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)