How Getting Nothing Done Can Make You More Productive

Buddhist monastery grounds

Photo by iBrotha

Have you ever spent a whole day doing absolutely nothing, either for productivity or pleasure?

The closest I’ve come has been on silent meditation retreats at a Buddhist monastery.

The retreats I’ve attended have lasted between 3 and 10 days. The schedule and rules are designed to minimise not just fun and distractions but also productive activity. That means no talking at any time, except for essential practicalities such as ‘Where are the saucepans?’. It also means no TV, radio, Internet, mobile phone, or entertainment of any kind. There are a few spiritual books, but you’re even discouraged from reading them, as they take you away from the present moment. No work either, apart from an hour of ‘working meditation’ each day, hoovering floors and cleaning toilets to keep the retreat centre running. And obviously everybody’s tucked up in single beds at night.

So what do you do all day? The wake-up bell rings at 5 a.m., giving you half an hour to get ready for the first meditation session. The rest of the day alternates between sitting meditation (usually for 30 to 45 minutes at a time) and walking meditation (walking back and forth between two fixed points, while maintaining present-moment awareness). Breakfast is at 7 a.m. and the last meal of the day is lunch at 11 a.m. The eating part’s not as bad as that might sound – the food is usually delicious and there’s plenty of it. If you’re really feeling faint during the afternoon someone will probably find a piece of chocolate, which technically counts as ‘medicine’. In the evening there is a talk from the retreat leaders.

So what is all this designed to achieve? As usual with Buddhism, that’s the wrong question. It’s not designed to achieve anything, quite the opposite. The idea is to be very present and aware of every moment, and to let go of your desire to ‘achieve’ things. In short, the idea is to do nothing at all.

Meditation is not about doing anything. It is pure attention without grasping, without interference. It is simply paying attention…

But isn’t paying attention doing something? Actually, no – not if it is pure, simple attention devoid of hope, fear, great, or expectation. Bare attention, in fact, is the only activity that does not involve doing something.

Zen priest Steve Hagen, Meditation – Now or Never

If you’re anything like me, someone who loves to work so much it can be hard to switch off at the end of the day, this is quite a shock to the system. Suddenly you’re off the hamster wheel, but your mind is still racing, thinking, planning. You’re itching to get on with something and you feel lost with nothing to do. The first few days of the retreat are usually the hardest, when you’d rather be anywhere else on earth – back in the office, in a meeting, in a pub, even in an argument – at least you’d have something to do, someone to spark off.

You’ve probably had a similar feeling at the beginning of the holidays. After weeks and weeks of activity, it takes a few days before you can really start to relax. But after that, it takes you into a different place entirely. You almost become a different person.

So What’s This Got to Do with Creativity and Productivity?

Absolutely nothing.

Seriously. Meditation is not designed to make you more creative or productive. If the monks saw me writing about meditation in the context of these things, they would probably find it very funny. Like watching someone climb into a jet plane, only to use it to drive down the road to the local supermarket for his weekly shopping.

If you approach meditation with the goal of boosting your inspiration or productivity, you will be disappointed. You’ll also miss out on the opportunity to experience what meditation does have to offer, which is far beyond the scope of this article.

It would be a bit like approaching a relationship with the goal of ‘developing your emotional intelligence’. While that might be a nice side effect of falling in love and having to deal with the consequences, I hope you’ll agree that the ‘falling in love’ part is the main event.

So I want to make it clear that what I’m going to write about next are really the side-effects of meditation. If I’d set out to achieve them, they probably wouldn’t have occurred.

To a degree, they are also likely side-effects of any ‘non-productive’ activity, such as taking a holiday, a day off or even a short break during a busy day. My aim is to highlight one of the paradoxes of productivity and especially creativity: beyond a certain point, doing more or working harder is actually counter-productive. Your energy and concentration levels dip, your frustration increases, and if you’re not careful you could be on the slippery slope to creative burnout.

I’m not suggesting you all rush off and join a monastery, but if you’re serious about creating and achieving things that really matter, you can’t do it all through sheer hard work. It feels counterintuitive, but in the context of your creative process, sometimes the most ‘productive’ thing you can be doing is chilling out at a barbecue, lying on a beach, watching a DVD or mucking about with your friends. Apart from any effect on your career and your business, it will do you the world of good.

So here’s what I learned about productivity from getting nothing done:

‘Damn Braces Bless Relaxes’

It’s only when you relax that you realise how tense you’ve been. After a few days of doing nothing but paying attention to my breathing, I could literally feel the tension easing out of my body. It struck me how uncomfortable and probably inefficient it was to be tensed up by constant activity. The quotation from William Blake is designed to remind me of this when I need it.

Put Things in Perspective

A retreat is a quiet time to step away from your everyday life. All your usual concerns and activities are far away, beyond the monastery walls. They start to seem small and trivial. It occurs to you that maybe, in fact, they are small and trivial. Things around you seem much more real and important – the grass beneath your feet, the blue sky yawning over your head, steam rising from a cup of tea in front of you. A bird singing. Your own breathing.

Some Things Are More Important Than Others

If you’re focused on getting things done, the danger is you do this indiscriminately – you try to do everything, for everyone, all the time. But when you step away from your to-do list and look at the big picture, some things strike you as more important than others, either because you care about them more, or they are areas where you can make a bigger difference, or both. From this perspective, being ‘busy’ starts to look like an excuse, a distraction from your real business in life. Once you see your real priorities clearly, it’s harder to go back to the old way of doing things.

Thinking Is Overrated

A few days into my first ten-day retreat, I noticed something odd happening. I started to experience moments of clarity, or sudden insight, about situations and problems I was dealing with at the time. It became obvious how I had been limiting myself, or looking at things in an unhelpful way. I could clearly see a ‘next step’ towards resolving the issue. And the odd thing was, I hadn’t been thinking about the situation at all – the realisation just struck me, out of the blue. If you’ve ever had an idea pop into your mind while you were doing something else, you’ll know what it felt like.

It usually didn’t happen during sitting meditation, when frankly I found it very easy to get lost in my imagination instead of paying attention to the present moment. More often than not, it was during walking meditation, out in the meadow at the back of the monastery. At no time did the insight come through thinking about or analysing the situation. All I was doing was being very present and paying attention to my senses – my breathing, the movement of my body while walking, the grass under my feet, the cloud-shadows racing across the grass.

My friend and colleague John Eaton would tell me the insights came from Bodymind, ‘the intelligence of the body, working through the Brain, the Nervous System, the Glands, the cells and the Immune system’. He would remind me that there is no absolute distinction between the brain and the rest of the body, just an artificial one in our mind.

As someone who had always performed well academically, and taken a certain pride in intellectual accomplishment, this was a surprising experience. It suggested that reason is a fairly limited tool for understanding myself and making decisions about things that really matter. And the parallel with the well-known ‘Eureka!’ moment of creative inspiration didn’t escape me. Since then, I haven’t given up on rational analysis altogether, but I find it faintly comical that so many people seem to deify reason. And I now incorporate physical activity and body awareness in my daily routine, particularly before writing. The best thing I can do before sitting down to write is to stop paying attention to my thoughts and get centred in my body. When I do that, writing becomes a breeze.

Work to Your Own Human Clock

Inevitably, I got attached to the moments of clarity. I started to wonder whether they meant I was ‘good at meditation’. I wanted more of them and was disappointed when an ‘insightful’ morning was followed by an afternoon full of irritation, frustration and boredom. This happened for several days running until I realised that I was simply much more alert in the mornings. So instead of getting quite so frustrated during the afternoons, I became fascinated by the ups and downs of my energy and concentration during the daily cycle. It was like riding a rollercoaster or a water slide – after a few goes you get to know where the big dips and climbs are, and you can relax and go with the ride instead of clinging on full of tension. Scientists call this daily cycle the circadian rhythm, or ‘human clock’.

When I went back to work afterwards, I noticed how much easier it was to do focused tasks like writing in the morning. After lunch, the words and concepts wouldn’t flow, and I found myself getting frustrated. After about 5 p.m. I realised my mental energy was almost depleted.

So I’ve redesigned my working day around my circadian rhythm: whenever possible I keep the mornings free for writing; I schedule meetings from late morning onwards, when I could do with a bit of company and stimulation; afternoons are also for dealing with e-mail, errands and less demanding work tasks; by four or five o’clock I’m pretty unproductive, so this is a great time to head to the gym, for a change of scene and re-energising. And I’ve come to distrust any decisions or conclusions I arrive at after 5 p.m. As a general rule I try not to work in the evenings and leave the computer alone. Apart from the fact that I won’t get much done, even I’ve come to realise that there’s more to life than work! Taking time out to relax will also help me get a good night’s sleep, ready to get going again in the morning.

Is There Enough Nothing in Your Life?

Do you make time for doing nothing? How? When?

What time(s) of the day are you most alert and productive?

What benefits have you noticed from doing nothing?

About the Author: Mark McGuinness is a Coach for Artists, Creatives and Entrepreneurs. For a free 25-week guide to success as a creative professional, sign up for Mark’s course The Creative Pathfinder.

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Responses to this Post

Comments

  1. It is nice to hear someone speak about the art of doing nothing. I have been refining this since I read Pascal several years ago. He said, “all the ills of human kind could be avoided if man could learn to be content sitting in a chair, alone in his room.”

    This made sense to me and I try and take a certain amount of time each day where I do nothing but breathe. I believe this to be the root of all genius.

  2. Well, this is perfect timing! I am on week two of a three week writing retreat in France. I battle regularly with the ‘get things done’ monster. I am enjoying daily walks in the hills and forest to clear my mind and emotions. And I’m learning to trust myself in any given moment – I’m doing the right thing.
    It was a pleasure to read this article more slowly and with more attention than I usually allow for daytime reading.
    Thank you for the perfectly synchronistic message!

  3. Great piece, Mark.
    I have come to find that it is paramount that I find the best time and space for me to work, as I am going through a transition period in my “career.” In the midst of figuring things out, I find myself completing far less than I was when I had my previous routines.
    There is definitely something to taking time to air out and renew your senses. As a fitness nut, I feel just a light jog jostles quite a bit of creative energy when I’m just going through the paces by myself with no music to distract my thoughts.

    Thanks so much for this. I know some people that could use this!

  4. An excellent read, Mark. I’ve read a number of books about Buddhism, and those retreats you went on sound great. Right up my street.

    The benefits of doing nothing, for me, are that when it comes to doing something, you’re much more focused, and ready to move forward. I don’t have a set time for this activity (or non-activity), but it comes around now and again.

  5. I absolutely loved this piece. Thank you. I’ve felt something like this practicing yoga (which of course means “union”) but far too seldom. I’ve reached the stage in life where I realize the constant accent on productivity is just insane — and making us all sick in one way or another. Now I’m going to go do my morning yoga!

  6. Chopping wood
    Enlightenment
    Chopping wood.

    OR to paraphrase for the creatively minded

    Living Life
    Creative Spark
    Living Life.

    Now that may be something your Meditation friends would understand!! (smile)

    Bless-sings

    Melody

  7. In this go go world we can sometimes get caught up in the pace of things. Sometimes we get pulled out of the moment because of sheer force/intensity of everything around us. Things won’t slow down, so therefore we must. A benefit of staying in the present moment is that you have that time to reflect upon exactly what is going on, not what happened or will happen.

    Conversations, interactions and the likewise will end up getting faster and faster. It is up to us to stay centered and focused on who and what exactly is our core reason for being.

  8. Love this. I have always been too intimidated to go on a ten-day sitting retreat, just a two-day is so hard. Although it sounds like maybe the worst part of it is up front.

    It’s very hard to describe what sitting does, but this does a nice job of it. Among the many other benefits, that “Oh, right. Of course. How odd that I didn’t see that earlier” moment.

  9. this is a wonderful post and a great reminder! thanks!

  10. I found this to be an eye opener. I am going to have to find a way to add some nothing to my life. I love the part about the body clock. Unfortunately my lifestyle at the moment (kids and a day job) don’t allow me to follow this particular clock since my prime productive time is from about 6 pm to 3am. And my kids and my job are from 6am to 11pm. Maybe someday when I can quit my day job and focus completely on my jewelry business I will be able to set up my work time around my REAL body clock lol. Excellent article and I enjoyed reading it.

  11. Thanks everyone for the great comments (and poems!). I’m glad it struck a chord.

    Valeria — wonderful quotation from Pascal.

    Damien — ‘Things won’t slow down, so therefore we must.’ Exactly.

    Sonia — I definitely think the first two days are the hardest. It’s a bit like an outdoor swimming pool — the first plunge is a bit of a shock but it gets easier once you’ve done a couple of lengths. Mind you it could get much worse after 10 days … :-)

    Sonja — yes it’s tough when circumstances conspire against your body clock! At least you know your best time, which will help you make a good choice when the opportunity arises.

  12. Great stuff Mark, thanks a lot. Enjoyed it a lot and sent it around to fellow creatives. Will try some nothingness tonight.

  13. Clearing the mind sometimes produces unexpected benefits.

    Quick example: by going away from my office at home when I was frustrated by lack of progress on a project that required creative thinking I was suddenly struck by the idea that if I separated my “work” area from my “creative thinking” area I might be less distracted by the “work” lying around needing to be attended to and be more predisposed to just … sitting …

    Voila! I now have a “studio”, dedicated to thinking and meditating, in a completely separate area of my home; the main rule is: no ‘work stuff’ shall be brought into the studio.

  14. Hm, funny I had just thought about finding a “good” chair for my room. Retreats, doing nothing. Just being present. Breathing. All of these are essential “gathering” things. ( love the Pascal quote)

    Chop wood carry water, very much part of the artists’ process. I am cleaning my work table ( it is drying at the moment) as part of that ritual. All part of flow. We forget human rhythms all too often.

    I enjoyed this very much. Reminded me to take deeper slower breaths.

  15. Great post. I’m especially glad you mentioned that meditation is not for developing creativity or productivity, but that it is for it’s own sake. I totally agree.

    Having gone on several 10-day retreats, I resonated deeply with what you wrote here. You seem to have practiced well. Thank you for sharing this with a larger audience, as balance between doing and being is quite underrated.

  16. Hi Mark,

    Great post and great series. I’ve been enjoying all the Lateral Action posts immensely and also finding them helpful and inspirational.

    I have had a strong spiritual practice for many years now, which has been my rock and lifesaver, but what has brought home for me the absolutely essential importance of “do nothing down time” was the involuntary “practice’ of going through menopause!!!

    There were times that my body was so slammed with hormonal intensity that all I could do was lie on the couch, during the day
    ( a total sacrilege for a work obsessed person like myself) and just breathe.

    This went on for a long time and I slowly began to see how giving myself that time to just be and do nothing was seeping into other areas of my life. My life became simpler, in certain ways. I became more relaxed and more joyful and ….. a totally unexpected byproduct…. my creativity just went through the roof!

    And you’re right. The down time and enforced menopausal meditation did not “make” me more creative. But I was not able to access those creative channels very easily when I was filling up my head space with continual busy, and often exhausting, outer world focus.

    And yes, I have very predictable circadian rhythms. Very creatively productive between 10 AM and 1 PM, absolutely useless between 1 PM and 3 PM ( a time when I usually nap) and then another surge of creative energy between 9 PM and midnight.

    Thanks again!

  17. Mark, this was a very interesting post. I find that ideas often “bubble up” when I empty my mind while engaged in certain activities, such as cutting the grass, taking a shower or driving my car. One of the leading theories as to how this works is that our subconscious minds are like a giant Mixmaster, making random combinations out of all of the bits of information we consume and our accumulated knowledge. It then serves these combinations up as ideas or “hunches.” Apparently they can’t get though to the conscious mind until we slow down its incessant “chatter.”

    Not quite the empty vessel of Buddhist meditation, but still a viable creativity strategy nonetheless.

    How can you use these elements of brain science to your advantage? When faced with a creative challenge, immerse yourself in as much information as you can about it – and then “sleep on it.” Walk away from that issue for a day or two. You’ll be surprised how ideas and insights related to it will pop into your mind during the next few days. Be sure you have something to write these ideas down with, or they may return to the inky depths of your subconscious mind just as quickly as they popped into your consciousness.

  18. Interesting article. Seems like most of the time well more than others it seems like I don’t do anything, but when I talk to my fam and friends they say I work harder than most people they know. I just don’t get it.

    So how can I not do anything and feel not guilty. That sounds weird.

    I’m pretty sure I’m not a meditating person, but I do enjoy the yoga to be more in the moment and not to think to much about the before and after.

  19. This is interesting to me because in many ways I’m the opposite of the person who needs this advice. I think that there’s too much nothing in my life. In fact, there’s very little else. There really is nothing on Earth that is worth the effort, but, unfortunatley, it’s impracticable to sleep for one’s entire life. Therefore I find that everything I do is more or less done under duress, even if it’s only self-imposed duress, because I know I can’t lie in bed all day.

    I certainly don’t see nothing as a means of being more productive. I see being productive as a meaningless distraction from nothingness, which we are, nonetheless, and rather pitifully, forced to engage in.

    Interestingly, I’m not much of a morning person, either. I currently live in a house with another writer. By the time he’s finished his writing for the day, I usually haven’t even started.

    The problem with my nothingness, however, is that it has led to a situation where I have painted myself into a corner, since I’ve pretty much run out of money, and my natural habit of minimal effort has meant that I’ve basically lost the use of the limbs of money-making practicality that most people rely on. If you don’t believe this is possible, it’s only necessary to examine the details of my life to find that it is. At my age, with my CV, I’m pretty near unemployable.

    There’s a song by The Cure with the lines, “The further I get from the things that I care about/The less I care about how much further away I get.”

    Buddhism is all very well, but it doesn’t, at least in most of its cultural manifestations, seem to address the fact that most of us are forced to get involved in the world, even if we’d like to be holed up in monasteries and just drift further and further into not caring about anything.

  20. Wow. I have always been a believer in meaningful coincidence, but they do pop up in the most unexpected places.

    Last night I was chatting to a friend who is a life coach of sorts – leaning more to the goddess/wiccan/sexuality/spiritual side from what I gather. We got talkig about WordPress, websites and then we went off to territory she was more comfortable with..

    Anyway – to cut a long story short – I ended up recounting a few of the points you made in this piece, without me actually reading it. I somehow ended up here after reading a Lorelle on WordPress post today, and I am having some kind of ‘experience’ as a result.

    Nice work.

    It takes me back to my college days of Wu Wei, Slacktivism, Bob Dobbs etc.. I think I was actually much more spiritually, emotionally and intellectually adept back then. I have just made myself more stupid and less well off trying to get ahead in the world (namely trying to think like everyone else).

    Peaces

  21. This is wonderful advice, and we can’t hear it enough. There have been some great points made in the comments, too. Here’s what I have to add:

    I’ve found that one simple way to have the benefits of doing nothing, on a very small scale, is to use the breath. In the beginning of the meditation practice I’ve learned, I pay attention to the pauses between the in breath and the out breath–thought of as still points. Those stillpoints in the breath are an opportunity for our systems to undergo a change of state. As we breathe, there is a physiological exchange going on at a cellular level to clear waste and toxins from our system; the same process can happen mentally and emotionally when we’re breathing consciously.

  22. Thanks everybody, more great comments.

    Duff — thanks for sharing your perspective as a practitioner. The obvious danger with this kind of article is trivialising meditation, I’m glad you felt I avoided that.

    Chris — I think you would find John Eaton’s writings of interest re listening to your body. Check out his e-book about Reverse Therapy: http://www.reverse-therapy.com/pdf/reversetherapyforhealth.pdf

    Melissa — ‘how can I not do anything and still not guilty’? Guilt is a waste of time, believe me! Not to be confused with remorse, i.e. when we genuinely have done something to be ashamed of and need to rectify the situation. But if you’re just talking about feeling guilty for not being busy, then try some of the techniques in this post, substituting the word ‘guilt’ for ‘worry': http://www.wishfulthinking.co.uk/blog/2007/01/17/7-ways-to-stop-worrying-when-youre-under-pressure/

    Quentin — ‘opposite’? I think the word you’re looking for is ‘contrarian’. ;-)

    Nommo — Lateral Synchronicity? :-)

  23. Mark, what retreats do you attend? I’m rather interested in attending one and was wondering where to start. Thanks!

  24. Dennis Kempin says:

    Thanks for that wonderful Article.

    While I was reading The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin I stumbled over Tai Chi Chuan. I did not knew much about it but it sounded fascinating. Then last semester I started a course at university teaching some Tai Chi Chuan basics and it is amazing.

    I think that this is a really wonderful addition to pure meditation that can also help you re-energising during unproductive hours. I can really suggest anyone having a look at it.

  25. Mark,

    This is a very nice post. As I write this comment, my back and neck muscles are tense from staring at the computer and working on a piece of writing that basically felt like pulling teeth. In answer to your question, I don’t have enough “nothing” in my life, but still I’ve always felt guilty when I sort of take a break in the afternoon to watch a DVD, play the guitar, or just sit by the pool by my apartment.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is I need to be comfortable taking the time to relax, stop thinking, or just “be” for a while. As you point out, it may be MORE productive than trying to keep your shoulder to the boulder that won’t budge.

    I like what you said about how you prepare for writing. If I’m not in a writing frame of mind I find it very difficult to get started. But, now that you mention it, I find that when I go for a run or a work out, when I get back to the computer I am way more relaxed and work is easier.

  26. Chris — http://amaravati.org/abmnew/index.php/about_us/index/C12

    Dennis — The Art of Learning is on my ‘to read’ list. I’ve tried tai chi and agree it’s an excellent form of meditation and good complement to sitting practice. I’m currently learning Aikido which works on similar principles.

    Chris — yes, writing is a full body sport!

  27. “Quentin — ‘opposite’? I think the word you’re looking for is ‘contrarian’. ”

    Ah yes. How could I have forgotten a word that I use so often?

  28. Reminds me of a philosophy professor who told us the story of another professor who walked into a philosophy class and wrote on the board:

    “Philosophy is useless.”

    One can say the same about art, or literature, or poetry.

    And it’s technically true, and yet oh-so-meaningful and important.

    Not everything good and of value for us is useful.

  29. ” Reminds me of a philosophy professor who told us the story of another professor who walked into a philosophy class and wrote on the board:

    ‘Philosophy is useless.’

    One can say the same about art, or literature, or poetry.

    And it’s technically true, and yet oh-so-meaningful and important.

    Not everything good and of value for us is useful.”

    I agree with this. This is something that’s also very Taoist. And, it provides me with an opportunity to selfishly post a link to an article I wrote on a related theme:

    http://sleeping-butterfly.blogspot.com/2008/10/useful-parasites-by-quentin-s-crisp.html

  30. Mark, thanks for the reminder. I could feel the mental space stretching out even as I read.
    In my book, “Little Shifts,” I wrote about a set of radical acts. “Stopping” is something I consider a radical act, because it changes the trajectory (like all little shifts or small changes.) Stopping can be stopping anything – for any period of time. It helps the brain let go of the habit.
    Good, good, good.
    Suzanna

  31. Brian / Quentin – spot on. As W.H. Auden said, ‘poetry makes nothing happen’.

    Suzanna – reminds me of Gurdjieff’s habit of ringing a bell at unexpected times, whereupon his students were expected to STOP whatever they were doing at the time and observe themselves in the moment. Trying to catch themselves unawares.

  32. My biggest problem is that when I TRY to do nothing, I get fidgety and need to at least reach for knitting or something to keep my hands busy. But when I want to be productive, I too often end up wasting time and doing nothing. Talk about a Catch-22!

  33. Have you tried sitting with the fidgety feeling? Not suppressing it or trying to ignore it — but not rushing off into activity again. Easier said than done, I know! But if you focus on your body, maybe using your breathing to centre yourself, then you can become aware of the fidgety feeling as just part of your whole experience at that moment. After a while, it may lose its hold on you and quieten down.

    I sometimes get the same feeling first thing in the morning, when I’m doing sitting meditation and a big part of me is eager to fire up the laptop and get going on the day’s work. If I’m mindful enough to just observe that feeling (without getting up from the mat!) then after a while it doesn’t seem so urgent.

  34. Hi Mark,

    Love this article. I could almost feel ‘nothing!’ I’m new to your blog and just wondering if you’ve done a post on these retreats…I’m interested to know when and where you’ve gone, what’s the best/worst, hints, tips, etc. Thanks so much.

  35. Thanks Jay. The place I went to was Amaravati Buddhist Monastery http://www.amaravati.org

    I’ve been on quite a few retreats there and all the teachers have been excellent. I don’t know where you live, but check out the Amaravati website — it’s part of a network of monasteries, so there may be one near you. If not, then it may help to know that the retreats I attended were based on Vipassana meditation, in the Theravada Buddhist tradition.

    If you’ve not done a silent retreat before, might be a good idea to start with a weekend retreat, then work your way up to a longer one.

    Good luck in your quest for the nothing!

  36. I have found the benefits in being still and aware of oneself is also in the process.

    The benefits of identifying my emotions, thoughts and actions and releasing them allows me to step-back and be more aware of my surroundings, circumstances, and other people’s needs. It’s as if you are in the zone as basketball players refer to when hitting three point shots one after another.

    Productivity and creativity flows from being the zone

  37. I’ve had this experience to a degree. But I call it Sabbath. :) It takes awhile to appreciate, because one tends to at first think “I can’t afford to take a whole day to do nothing, not even clean…” It takes some preparation beforehand, to make sure that there is no cooking (but stocks of cool, fresh, cold, and room temperature foods are surprisingly good and easy). I find I enjoy it more, though, when cleaning is done in the days prior.

    The thinking does tend to want to coalesce around mundane, “worldly” concerns, like the job, making or spending money, politics, etc. It takes some discipline to cancel those with a gentle reminder that Today we are not occupying ourselves with secular concerns. Yet I did find that sudden insights on how to handle various matters (often the concerns in the 6-day week) would present themselves with great clarity and wisdom, without my mulling them over. And not just that – but a simple appreciation for the present, for the beauty of the day which would normally escape my (preoccupied) notice otherwise.

    After awhile, that deeply refreshing period became something I really looked forward to. I haven’t felt as though I’ve really “mastered” it yet because sometimes one has to “dig one’s donkey out of the ditch” on the Sabbath — that is, there is something urgent which demands that it gets solved THAT day, even if it’s set aside for doing nothing. But I have experienced the rewards of taking that day off and now when someone objects that they “can’t afford” to take a day off, I am thinking, “I can’t afford not to.” And yes, I’ve also discovered my natural energy rhythms. I find myself deeply enjoying that midday nap, with no fetters on my enjoyment of it. And certainly no guilt!

    I wanted to concentrate on how my experience was similar to what you described, and not the dissimilarities, so I’ll stop for now. (Buddhism, after all, is not at all JudeoChristianity.) :)

    Thanks for sharing this !