Doing Nothing

Saturday August 25, 2007


You may have noticed that I have not been blogging much on thinkBuddha from here in Bulgaria. There are good reasons for this, of course. I’m writing a novel, and that takes time. I’ve been blogging a lot about my travels over at my personal site, and you can’t blog all the time. But mainly the reason I haven’t updated thinkBuddha much is that I’ve been getting into the habit of doing nothing. This is not something that, back at home, I’m very good at. I tend to hurtle around like a lunatic from one thing to another, engaged in one or another improving activity (I think I’ve blogged about so-called “improving activities” before…). And sometimes, meditation becomes just another improving activity amongst all the others.

I remember a friend once saying “if you think meditation is hard, try sitting in a chair and doing nothing for half an hour a day”. And he was right. Meditation feels purposive. It feels like you are doing something. Sitting in a chair is just, well, sitting in a chair. As an activity amongst activities, it doesn’t seem to fit very well at all.

However, over here in Bulgaria, as the days have passed, I seem to have remembered the knack of doing nothing so that I am now a champion sitter-in-chairs, a world-class lounger-on-park-benches, a distinctly superior exponent of the arts of hanging around and doing sod all. Take the other day for example. I had five hours to kill before taking a bus. So I lay on a park bench and watched the birds do bird things. I sat up occasionally and watched the people do people things. Then I resumed my horizontal position. On that occasion, I listened to a bit of music, although I’m not really listening to much of that at the moment either. Nor am I reading much. Just seconds and minutes and hours and me sitting with thoughts coming and going. Neither use (for sure) or ornament (almost certainly).

I’m sure that this idleness is not in the least improving in any moral sense. But I have to say that I feel better for it.

Enough! Outside the air is cooling. I’ve been in this cafe for long enough. I think I’ll go for a stroll in search of ice cream.

# · Tom

I think you should check a map, Will. MEXICO has the affect on one that you describe. Perhaps your plane flew off course, or your train took a detour.

But what the hell are you doing? Would Hemmingway have gone off looking for ice cream? or Fitzgerald? or Homer? Your novels are your claim to fame. They’ll get you in the history books. Get cracking.

# · Will

Of course Hemingway ate ice-cream, Tom. And I’m pretty sure Fitzgerald did as well. Homer probably ate some confection made out of sheep’s yoghurt, honey and walnuts, frozen with the snows of Mt. Olympus…


# · Binques

Wonderful! If only I could do nothing. I know I CAN, but if only I could motivate myself to sit still long enough to really relish the things I say I do – trees, birds, wind, sky, kids, rain, cats, etc, etc.

Thanks for the inspiration – I’ll try to do nothing at some point today!

# · Elee

I managed to do a good bit of nothing the other day. I was weeding the garden in the evening, but as the sun set it started to get too dark to tell the difference between spinach and dock leaves, so I moved over to the bench and sat with the cat on my lap, waiting for the stars to come out. It was a bit chilly, but a beautiful night with hawk moths and bats flitting around, and such bliss to sit still enough to notice the sky changing.
I can thoroughly recommend it!

# · PeterAtLarge

Doing nothing sounds delicious to me—an art that needs some careful cultivation. Glad that you’ve found the secret, if only for a while. You’ve inspired me to go take a nap. Cheers, PaL

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