by Analyn May
Have you noticed how much of modern technology is focused towards eliminating doing nothing?
The more I look around me, the more this phenomenon becomes increasingly apparent. When I was little, huge parts of my day consisted of doing nothing. Even after I was in school, there were many times when my mind could wander: waiting in line, riding in the car, arriving early to a meet-up with a friend. In those days, I was always lost in my head, so I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings. But now I notice how few other people join me in this activity. It seems that “doing nothing” has become sort of a taboo that people avoid: all day, every day, everybody is at work or play. In line at the grocery store? Everyone is looking down at their phone. Driving in the car? Hands-free telephone calls, almost always for work. Arriving early? If anybody even does anymore, they’re busying themselves on a laptop or compulsively checking their smart watch, counting down the seconds as they pass.
I’ve talked before about taking a breath and going slowly, but whatever happened to stopping completely? It seems like the valuable moments of doing nothing are slipping away faster by the day— and yes, they are valuable. Our brains aren’t designed to work 24/7, or even be entertained 24/7. Both work and play are good, but the space in-between is necessary for either of them not to be overwhelming. Doing nothing gives us time to recharge, ponder pre-existing ideas, and even come up with new ones. You can’t schedule a chance meeting, an unexpected nature walk or a sudden breakthrough to a problem at work. But you can fill up your schedule so much that there isn’t any room for those things to slip themselves in.
Maybe this is easier for me because I’m an introvert, or because I’m a creator who needs to stop listening to everything else in order to hear the voices in my own head. But even I’ve caught myself in the trap of feeling pressured to always be doing something— whether that’s checking my email, working an editing job or just playing Pokémon Go. And while none of those things are bad, I’m making a conscious effort not to let them overtake all my moments of rest. Thinking about it, it’s really no wonder that meditation is such a craze, or that plain ol’ sleep seems so desirable, because if those are the only times people are doing nothing, it’s like they’re only eating one meal a week.
So whenever you’re filling up your schedule for the month or week or even just the day ahead, remember to leave some space for the nothing. It can truly lead to some of the best somethings.