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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

The Art of Doing Nothing

Jun 30, 2022 09:30AM ● By Marlaina Donato
Two people lying on their backs on a plaid blanket on the grass


Most of us can remember having the glorious ability to do absolutely nothing of practical significance as children. We rolled in the grass, laughed ourselves silly with friends on the street corner and happily squandered away Saturdays.

Somewhere along the line, someone planted a seed in our brains that programmed us to believe that we must earn our existence. We became self-conscious perfectionists that equate leisure and “be-ing” with laziness. As adults, we see “non-doing” as something trivial, something forbidden, unless we become ill or injured, and only then can we shrug off the societal guilt trip. Somehow, well-being has become a luxury, and our physical bodies are paying for it. We feel old before our time and suffer Monday morning blues every day of the week. The Yiddish proverb, “The hardest work is to go idle,” rings truer than ever.

We envy our beloved pets when they stretch out in a patch of inviting sun or dream away rainy days, not realizing that we, too, can curl up with the idea of doing nothing. Even foxes and squirrels pause in the survival game to soak up an hour of summer. Unplugging brings us back to our breath, aligns us with our true North and prompts our blood pressure to drop a few numbers. Taking a little time to exhale and watch the clouds overhead can also kickstart our immune systems. If need be, we can appease the to-do lister inside of us by scheduling half an hour of inactivity into the weekly calendar, and when we realize how much we like shooting the breeze, we can increase it to an hour.

Consider the last time we gave ourselves permission to sip a little freedom and watch the grass grow. Poet Winifred Druhan noted, “Wasting time is being free.” We won’t win any accolades for doing nothing, but we’ll surely be happier.

Marlaina Donato is an author, composer and painter.