In our crazy society, it is not interesting to tell someone you did “nothing” today. Most people will find you boring if not insignificant. That is, perhaps, one of the biggest obstacles of allowing yourself to do nothing — you don’t want to seem boring. You don’t want to disappoint your social media fans, right? After all, who are you if you are not working? Who are you if you are not being super mom (or dad)? Who are you if you are not saving the world because that is just who you are? Who are you if you just sit and enjoy the silence and not worry about doing something, accomplishing something, being somebody that people respect and admire?
You are you, that’s who. You are the true “you” when you are doing nothing. All the other things are just who you think you are. All those things you do every day are just distractions from the you on the inside. Are they necessary things? Yes, many of them are: brushing your teeth, raising your kids, going to work…but do not be confused, those things are not who you are. Only you know who you are on the inside. Even your closest friend or spouse can never truly touch what’s deep down, and that is a good thing.
But, you can never get to the core of who you are without taking some time to do nothing. What do I mean by nothing? Do I mean meditating or staring off into space? Well sure, those are good ways to take a break from your ego, but “doing nothing” can be to simply live in the moment and enjoy each thing you are doing as you do it. Are you making coffee? Then enjoy the sounds of the coffeemaker and the aromas…feel the beans before you grind them…are they smooth or oily? Take a walk. Feel and hear the small pebbles of gravel crunch beneath your shoes…or the snow, or the leaves. Smell the air. Really smell it. Really be there where you are. Feel what you are doing. Relish in it.
This is a form of doing nothing. It is a form of just being. It’s doing something without thinking about the past or the long list of items on your checklist for the day. It’s a way of living that can become a good habit, and it can feel more fulfilling than checking off anything on your list. Because this is your moment. Right now.
You are not what you do all day.
You are not what you did yesterday.
You are not what you will be in the future.
You are right now. This is all you have — this moment.
So take it. Enjoy it. Live it.
It may be uncomfortable for awhile. In fact, I know it will be. But get past the awkwardness of not thinking about being awesome. Stop thinking about sharing every moment with the people on Facebook. Stop thinking about how much money you’ll make, or what you’ll create, what you’ll wear or how you will be the next Stephen King. You may. But that is not who you are. All those things will come and go and all that will be left behind is the essence of you. No matter what you accomplish in this world, it will eventually fade to dust like everything else. Accomplishing things is not bad, but do not confuse it with your purpose. Your purpose is to simply be who you are, right now, in this moment. And it is only something you can choose for yourself. You have to be conscientious about it. It’s work.
But it’s worth the work.
The reason I feel so adamant about this is because I have struggled for many years about the big questions of “who am I” or “what is my purpose” or “the meaning of life”. I have been seeking answers as long as I can remember, and I feel I have come full circle in my understanding of it all, in that the answer is so simple it’s hard to comprehend. But I am giving it to you straight. I believe that the answers we need are always there, but you have to let go of yourself for a bit to find them. I had to stop creating things — giving up art and quilt making and drawing, to understand that that is not who I am. Those are things I love doing, but not doing them doesn’t make me any less “me”. Doing them doesn’t make me more “me”. I can do them or not do them without the guilt after realizing this. The same goes for writing…something I have had a love/hate relationship with for my whole life. I can now let go of the guilt of not writing when I am not feeling it — because not writing will not destroy who I am inside, and writing will not make me a better person. Either way, it just is. But, I only found this through the practice of letting go — through doing nothing and giving up hobbies and finding white space in my life to just think and be.
You need the white space. Make room for the white space.
All the other “things” will start to feel silly eventually … the fact that you poured so much self-imposed importance into them. The fact that you felt you needed to share every waking moment with people who have their own agendas [ahem, Facebook I’m talking to you]. You will start to open your eyes to the reality of life. The fact that we are not at all what we do every day but who we are deep, deep down on the inside. That part that no one else can ever see. The real you. You deserve to get to know that person. Allow it.
When you die, no one will care about your Facebook updates, your accomplishments at work or how many paintings you created. They will care about your essence. That part of you that remains even when you’re gone. That does not stem from your accomplishments, that only stems from your very core self. Other people can catch a glimpse of it if you are living authentically, but if you get so bogged down in your daily life and commitments, you or anyone else will never see who you truly are…and instead your obituary will say generic things.
You may argue that your accomplishments will remain forever, even after you die. Well, that may be true (but I would disagree with the forever part since our sun only has about 9 billion more years left before it turns into a red giant star, but I digress), but think of all the “greats” — people like Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Plato … you didn’t know them personally, so if they had never existed at all, would you even care? Probably not. The ones that matter are the ones that know you personally — they are the ones that will remember you most, and then after they are gone your memory will fade more and more. That is why it is most important that you know yourself. That you enjoy the moment. That you live life in a present way. It is, really, all that matters.
So open yourself up to the possibility of finding your true authentic self. He or she is in there somewhere. Get comfortable with the uncomfortableness of nothingness and you will be just fine.