Perfecting the Art of Doing Nothing
Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it ~ William Feather
There’s a mellow crispness in the air. My world wakes up to hushed misty mornings and silver frost melting quietly away as thrushes and tits sing out little welcoming songs to the morning sun of early April.
A quiet reflection settles over me and I’m filled with a shining gratitude of being alive. Grateful for laughter. Grateful for memories made. Most of all, grateful for lessons learnt.
For me, one lesson stands out above the sum of treasured lessons I’ve learnt the last two years. A lesson I continue to learn in greater measure and awareness each day.
It is the lesson in stillness.
I truly believe that it is from this sacred place of stillness that all things worthy, meaningful and good flow out from my life. I think this is called living deliberately.
To think that I am 41 years old and I have only just begun to learn the secret of living! To have just begun to wake up! To be consciously quiet. To embrace silence. Purposefully doing nothing. To stop. Wait. Simplify. Learning to pace myself. Learning to be calm. Learning just to be.
To exchange urgency with placidness. To turn down the pulsating tempo of life to an almost complete standstill. To finally realise that it’s possible to slice through thoughts crammed full of noise, clutter and incessant chatter. To have a shining clarity and vision.
My version of Carpe Diem is about being still enough to seize the moment and to watch the seconds unfold.
In ancient China, the practice of wu wei which translates as “actionless activity” or “sitting quietly doing nothing” was regarded as one of the highest achievements or virtues. This art is radically different from inactivity, inertia, indecision. It is neither to daydream or an excuse for laziness.
The real meaning of “doing nothing” means an intense alertness to life as it is.
We are a people obsessed with more. We aren’t just content to read, we have to speed read. To see the world is no longer magical but an amazing race to chart how many countries we have stepped foot on within a year. What once used to be simple holidays have now become 1,000 places to see before I die. We are driven to acquire more – living in excess and indulging our physical selves while starving our withered inner lives.
A million dollars cannot buy one second of any of these. I am truly counted as rich when I’m able to attain all these in life.
- To drink in a sunset with a contentment of having witnessed a living miracle.
- To lock eyes with my child and say I love you without having to say a word.
- When my heart leaps for joy at the song of a blackbird echoing in the evening sky.
- To truly listen when somebody speaks.
- To treat each person with reverence and kindness regardless of whether we think they deserve it or not.
- To watch in wonder a tiny ladybird scurry along a blade of grass.
- To show friendship not in words alone but to have the heart burn with lovingkindness for everyone who may cross our path.
- To have a quiet appreciation for the gnarled beauty of a tree.
- To be able to just sit and stare without fidgeting and waiting to get it over with.
- To study the world as if seeing it for the first time in all the newness of life.
I believe it is in learning how to tame our restlessness that we know how to move. It is in bringing our unruly thoughts to submission that we ever truly master ourselves. It is in controlling the tumble of emotions that we discover the quiet strength of who we are. It is in learning restraint that we know when to step out.
It’s unfortunate when we become uneasy strangers with silence, stillness, stopping and just being. Busyness has not only become a defining feature of modern men and women, it has become a new status symbol. We live in a world that has no patience with slowness or the unhurried pace.
Perhaps, being given a second chance in life, I have learnt the importance to slow down and truly stop and smell the flowers. It took a few hard knocks for me to wake up. Don’t wait till life crashes to get on track.
I used to think that I was a caring, loving human being but I didn’t know I had so much more capacity to love and receive love.
I thought I was living but I didn’t have a clue that I had just scratched the surface of life.
I thought I had a good life until I realised there is a better way of life.
I wish you the blessedness of the unhurried life. May we truly wake up. Reclaim that sense of clarity, ease and wonderment we all felt as children and somehow lost on the road to adulthood. May we hear the still small voice that can only be heard when we stop to be like a leaf undisturbed on tranquil waters.
Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence ~ Anthony De Mello (1931-1987)
Another deeply profound and beautiful post ♥. Can I ask – how did you learn to slow down? Is it something that just happened? You have such insight and clarity – thank you so much for sharing. Meg xxx
My dear Meg, I wish I could tell you that I learnt to slow down because I was such an enlightened being 😀 But I had to go through a personal crisis which rocked the foundations of my world before I actually blinked and woke up. You can read about it in A Survivor’s Guide to Hope:
Blessings come in many forms!
Thank you so much for your warm feedback.
Shaz – it truly is a shame we live so far apart. Have just started reading your entry, but had to say – I’ve gone through something similar. I currently have 23 (at last count) breast tumours. It really does change you. xx
Dear Meg…a tight hug…oh, I so much wish I could pop by your place right now and give you a real hug. Do you have my email address or can I have yours? Shaz
Excellent way to begin this day! Thank you for reminding me! i will share this with my friends and please look at my blog “the thing about relief”. D.
Thank you Diane! I did take a look at your post – LOVE IT! Sharon
I loved this post: especially the list of things a million dollars cannot buy. I’m 21 and I don’t have a child (of course) but I could totally understand (and relate to):
‘ lock eyes with my child and say I love you without having to say a word.’
I do that with my cat. 🙂
Hello 21! Thank you and a warm welcome here! It is a very special feeling to connect on that level with any living being. Your cat must be the happiest cat in the world! 😀 I love the creativity that you display in your blog. Sharon
Thank you for stopping by my blog! Don’t know about my cat, but I surely am the happiest cat owner 😉
Thank you Sharon.
Thank you my dear Carolina. I always feel you understand. Shaz
Awesome…amazing pictures too. I would like to think some day I will be able to put in practice the thoughts in your post. I need to figure out how to achieve that goal. It is much harder to be still than to be active. Thank you for another reminder on what I know is the ‘right’ way to live.
Dear Dan, I really think that knowing the “right” way is half the battle won. I’ll be putting up a Part 2 to this post – just some changes I made to keep a more peaceful life. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and to leave a comment. Always a pleasure to have someone from Afghanistan visit! Sharon
Yet another wise, eloquent, and compassionate post!! I love your point about “wu wei”. Every time I come into work, I sense so much motion, activity and stress that has no grounding, no center, no relaxed intention, and questionable wisdom. I, too, as a result of a “second chance” have been inspired to slow down, observe the beginnings, middles, cessations and transmutations of thoughts, sensations, observations, and events, and just sit with them, learning their natures. One magnificent thing I’ve found is that when I return to stillness, I am all things and all things are alive in me. Another great post–thanks so much!!
This comment alone made me sit and ponder a very long time. I have much to learn from you. Thank you for your deep insights. Here’s to second chances and to all the good things flowing from it! So very glad we met. Sharon
Because your blog is amazing, two awards to enjoy: http://enjoymyadventure.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/its-raining-awards/
Oh what a lovely surprise Anne and thank you for the double awards! Hugs, Sharon
You need a Pin It button on these posts!
😀 Thanks a whole bunch my dear Mojo!!
No really. It will save me two whole extra clicks. 😉
Another beautiful post Shaz, I LOVE reading your blog. I only wish I could learn to sit and relax more…..working on it. Have a wonderful day. big hugz,, Renee. 🙂
My dear Renee, there’s frantic busyness and there’s purposeful activity. I kinda get the feeling that you’re keeping the serene in all you do. Thank you so much as always! Hugs, Shaz
Oh thank you so much Shaz. I am a very good multi tasker and get much done. I do need to learn to stop and take more breaks and just “relax”. Hugz. Renee 🙂
Shaz, I do have to add…. I love that!! “Purposeful activity”. 🙂
Sharon, some don’t realize even beyond 40’s…I am still so much material in my thoughts and maybe modern artificial life has taken over that your first photograph seems like hinting skyscrapers to me!God, i need to seriously GET A LIFE!Hehehe…..
The voice of silence tells us so much, gives us clues about life.We need an inner ear and eye to observe it.You are blessed with it.But not everyone is.We are quite shallow in our approach towards life.
You are absolutely right, life is going in the fast lane constantly.No time to experience it, just getting away with it.The nitty gritty things are unluckily left unappreciated.
A VERY good meaningful post!Well done and Thanx!
Dear CO, I never saw the first photo as hinting skyscrapers but when you mentioned it I could imagine it too!! 😀 hahaha, I’m still deciding if you’re from Pakistan or Saudi (tell me!) 😀 I try to cultivate silence and stillness daily and it’s an ongoing practice. Somedays I unravel faster than a spinning top! But it’s in the stumbling and picking ourselves up and try again – a bit like Terry Fox. And we look back and see milestones. Each little step counts. Like all good things in life, change happens over time. Thank you so much for writing. I always look forward to your feedback. Hugs my sister, Shaz
Yes, wealth is so much more than just money. To achieve the things you listed, we have to slow down to notice them. There is so much beauty if we slow the pace and look around.
Thank you also for your many kind comments on my blogs! I so appreciate it!
Thank you so much Fergiemoto for writing! I have always admired your work for the simple reason that it must take precision, patience and a great deal of silence and slowing down to capture so effortlessly every minute delicate detail. Sharon
Your thoughts so resonate with mine. Feel connected in a strange way. So glad to find like minded people all across the world. This post filled me with calmness and serenity. A good start to my day.
And we are exactly the same age:)!
My dear P!! From our Commonwealth backgrounds, living away from our roots, raising our kids in a different culture, having names which need to be repeated three times upon every introduction and of course being exactly the same age! 😀 So many things connect us…So glad to hear this post resonated with you. Shaz
A breast cancer survivor! Give yourself a pat on the back! Make full use of the time that has been given to you.
Dear KY, thank you so much for the well-wishes!! It means a lot to me. Yes, I intend to do just that!! 😀 Sharon
Great post. I was feeling down today because I was trying to help some people and they were pushing me out of the way. Your post inspired me of what’s important in life and that even if people are mean to you, you should treat them as you would want to be treated. Before I went to Afghanistan I didn’t appreciate spending time with my son as much as I do now. I thought he would always be there but being away from him has made me realize just how precious he is and how I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with him when I get home.
Dear Jennifer! Always so good to hear from you. I too have been learning that if our love, kindness and goodness is conditional upon others being nice to us then that’s hardly a measure of its true worth. It’s when we can still love and be kind and do good and refuse to let someone else dictate how we behave, then that’s a true measure of our worth. It can be tough some days, isn’t it? 🙂 But it made me MOST happy to hear that you’ll be going home to your son. I’m pretty sure, his heart is longing for his mommy just as much! Hugs, stay safe, write often. Shaz
Thanks you so much. Yes days are hard sometimes but I try to stay positive and keep pushing. I’ll be happy to be with him as well.
Beautifully written and very sound advice!
Hello there and a warm welcome to this blog! Thank you for taking time to read and for leaving this comment. I really enjoyed reading the topics that you cover in your blog on relationship matters. Grounded and excellent! Keep in touch! Sharon
Awesome post! Very true.
Hi Hanna and thank you for stopping by for a read! I have enjoyed your blog immensely and it inspires me each time I visit. Keep up the great work! Sharon
This is something I definitely need to work on. The business of life can easily overtake me and I find that the moments of slow contemplation few and far between. Lovely words. Beautiful post.
My dear Alia! Oh I really think Mothers take such a beating when it comes to finding space and creating some inner sanctuary for themselves on a daily basis. Family life can get overwhelming and rush us downstream like a raging river. I remember you writing about waking up earlier to do some quiet time before the kids get up. That’s so admirable because it really does set the tone for the rest of the day doesn’t it. I notice I start to unravel when I run on empty 😀 I’ll be putting up a Part 2 to this post and sharing some ideas which worked for me in learning how to be still. Thanks so much for sharing yourself on your blog. Thanks for being here with me on this journey too! Love you, Sharon
Thanks, Sharon, for following along. Can you tell me something about your banner photo? It captures me every time I visit your site.
Dear Dave! The banner photo on my blog was taken in Afghanistan when we were living there three years ago. Afghanistan has some of the most fascinating, haunting and majestic landscapes in the world. But most of all Afghanistan lives in my heart because of the people I met there. Thank you so much for stopping by! Yours is the first blog from Alaska I’m following. I love your work! Sharon
Great post, Sharon! I just love the message that you are getting across here. There are times in life that we need to take some distance from the daily grind, to simply be still and do nothing, to ponder and reflect on the little things around us, to appreciate what we are blessed with. 😉
Here’s to always stopping and smelling the flowers! (in your case, it might be a tall order what with acres and acres of them rolled out before your eyes, you lucky thing! 🙂 Thank you so much Malou for stopping by and writing. Sharon
Fantastic thoughts. The first thing i did was started reading this blog fast till I reach the point where you said ” We aren’t just content to read, we have to speed read….” then I slowed down and started reading or should I say started listening to what you are saying… I have had that feeling so many times that am in some sort of a race… just that I dont know what am running for… I think it is this whole peer pressure and society pressure that makes us just keep running without stopping a minute to enjoy the little things in front of us.
Frankly one of the things that has helped me slow down is the interest that I developed for photography. It helps me look at stuff and think what a nice picture something will make if I had a camera in hand at that point…
Keep writing… Wish you all success.
Dear Goks, thank you so much for this thoughtfully honest comment. Yes, even blogging can become a very fast paced activity trying to catch up with everyone’s posts. Thank you so much for slowing down to read this. I really appreciate that. I agree with you that photography has also taught me to slow down and opened my eyes to really see. I love your photos and how you see the world through your lens. Take care and do keep in touch! Sharon
Great post full of important reminders. I’m grateful to start my day reading your thoughtful words. Best wishes to you-Julie
Dear Julie, a warm welcome here and thank you for your kind encouragement. I found your blog full of wise, insightful understanding. And I love your cooking blog immensely. Thank you for visiting and have a great Sunday! Sharon
Hi Sharon-Thank you so much for your feedback on my blogs. It’s a joy to connect with you and I very much look forward to reading more of your words of wisdom from Finland.
This truly is a beautiful piece of writing,..thank you for sharing such insight, written with such beautiful eloquence. 🙂
Dear Carol, that means so much to me. Thank you for your kind support. Hugs, Sharon
In a word… Awesome!
Hi Andrew! Thank you! 😀 Sharon
Dare I ask, in which book did De Mello say that? I’m interested in reading his books.
Hi Subhan, so kind of you to stop by! I too haven’t read De Mello’s books but only his superb quotes. This one here is from his book “Awareness” (1992). Hope that helps! Sharon
Great! I’ll be looking over wikipedia to see what’s good about the book then! Many thanks, Sharon! I hope you have a fantastic Wednesday! 🙂
Oh hey, glad you got the comment. I thought I had to re-send. No prob and you have a fab day too! Salam sejahtera! Sharon
Reblogged this on ram0ram note book.
Wow.. this post is indescribably beautiful. Thank you.. I love the quote at the end too. I really feel inspired to live in all the little moments with more appreciation and reverence for the life I’ve been given.
Dear Ali, I felt inspired that you felt inspired! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. Hugs, Sharon
Beautifully penned. I live alone on the edge of a great floresta in Brazil. I walked away from the golden handcuffs of US corporate world and came here as a volunteer ten years ago. Best decision I ever made. I am retired now and live in the nonsilence of nature, no TV, neighbors with loud music, just stillness and blessed silence. I wish I had retired at 20! How foolish we are to buy into the madness of more, more, more. Thank you for sharing your beautiful world. hugs, pat
Dear Pat, those few lines you penned above just gave a whole context to the work you so beautifully put out each day. And who you are is infused into what you do. Thank you for sharing these precious thoughts with me. As always with admiration, Sharon
A big monkey hug for you. Just reread this beautiful piece, Sharon, and again was so touched by it. Keep writing. We all need your messages. Love and Light, pat
Moment to moment blessings today…
Thank you so much…that is so beautiful. Sharon
Taking time, noticing details, appreciating ALL that life brings; all topics that I ponder frequently. Some of the most beautiful moments in my life came from sitting still (read my post http://mudlips.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/you-should-go-do-something/) or from slowing down, listening to myself, following the moment. It’s encouraging to realize that others (you) are thinking about similar things. With all I’ve learned in being still and starting to wake up, I worry sometimes about the sleeping. But then, I think, we are all here on our own journeys and we are usually were we belong, learning what it is we need to learn. And I think that’s what matters: learning.
Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback! Oh, it is simply so rare to meet someone like you who thinks that “Some of the most beautiful moments in my life came from sitting still.” I love your post! Thank you for sharing that with me. It was precious and I shall go about today waiting for life to unfold its secrets to me. Have a lovely day my dear and see what we may learn in stillness and silence. Hugs, Sharon
Amen. I’d like to share what I stenciled on my wall, a favorite Spanish saying ~
How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward.
You may feel that you came to this clarity late in life, but you are there and lucky that you can live simply, and live more.
This is wonderful…Im truly working at it day by day, although anxiety does creep in and the restlessness…41, you are still so young and blessed…
I feel a sense of calm while reading. It reminds me of when I look upon a tree, a flower, even other people and other life forms, I am to appreciate G_d’s abounding love; we are the receipients of his Creation. Some may call it consciousness; others call it a duty and responsibility to acknowledge him. Have a blessed day, and thank you.
I’m guilty on both counts of speed-reading and counting countries when seeing the world… I need to breathe a bit more slowly.
Another wonderful post Sharon. It’s true, we spend so much of our time rushing around that we never really appreciate our lives and the people in it. I know that I for one certainly need to master the lesson of stillness!
So much wisdom and beauty in a single blog! You’re posts are helping me to rediscover so much of the beauty of the world, its people, and myself. Thank you for such wonderful gifts!
Great post! I agree with you that stillness has profound lessons to offer us.
Here’s one you might enjoy reading about:
Thank you Valerie for coming over and leaving me such a cleansing, excellent read to start off my morning! I will be back! Blessings dear one…Sharon
How absolutely beautifully written and such an enlightened life lesson. In particular, Americans can use a LOT of stillness in their lives. Our culture goes so fast that the sweetness of life is passed by.
My dressage instructor has been working with me recently about “doing nothing” and having a clear purpose. When you reach that, it’s amazing how powerful it can be.