the calendar as a “Nothing Day”, a break from work, chores, and even from entertainment and social events. It is an unplanned, blank slate of a day – a chance to just be.
When was the last time you did nothing? Give yourself that gift of just being for a day and see how it renews, refreshes, and brings unexpected insights to your challenges.