Doing Nothing

photo by sara b. healy

Why do some days flow like fast running rivers, while others creep along like brackish ponds? You stare at the computer willing the words to type themselves, but the page stares back at you, maybe even sticks its paper-tongue out at you.

That’s how it was for me today. I began the morning by staring at the empty white page on my computer. No words wanted to play with me. I finally pulled out my “works in progress,” but even they looked boring.

The truth was I wanted to do nothing, but since I did nothing yesterday. I felt guilty about doing TWO days of nothing in a row! That seemed so lazy and I’m not usually a lazy person.

Also, today is Monday. Work MUST be done; it’s the first day of the week. Still, no words formed themselves into creative and exciting sentences. The cupboard seemed empty.

I got another cup of coffee, thinking maybe that would help, but no, the blank paper was still waiting for me when I came back.

I did a 360 in my office chair, which made me realize my plants needed watering. After this was done, I sat back down, but still faced the same empty page glaring at me.

In addition, after weeks of cloudy chilly weather, it was an absolutely beautiful day where I’m at. The sun was out, the birds were singing and, boy oh boy, I wanted to be sitting on my porch, like Aggie.

She was lying in her cat “tree,” looking totally relaxed. The sun was warming her fur, like I wanted it to warm my face. I found myself wishing for the zillionth time I was a cat and had nothing to do, but sit.

With a heavy sigh, I turned back to the computer. My stomach churned. I begged my fingers to find something…anything, but nothing at all was there. I reminded my computer that people counted on me. I couldn’t let them down. It just hummed back at me.

In frustration, I turned to my bookshelf for inspiration. Surely, there was something to get me moving. I thumbed through books, but still nothing! I was getting desperate.

Then, buried under a stack of books I’ve been meaning to shelve, I found a book of meditation quotes. Why not give it a try? I opened the book and picked a page at random.

I closed my eyes and ran my finger down the page, letting it find a place to stop. When I opened my eyes and read the quote, I laughed out loud.

“Don’t just do something – sit there!”  ~ Author Unknown

The Universe played a joke on me. It was a kindly one; a little poke in the ribs, reminding me sometimes it’s important to take a break and meditate on a beautiful day.

I ended up doing just that. I went to my porch and sat until the sun dropped off to sleep. It didn’t bring me great wisdom, but it did help me find something to write:~)

What about you?

I recognize some people work full time or have other responsibilities keeping them busy during the day. So, finding time to sit on a porch in the sun may not be so easy.

Still, I think the intent of this quote is important. It’s a message about how we choose to live our lives. Think about it as you consider answering one or more of these questions:

  1. What’s this quote mean to you?
  2. How long can you be totally “unplugged,” meaning no cell phone, computer, T.V., etc. — just you and the quiet?
  3. When’s the last time, other than holidays and weekends, you took a full day off of work, whatever your work might be?


24 comments on “Doing Nothing

  1. Kelvin Kao says:

    Ha! That’s surely a sign. That’s when you should go, “okay, fair enough” and proceed to sit there and do nothing.

    I am in front of a computer most of my waking hours (being a computer programmer and all…) but when I am out with people, I don’t really check my phone. Whoever I am with have my full attention. Even when I am eating by myself, I like to just savor my food and enjoy some quietness.

    I think a part of it is that I feel like I can check Facebook and whatever any time and I don’t feel an urgency to rush back to it.

    • Sara says:

      @ Kelvin — Don’t worry about me sitting and doing nothing. I’m really good at it…perhaps too good at it:~)

      That’s nice to know about you. So many people today don’t know how to let go of their phones. I see them at restaurants and it’s like the phone is glued to their hands. Quietness is important. Thanks for stopping by, Kelvin.

  2. Lynn says:

    When the weather allows, I like to sit on my back porch in the early morning or later in the evening when outside noise and voices subside and just be.

    I’m glad you had a day like that – we can all take a lesson from Aggie.

    • Sara says:

      @ Lynn — I do the same and it is the time when I fully understand the meaning of “being present.” It’s nice to know you enjoy this too.

      Regarding Aggie, Eckhart Tolle once said, ” I have lived with several Zen masters, all of them cats.” Thanks for the visit:~)

  3. suzen says:

    Hi Sara,
    Love that quote and have used it a lot! It justifies my sitting, haha! Seriously though, it is a gentle reminder to stop with the “doing” and start “being”, to listen to and actually do this quote I often picture a grandmotherly spirit taking me by the hand and leading me to my favorite chair, or the sunny porch (tho not in winter!) or even my art studio. That spirit shows up often when I’m too caught up in “stuff” or fretting/struggling with things. I think she wrote the quote! 🙂

  4. Hilary says:

    Hi Sara .. saw your post – with a blank space in my Reader for the photo .. so it really was Doing Nothing!! But Linda of Roses2Rainbows had left a quote on her post .. and I immediately placed it here:

    As I was walking up the stair,
    I met a man who wasn’t there.
    He wasn’t there again today.
    I wish, I wish he’d go away.

    Left my brain behind today .. all my papers down here .. but the conversation flowed.

    I can’t remember when I got stuck .. but when I first started blogging I sort of rocked around ..

    Now I have way too much I want to do .. with many ideas .. I shall get myself clear headed one day! and achieve .. but I rarely sit with ‘nothing’ … last time – can’t remember!!

    What would I do to be Ms PussyCat – quite a lot probably!! One day … cheers Hilary

    • Sara says:

      @ Hilary — Yes, I stopped by Linda’s site and saw that quote. That’s a fascinating quote. I spent quite a time struggling with that one.

      There’s nothing wrong with being busy, especially if you like what you’re doing and you’re actually able to “do something.” I have a tendency to hit down times when I can’t do much or my muse decides to sleep in for a few days. I do have a very fickle muse:~)

      Cats are good teachers about the importance of conservation of energy. Aggie, typical of cats, loves to sleep most of the day, but once the sun drops off the horizon, she’s at the porch door yowling to let out. When the weather’s right, she loves it if I leave a door cracked and she can run back and forth. She tears through the door crack and runs around the house, like a mad thing, and then tears back outside again into the dark. We call it the “Crazy Aggie!”

  5. I loved this post! I wrote this morning about taking pauses between tasks to acknowledge and appreciate all my efforts…but I struggle with doing “nothing,” even though I know that taking some down time fills the creative well. I actually have to put it on my to-do list! Seems crazy, but that works for me if I jot down “do nothing” with a time frame next to it.

    • Sara says:

      @ Nadine — I love that you put “do nothing” on your to-do-list!! That’s precious. Do you stick with or that “to do” not get checked off. Actually, this isn’t a bad idea, especially for people who MUST complete a “to do” list. I have a friend like that; she has to finish the list and each item must be checked off. She’s very productive in a good way, but I might suggest she does what you do…I think it would be good for her. I also like that you add a time frame so that 3 seconds doesn’t count as “doing nothing”:~)

      Thanks for the visit and sharing your thoughts!

  6. I thought I remembered a Mae West quote that went something like, “I love to relax. And do nothing afterward.” It didn’t show up on Google though. Oh well.
    I love to relax too and really, it’s often when you chill that you get that “ah-ha” or “what if” inspiration.
    I still get nervous though when a day or two goes by without something popping into my brain that HAS to get down on paper. Makes me think maybe there’s no more. No more words for me to write. Man, that would be scary!

    • Sara says:

      @ Diane — I agree with you so much about the fear of “doing nothing” as a writer. I love writing so much that it scares me sometimes I will lose whatever spark allows me this pleasure of making words plays with each. On the other hand, I do accept there are times when the cupboard goes bare.

      I also agree some of my best “ah-ha” inspirations have occurred when I was being quiet and resting.

      The quote is great whoever said it! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts:~)

  7. Linda says:

    Hi Sara,

    Sometimes those words are elusive, and in your case they were trying to tell you something. I’m not sure if this counts as doing nothing, but sometimes I flop down on the couch – with or without a cat, but if it’s without, I am soon joined. I do this to think, plan my day and just chill. Then I’m ready to get back to it – whatever IT is. There is always plenty of stuff awaiting my attentions. Some days I must bargain with myself that I will do this and that and then take time to get back to my computer to visit my friends. On others it is the other way around…just a few more blogs to read and I’ll do my chores.

    The trick is finding a balance instead of getting woefully behind and constantly playing catch up. Some days it would be nice, though, to have nothing more to do than our feline friends.

    • Sara says:

      @ Linda — Excellent point about finding a balance and so true. Like you, when I’m ON and at the computer, everything gets left undone. I have to actually do most my chores before I sit down to write or plan a day for chores. Once I really working at the computer….I’m a goner:~)

      Perhaps this is why every once in awhile, my body/brain says STOP! It wants me to get back into balance and resting is part of that. There’s nothing better than a nap on the couch with a purring kitty curled up. What’s funny about Aggie is she’s a long bodied cat and she has difficulty curling up in my lap. She usually end half on me and half off me, but it still works. My body calms.

      Thanks for sharing:~)

  8. Patricia says:

    This snow storm has left me a lot of days off and I am not truly racing back into action. Though a moment or two of quilt has crept back in about all the blog posts I have not read and all the writing I did not do…
    My word for this year is FEAR. I want to see it and recognize it and confront then let it go.
    Having the huge branches falling from my neighbors big tree nearly onto my house, put me in so much fear…my body did a release…and afterwards I shivered in the cold. I have not been in that much fear since I was in an accident 30 years ago.
    It brought up the idea if I am not afraid and not doing and am working on just being….then I would be that afraid once again…Maybe this is why I worry so much about earning money and getting a job right now is not happening…What if I could just be?
    Deep questions to aid in the release of FEAR…
    Good storytelling here…

    • Sara says:

      @ Patricia — When I got to part about your word for the year, I stopped in shock. At first, it seemed a strange to pick and then I read your explanation and it makes a lot of sense. Listening to branches break under snow and ice must be scary. We get that with thunderstorms and hurricanes!

      Here’s a quote from my favorite books, “Listening To Your Inner Voice” by Douglas Bloch…”People ask, “How can I have courage when I’m afraid?” The answer is clear. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to move forward in spite of it.”

      Good luck with your word of the year. It’s a challenge, but you’re the kind of person who takes on challenges and finds the way through them:~)

  9. Valerie says:

    It’s cold and dark here, and to top it off I woke up at four this morning. I have the blank page staring at me as I try to come up with something for tomorrow’s blog post-and try to stay awake at the same time.

    I don’t unplug as often as I should, and I get mad at myself because a lot of time I spend on the computer is not productive time either. Just dawdling. It’s when I do unplug, and have some quiet time, that the blog post ideas usually come to me:) That quote is great by the way Sara!
    p.s. Hawaii in March…no computer, no phone, bliss:)

    • Sara says:

      @ Valerie — It is hard to unplug. We’ve been taught for years to be “productive” and so the idea of taking a nap in the middle of the day or sitting on a porch for an hour seems dangerous, but you are right…it’s when we unplug and have some quiet that the butterflies of ideas will come and sit with us.

      Hey, I love the idea of Hawaii in March. Just remember to take your camera:~)

  10. Talon says:

    I think we sometimes forget that doing “nothing” is really doing something and those times of nothingness are what fuel us for the times we’re running full steam ahead.

    Aggie looks so happy. I love cats. They always remind me that taking time to relax is very valuable.

    • Sara says:

      @ Talon — Can I use this quote? “I think we sometimes forget that doing “nothing” is really doing something and those times of nothingness are what fuel us for the times we’re running full steam ahead.” Beautifully put!

      Aggie is a happy cat:~)

  11. Jean Sampson says:

    I think Aggie knows, much more than we humans, what life is really all about—–enjoying every moment. It seems that she is totally present in her life and totally in a state of enjoyment of the things animals delight in—-sunshine, sleeping, comfort, being. We are called human “beings” but we are not very good at the “being” part. are we? I think that, for the most part, we have forgotten that we, in our physical bodies, are really animals. Aggie is a good reminder of what some part of our day should be about—–just being. And, no, I am NOT very good at just being and not doing. I think, when I was a kid, I might have been, though. Does daydreaming count as doing nothing, because I did a lot of that and the adult world cannot stand to see a kid just sitting and daydreaming, especially teachers! I guess you really have to pick and choose when you sit around and do nothing! 🙂

    • Sara says:

      @ Jean — So true! You make an excellent point about how we forget the “animal” part of our bodies, meaning we need to rest, something cats and other non-human animals seem to understand.

      Daydreaming is a wonderful way to let ideas dance in your mind. You are right about children…we don’t give them enough time to just BE and the daydream. I remember many times, lying in the summer grass watching the fluffy clouds drift by in the blue sky and letting my imagination wander. As adults, we ought to try this more often:~)

      As always, thank you for sharing your thoughts about this subject!

  12. Ginny says:

    I am getting better and better at just being and enjoying the moment. It has taken me awhile to get to this point since retiring.There are still times when I think maybe I am not doing enough. Then I remember the mad race I used to run and I realize I am doing just what I am supposed to do. I do believe there are times in life when it is easier to sit and be quiet. But I also believe that it is very important to take care of ourselves and maintain a balance no matter what stage of life we are enjoying.

    • Sara says:

      @ Ginny — I think as long as you are happy with what you doing and where you are….that’s all that matters:~) Keep enjoying those moments!

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