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Zen of Doing Nothing

Zen of Doing Nothing
Highlights

It was in July 2017, Stanford in one its many studies, so many of which lead to no tangible outcome, found Indians to be among the world-'s laziest –...

It was in July 2017, Stanford in one its many studies, so many of which lead to no tangible outcome, found Indians to be among the world's laziest – India ranks 39 among the 46 nations where people were found to be taking just around 4,297 steps a day. One should look at the positive side.

In today's fast, paced world when there is so much to do, not just in terms of earning a living, which in itself, has become so much more than a 9 to 5 routine; being lazy if it means anything, should mean grabbing those moments when one has to be able to do absolutely nothing, leave alone walking.

Let’s look at an average Indian’s routine – take kids for example, most of them rush to school at early hours, come back to attend tuition, may be play a bit depending on whatever resources are at their disposal and then there is TV with all the innumerable choice of channels available to them, there are video games to be played, and then there is the smart phone which keeps them hooked, and of course the internet, web series, Netflix, YouTube – there is so much content out there to be consumed that there is hardly any moment to pause and ponder.

The story is more or less similar with the grownups or shall we say, adults. Of whatever little time is left after work is spent on social media, TV - so much so that - to keep up with the demand most of us have given up on sleep; late to bed and early to rise (unless otherwise possible) has become the norm of the day.

In fact, we are everything, except lazy. We may walk a few steps more, or less – but we are always onto something, except for when we are sleeping. We are at work, or with our phone, listening to music, browsing the net to keep up with the world, watching videos, and there is still this a small section of people reading something apart from just internet posts.

When was the last time you saw someone lost deep in thought or sitting idle staring at the passing clouds? One has stopped looking around at the passing scenes even while on travel. We sit in the cars or buses and play with our phones even as life passes us by, literally.

Are we disconnected with the world around us and with one self! We aren’t, especially since we have the internet to keep us updated and WhatsApp statuses and Instagram posts to help us stay in touch with friends. We do look at the world through the tinted eyes of technology. The personal touch, experiencing life in all its shades through our own eyes and senses is on a wane. One just has to observe oneself and you will know this for real.

On a lighter vein, it probably may only be in the restroom that one actually rests. But there too people end up with phones nowadays (books and magazines are passé you see).

That leaves us with shower. There is indeed a whole science of meditation under the shower. In an article published in New York Times, May 2017, Nancy O’Hara, who teaches and writes about mindfulness practice says, “Your daily shower is a perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. Alone, quiet and away from the normal distractions of your life — even if only for a brief period — it can be a time to observe your habitual patterns of thinking. If you want to develop or deepen a meditation practice, the shower is an ideal place to start.”

In fact, when one is driving alone, or running or taking a shower, one is known to be with one’s thoughts. It is a state of being without being distracted and is considered to be the most creative time when one gets ideas, solves problems, etc.

On the other hand, doing nothing is a whole new ball game. In today’s well-connected world, one panics at the thought of not having anything to do. Children are bored, grown ups are restless. You can be driving or running, but busy talking over the phone, listening to music. As Italians say, “La dolce far niente” (the sweetness of doing nothing) – These moments of doing nothing, when you let your thoughts wander, watch the world go by its business – they can be quite effective de-stress moments when the mind gets refreshed, says research.

Manfred Ket De Vries, INSEAD Distinguished Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change, writing in ‘INSEAD Knowledge’ argues, “In today’s networked society we are at risk of becoming victims of interaction overload. Introspection and reflection have become lost arts as the temptation to ‘just finish this’ or ‘find out that’ is often too great to risk.” De Vries argues that working harder is not working smarter and in fact, setting aside regular periods of “doing nothing” may be “the best thing we can do to induce states of mind that nurture our imagination and improve our mental health.”

De Vries contends that “doing nothing” has become unacceptable. People associate it with irresponsibility and wasting valuable time. It doesn’t provide the stimulation that "busyness" and distraction-inducing behaviours like constantly checking emails, Facebook and texting. The biggest danger, he says, is not so much that we lose connection with each other, but with ourselves. (Psychology Today).

Coming back to not doing anything. Well, how does one achieve that? You could probably begin by switching off your phone or keeping it on silent and just sit and watch from the car window while you are travelling, or sit in your balcony and watch the rain or the darkness of the night, practice not giving into troublesome thoughts. This can be done by taking deep breaths that are close to meditation as you experience peace envelop you.

These moments need not stretch for long. These moments of doing nothing can last just a few minutes, but go a long way in retaining sanity in the chaos filled the world. You begin to appreciate nature, life and yourself, and on a good day, you may even end up with a bright life changing idea.

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