When was the last time you sat down to do absolutely nothing?
How about cloud gazing, or walking aimlessly through a forest or park. Or simply walking without listening to a podcast, or talking on your mobile.
In our permanently interconnected, busy, optimised, modern lives there’s seems to be little time for daydreaming. We’re so glued to our screens, devices and social media updates we’ve forgotten the sheer delight of gazing out a window with nothing on our mind.
Often the times we set aside for relaxation are not relaxing at all. They are filled with activity or distractions. You finally meet up with a friend after rescheduling six times and spend the whole time checking your messages. You go to the beach but end up documenting every wave, rock and seagull on Instagram. #chill-axing #timeout
Draw, dance, daydream…just for the sake of it
More deeply our distracted lives show we’ve also forgotten that not everything needs to serve a purpose or better us in some way. Some things are delightful just by being immersed in them, and for no other reason.
You can scribble out a poem on a coaster, climb a tree or strum a tune on a guitar simply on a whim. You can draw a picture of a blossom that caught your eye without needing to be ‘good at it’ and for no other reason than the eye and hand delights in knowing something deeply and in new ways. You can read up on space time theory and travel away to distant planets, just because.
With so much of your time scheduled for work, getting there and getting home again, and then unwinding from it over the weekend, there’s a pressure to fill up any ‘free’ time so its anything but free. Yet your soul needs spaciousness and spontaneity to thrive.
When did leisure get so structured? Of course practising ballroom dancing or an instrument is a wonderful thing. But sometimes we get so caught up in the endpoint we forget about delighting in the thing itself. How often do you find yourself doing something just for the enjoyment of it, without needing to get anywhere, attain anything, or be anywhere (except exactly where you are).
Allow yourself to let go of needing to have an outcome. You may find yourself starting to indulge in imaginings, the kind of wild, fanciful, deep thoughts you haven’t had in years.
What’s the difference between tuning in and zoning out?
Think about your favourite holidays and most often they will involve unplanned joys and time spent immersed in the moment. Whether thats gazing up at a star filled sky, surfing a real or imaginary wave, or lying under a tree with someone you love.
You allow yourself to enter the here and now and you reap the rewards of feeling alive, connected and reenergised.
In complete contrast, zoning out on the computer or in front of the television is not restorative, relaxing or uplifting. Its mentally tiring, dulling the mind, the body.
The difference is that in the first situation you are mind–full, acutely and intensely aware of the sounds, smells, and sights coming to your senses. While in the other you are mind-less; disconnected, and drifting.
That’s not to say you can’t watch a film you love with a degree of mindfulness, focus and enjoyment. You absolutely can. And I encourage you to do just that. Get engrossed in a show you love, and really engage with it–tune in–and then when its over, turn off the tv.
Make a pleasure pledge to yourself to no longer go surfing channels or the net. Instead of ‘killing time’ make your breaks and leisure time conscious.
That means if you find yourself procrastinating or being generally unproductive get up and go for a ten minute walk, or have a power nap, and really switch off — from technology and from rumination. Indulge your senses in the sheer delight of whatever is unfolding. You’ll not only get a huge lift, you’ll come back ready to complete the task at hand. Either that or you’ll know when to call it a day and return at a time when your time will be spent more effectively.
Search for stillness
To find that wonderful sense of play you need to get still. And quiet inside. Being idle is an art because it requires your presence. You also need the ability to put aside any fear of ‘nothing to do’ and the modern day aversion to ever remotely feeling ‘bored’.
If you need a mentor for mastering delight in the present, young children are your greatest teacher and of course your animal friends. Spend a few moments on the rug with a baby gazing in sheer fascination at the object in front of it. Or an hour meandering through the park with your dog, letting him lead you. Notice how time expands rather than contracts.
Even five minutes can make a difference in a busy day, but a scheduled afternoon of ‘staying in to do nothing’ is ever better! Eventually even the older kids will get the message and invent something to occupy themselves. (The trick here is to set aside the time and not fill it with other things, even fun ones.)
In short, find ways to have nothing in particular to do, and nowhere else to be. And simply do that, and nothing else. You might be surprised at how spacious life feels and just how fulfilling that can be.