Why it’s Okay to Sit Around and Do Nothing!

men sitting doing nothing

Do you ever get the urge to simply sit around and do nothing?

Are you then able to give in to this urge and just sit around do nothing?

If so, I really envy you – since I usually can’t do so easily.

In my last post I wrote how anyone can be an energising bunny 24 hours a day.

Well if anything, for me the challenge is not about being energised, but more around being able to take some down time and simply do nothing.

Earlier this year, I visited my ancestral home India for 2 weeks and I found it really strange to see so many people just sitting around, apparently doing nothing.

My active mind ran riot with all sorts of scathing judgements and thoughts such as:-

Why are these people just sitting around?

Haven’t they got anything better to do?

India was supposed to be coming up rapidly but how is that possible with so many lazy people?

Is it any wonder there is also so much poverty in India with all these good for nothing layabouts?

As you can imagine, my thoughts ran riot and for a few days, I was the king of making unfounded judgements on others.

So this is my chance to redeem myself and send some well-overdue positive vibes to all those people who had the misfortune to cross my path in India a few months ago.

Of course, it was entirely up to them what they did with their time and how they chose to lead their lives.

The rather hot weather may also have had something to do with them just sitting around – I dread to think what a sight I must have been as I whizzed around in 40 degrees centigrade, (around 100 Fahrenheit) in the middle of the day, during the peak of the heat!

I learnt an amazing lesson from all these people who were apparently just being lazy and sitting around – and I am really grateful for their gift.

And the lesson was this – it’s okay to sit around and do nothing!

Now that is such a novel concept for me!

Don’t get me wrong – I am not going through life in a frenzy, but what with my zest for life, desire to fit in everything and make the most of my time here, sitting around doing nothing is really just an interesting idea.

Also, I do have a meditation practice which sets me up for the day. However once I “throw” myself into my day, I do generate a lot of energy and get things done.

But I am now learning that it’s also okay to sit down in the daytime and do nothing, and here’s why:-

1. Slow Down and Rest

Your body needs to slow down, rest and re-energise. What better way than to just sit and do nothing?

Lying down or sleeping is also an option but not really ideal when you are in public.

2. Reflect

Having a pause in your usually busy day will give you a chance to think about things and reflect on what’s really going on for you. Maybe a solution to that niggling problem will flash into your head.

3. Meditate

You could even simply sit down somewhere quiet and meditate in the middle of your day. After all, basic level meditation is all about sitting down somewhere quiet.

I am sure some of the people I saw in India were doing exactly that.

4. Get Present and Become more Self-Aware

Sitting down and just doing nothing gives you a chance to become more self-aware of what’s going on within you and around you – you will become more present and get moment by moment awareness.

Indeed, if you were to get into the habit of always doing things consciously, you will naturally become more present and aware of what going on in you and around you.

5. People-Watch

You can learn so much from the many silent teachers around you in the form of the people you meet everyday.

People watching is my hobby and I can highly recommend this to you – look out for a future post coming soon where I will write more about how to become really proficient at this – and also share some amazing stories.

6. Appreciate What’s Around You

Slowing down and sitting down gives you the perfect opportunity of appreciating all the beauty around you. Prepare to be amazed as you observe for the first time all those things you had previously missed.

You might even see a wild foreigner whizzing around!

7. Energise Yourself

Finally sitting down quietly for a while is perfect for recharging your batteries.

I am gradually learning to do this – the incentive of even more energy after a short rest is enough to get me to actually sit and do nothing for a while!

Emulate the Mexican fisherman, not the Harvard MBA:-

Coming back to my experience of everyone sitting around in India reminds me of this anecdotal story of the Mexican fisherman who meets a Harvard MBA.

In my story about visiting India, I was the smart alec guy who thought he knew better.

On that note, I am off to just find a quiet place to sit and watch the world go by:-)

Join me.

men sitting doing nothing

Photos courtesy of barry.pousman and therealbrute

Comments

  1. Lynn Fang says:

    Hi Arvind, love this idea! I don’t frequently sit around and do nothing, but I do feel the urge. Last week I was waiting for my friend to get off work, and had a couple hours to kill. I honestly didn’t feel like doing anything, so I found a park and just sat down in the grass watching the people and traffic mill by. There were a few other people sitting around too, much longer than I was. I wondered if that was how they spent their days? And if so, what was wrong with that? Why can’t our society just slow down and accept that doing nothing is okay [sometimes, more frequently than currently accepted]? And really, my sitting and watching was very relaxing and helped me recharge. I see it as a primitive form of meditation, a way to clear your mind and re-gain some focus.

    • Lynn, good on you for taking that opportunity to chill out on the grass. Like you, I too wonder if other people do actually spend their days just like that – sitting in the park.

      One day soon, I am going to create a day away from being connected and simply spend a day in the park sitting in one place and watching the world go by:-)
      .-= Arvind Devalia´s last blog ..Why it’s Okay to Sit Around and Do Nothing! =-.

  2. I sit around and do nothing a lot, and it is those times when I am often enjoying life to the max.

    This time of year I spend a lot of time outside just soaking in the sounds of the birds and the breezes in the trees. It is so beautiful and it fills me up inside when I get quiet and be a part of it all. Plus, I get so many good ideas when I’m doing nothing or doing something that is completely unrelated to my work.

    Taking time to refresh and recharge is a productivity tool that a lot of people overlook because they are too busy 🙂
    .-= Jean Sarauer´s last blog ..How to Kick Your Blog into Summer Gear =-.

  3. I find it hard to just do nothing, but agree, it’s a must sometimes and a great soul cleanser. We hear ourselves, the world and we are just being, not rushing, fixing or doing, but just being. It’s probably even more vital for those of us who can’t stop and have an abundance of energy to learn this skill. The art of doing nothing. I burn out, then do nothing. Not the best reason to be sitting doing nothing. Great post as always Arvind.

  4. Arvind,
    I’m like you – when I have time off I rarely know what to do with myself. I’m getting better though!

    I grew up in a household where productivity and work were valued. Sitting around was not. People who sat around were lazy and useless. I learned quickly that I had to be productive in order to receive the approval of my parents – the children of immigrants from Greece.

    I had the same reaction when I visited Greece for the first time too in 1973. Why are all these people sitting around in Tavernas all day? Don’t they have jobs? No wonder they’re so poor, I thought.

    Fast forward to the present: – In my daily phone call with my mother she’ll ask me, “What are you going to do today?” For the life of me I still cannot bring myself to say, “Nothing!” Even if I were to be doing nothing – which is extremely rare.

    Anyway, you’re so right to point out that we do need to allow times for ourselves to rejuvenate and do nothing. Being an energizer bunny all the time is the opposite end of the spectrum. If you don’t allow yourself to rest and replenish, both physically and mentally you actually deprive the world of all your wonderful “YOU-NESS” and your gifts as there’s nothing left to give to anyone.

    Thanks for this insightful post Arvind!
    .-= Angela Artemis´s last blog ..Awaken To The Truth of Who You Really Are =-.

    • Angela, thanks for sharing your own story of visiting your homeland. It is maybe a cultural thing – here in the West we are expected to be busy bunnies whilst in the East or developing countries, people are more used to the idea of just doing nothing.

      I love what you say about depriving the world of your wonderful “you-ness”. So really, all we have to do is we just slow down, do nothing and let our light shine:-)
      .-= Arvind Devalia´s last blog ..Why it’s Okay to Sit Around and Do Nothing! =-.

      • Yes! Let your light shine for sure!

        So many of us mask our light under doing this and doing that. We think we’re not enough as we are.

        We become human doings and forget we are human beings! Just be!

        I really must start taking my own advice!
        Thank you for the reply,
        Angela
        .-= Angela Artemis´s last blog ..Awaken To The Truth of Who You Really Are =-.

  5. I am certainly find it very difficult to do nothing. Even though I meditate, that is something which is planned in the diary, regimented and almost ‘ticked off the list’.
    I definitely need to just let go a little more, so thanks for the great advice:)
    Kate

  6. Scott Dinsmore says:

    Love this post Arvind. I used to do this same thing all the time when I lived in Spain. It took a year to finally realize that they were doing something very important and they had conciously chosen that…to do nothing. One of the many major life lessons I learned from those Sevillanos.

    One thing Ive noticed is that even the act of moving faster and rushing will begin to cause mild stress. So Ive made it a practice to walk slowly between places. It’s amazing the difference!

    Thanks for this,
    Scott

  7. Arvind: Great post. I think I literally need to read this post everyday so I can keep the message top of mind. You are so right that sometimes we just need to relax and let things be. Of course it is easier said than done, but once we are able to master consistently doing this, I think it allows us to add a whole new dimension to life where we are experiencing things in a different way.

  8. Praveen says:

    Though those people may boast ” simple living & high thinking” you will never know what goes behind their minds. Laziness, ignorance, greediness, day dreaming thoughts, comparing with their peer group…..all this goes in their mind, even if they seem to keep sitting doing nothing.

    Looks of Indians sitting are just deceitful….

    • Praveen, thanks for your input and your personal insights about Indians apparently just sitting around.

      Yes, anyone who is sitting around may have all sorts of thoughts and these thoughts can be noble or not so noble. At the end of the day, only they can control their own thoughts.

      But it’s key to be able to give yourself this opportunity to sit down quietly in the first place.
      .-= Arvind Devalia´s last blog ..How to Contribute to the World from the Heart and not Just the Pocket =-.

  9. I enjoyed reading this article. It’s all in the mind. You can still ‘carpe diem’ and appear to do little.

  10. Your friends over there have the right idea Arvind but it can be difficult to get off the fast paced merry-go-round that many find themselves on. Yet we can periodically reassess our values and routines. It is usually possible to eliminate many things which are not necessary and which use up too much of our precious days. Achieving a stress free way of life keeps us healthy and cheerful.

    “Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
    .-= Grampa Ken´s last blog ..Does Commerce Govern Society? =-.

    • Thanks Grampa Ken for sharing this beautiful quote:-

      “Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

      So those Indians have clearly got the right idea – they certainly looked happier than how I felt at the time.

      I seem to have been on a journey of simplifying and letting go of stuff in my life for a long time – and it is getting easier for sure. But there is always room for letting go of more stuff, cutting out more committments and simplifying.

      One day soon I wish to be like that Mexican fisherman:-)
      .-= Arvind Devalia´s last blog ..How to Contribute to the World from the Heart and not Just the Pocket =-.

  11. Dave Rowley says:

    Hi Arvind,

    i really enjoyed this post. So much of the ‘busyness’ of our life is artificial and based on the fear of not being seen by others as important or ‘in demand’. It’s so prevalent in our culture that it becomes easy to forget how to be with ourselves, and that’s a real shame. What a thing of value that is, the ability to just sit, and be.
    .-= Dave Rowley´s last blog ..The Rarest Angels =-.

    • Dave, thanks for your observation that so much of our perceived “busyness” in our lives is based on the fear of not being seen by others as being important or “in demand”.

      I know how a lot of friends are expected to “work” long hours just to keep up the appearance of being busy and even important!

      I really do believe that employees would be so much happier if companies allowed their staff to have quiet down time during the working day.
      .-= Arvind Devalia´s last blog ..How to Contribute to the World from the Heart and not Just the Pocket =-.

  12. Hi Arvind,

    This made me think of “puttering around,’ which is generally considered a waste of time, getting nothing of consequence done. Then I read an article in one of my writing magazines that explained that “puttering around” is actually very good for getting the creative part of the brain engaged. I don’t remember the details, but since I spend quite a bit of time “puttering around,” I now don’t feel guilty anymore, because, really, I am working! 😉
    .-= Miss Footloose´s last blog ..LIVING ABROAD: AWASH IN CULTURE =-.

  13. Arvind, you’ve reminded me that about a month ago I promised myself to spend a bit more time doing nothing…and almost immediately I forgot my promise! It feels like such a luxury to spend time doing very little, and yet as you’ve pointed out it can be extremely valuable (certainly as valuable as rushing around getting stuff done – it doesn’t seem to matter how much I get done, there’s always more to do!). I might need to print a picture of a stop sign and stick it on my fridge to remind me to slow down and take a moment every now and then. Thanks for the reminder!
    Topi
    .-= Topi´s last blog ..Welcome, new money =-.

  14. This is good list to remind us to slow down. I love people watching, it is simply amazing to guess what the person will be like based on how way he walks, and stands. Although if is hard for me to sit still but I do cherish my alone time as it is so little that I get right now.
    .-= Zengirl @ Heart and Mind´s last blog ..101 changes: Change 4: Plant something =-.

  15. Arvind this is marvellous. In a world fixated with doing not being this bucks the trend yet it is still insightful and inspiring.

    I love both the ‘reflect’ and ‘people watching’ as, to me, they result in the same. By watching others we can see ourselves reflected back and this can have profound effects.

    I would write more but I fancy a sit down with a cup of tea and nothing else to watch the sun go down and simply muse.
    .-= John Sherry´s last blog ..The Treasures of Life’s Simple Pleasures =-.

  16. I’m glad after today all you need is a cup of tea, Arvind.

  17. The ambiance of India is so different than the U. S. It’s like you’ve entered a different dimension of time and space. I love the slower atmosphere in India and similar places. Thanks for reminding us that our busy, stormy life is not the only way to function in this world.
    .-= Sandra Lee´s last blog ..Reducing your oil use =-.

    • Welcome to my blog Sandra and thanks for your comments.

      It’s so true what you say about India’s ambiance being so different from the USA and indeed the UK. Everytime I visit India it is like going to a chill out zone and even I manage to calm down (a bit).

      It is as if they have no concept of time – and actually most people there don’t! Hence we have a saying we invoke in jest amongst Indian friends who arrive late – we say that they were running on Indian time.
      .-= Arvind Devalia´s last blog ..How to Contribute to the World from the Heart and not Just the Pocket =-.

  18. Arvind,

    I absolutely loooove this post. Mostly because I totally suck (I think this might be a North American euphanism) at doing nothing. I sit here on Sunday night feeling like I need a weekend to recover from my weekend. While I was very productive I feel like I could sleep for a week, and Monday hasn’t even arrived. Thanks for reminding me that doing nothing is actually doing something. Its taking care of yourself.

  19. I actually love sitting around and doing nothing. I probably don’t do enough of it as I’m like my mind fights my body and they become engaged in the this battle but when you can give in and align you body and mind there are many benefits to reap.

    Out of all the things you mentioned I enjoy sitting around people watching. There’s something so satisfying about it.
    .-= Amit Sodha – The Power Of Choice´s last blog ..Spirituality IS NOT A Separate Area Of Life =-.

  20. Very thought provoking .. Ive been allowing myself to do this alot more in the last few years …. & am really finding the power in doing nothing…. When I do nothing it gives me a chance to allow space for my emotional body to clear out anything that needs to come to the surface… Then if a problem or dilemma comes out I just put it out into the space around me & continue to do nothing ..kinda holding the space & then the answer seems to appear in that empty space….. I remember assisting on an intensive training last year & I took a day off & just lay in the sun doing nothing…. for hrs & hrs & hrs.. At the time I just thought I was doing nothing.. but actually in retrospect what I was doing was allowing time for integration…. so the next day I went back to the training completely re-energised & ready to continue.. compared to the old days when I would have filled up my day off with busy..ness……….

    • Yashu, thanks again for sharing your experience about doing nothing.

      I too did the same thing last Saturday, despite a long list of pending things to do. And by Sunday I was indeed re-energised and ready to get going again.

  21. jebwa sabony says:

    i can do nothing at an olympic level

  22. Arvind – Great article. It made me happy. The photo of the group of men sitting peacefully is so nice. Some of them kicked off their shoes. I hear their thoughts: “Here we are. Sitting. Thinking. Being. Feeling peaceful. Perhaps thinking over a problem, or perhaps not. Life is good.” Thanks, Arvind!