“Do nothing; accomplish everything.”
Last week I did something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the courage to do: absolutely nothing.
You heard me – I did NOTHING.
Doing nothing is very uncomfortable for me, because like most North Americans, I’ve been conditioned to be PRODUCTIVE. I enjoy making lists, setting goals, multi-tasking, and being busy. When I’m not busy, I start to get anxious. Fear bubbles up. I feel worried.
Worried about what, you ask? Until last week, I had no idea. But I thought the anxiety was worth examining, because as Joseph Campbell would say, “the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.”
Luckily a sore throat hit me up at the very same time as a record-setting blizzard, and I realized it was a perfect time to harness my nothingness. I plopped myself on the couch, I closed my eyes, and then… the voice (which I so often falsely identify as my own) began to rear its ugly head:
You really ought to do something. I know you’re not feeling that well this week but your fingers are working fine. You should be writing.
You need to start thinking about how you’re going to make a living in 2011. You should work on your website. You can do that from the couch.
Christmas is coming. Your shopping isn’t finished. Why don’t you grab your laptop and finish it up online? That would be much more productive than just sitting here.
Can’t you see it’s snowing?? At least go shovel the driveway!
How can you just sit here doing nothing when there’s so much to do????
I let out a big *sigh*. Oh little voice. You should know better than to mess with me. I’ve seen Revolver!
And the voice shut up.
In that moment I experienced an epiphany of my own. Being busy all the time perpetuates our identification with the voices in our heads. There is no opportunity to recognize our true identity as the stillness observing the voice, because we don’t even have the chance to experience what that stillness is.
Anxiety surfaces when I do nothing because my identity is being threatened. My identity is entangled with thinking, with doing, with striving, with achieving. But who am I without the busy-ness?? Who would I be without the stream of never-ending thoughts??
Who are you if you’re not the voice in your head?
Perhaps it’s time to sit on the couch and find out.