The Good Life – Doing Nothing: A Part of Life’s Balance

It seems basic and perhaps overly obvious to suggest that keeping a sense of balance and moderation is vital to our wellness, both as individuals and as a society. Few people would disagree that it is nice to enjoy the benefits of the wealth that we are fortunate enough to experience. Buying a new dress every once in awhile or going out for a dinner and a movie are nothing to be ashamed of. When we lose our perspective on these things, however, and begin to place material and sensual rewards above and beyond more important things, like dignity, compassion, and integrity, then we become susceptible to greed. On a personal level, this greed leads to some loss of our humanity. On a national/international scale, it leads to far more devastating consequences. Likewise, enjoying a bottle of wine now and then, or betting a few dollars at the racetrack, can be harmless and enjoyable pursuits. However, massive suffering has been caused by abuse of alcohol and addictions such as gambling.

One of the key areas of life in which we sometimes lose this vital sense of balance is the area of work. It goes without saying that working too many hours per week is just as destructive as anything mentioned above. Inevitably, overwork leads to burnout and ever-diminishing returns. Most of us are aware that in order to keep our batteries recharged, we must take the time to play. Usually we are fine with this, if we are out with friends and family, engaged in activities such as bicycling, or playing golf or tennis. Having learned that recreation is a key component of life, we feel that we are being productive when actively participating in an activity or event.

Too often, though, there is a sense of guilt associated with the idea of doing absolutely nothing for an extended period of time. How many of us would feel entirely comfortable coming to work in the morning and admitting that we spent several hours on the weekend simply staring out of a window at the clouds going by? How many of us ever freely admit to daydreaming, snoozing away the afternoon curled up on the couch, or finding a quiet spot to meditate? This admission seems to fly in the face of our western work/play ethos. Although we have discovered that there is more to life than working, we seldom feel that our time is well spent by being inactive.

The fact is, though, that taking a few minutes or a few hours every now and then in order to remove yourself from the hubbub of existence can be a beneficial thing. It is often when we allow our minds to wander freely that inspiration comes to us. It is during those very moments that the solutions to problems seem to come our way.

Here is an experiment for you to try. The next time you are driving to an appointment, give yourself an extra half an hour or so. Try driving no faster than the speed limit, and patiently wait behind vehicles that are turning left, instead of constantly weaving in and out of traffic. If you arrive at your destination fifteen or twenty minutes ahead of time, simply sit inside your car until it’s time to go in. Don’t turn on the radio to listen to music or catch the latest news or weather. Simply stay there, and try to free your mind from all thoughts. See if this approach makes you feel more relaxed. If it does, then try and find other little spaces in your day, each and every day, during which you can completely give yourself over to the pleasures of doing nothing. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

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