Are you one of those people who always has to be doing something? Does the idea of doing nothing make you uneasy? Well, you’re not alone, I’m sure. Even with all the current popularity of meditation, there are still lots and lots of folks who just can’t stop their perpetual motion, not to mention the constant static going on in their minds.
I used to be one of those people, and sometimes I’ll still have a wakeful night in bed when I just can’t seem to turn my “thinker” off. And after a lifelong habit of being convinced I always had to be busy otherwise it meant I was lazy, only recently have I come to the conclusion that rushing around like a waiter covering a dozen tables really wastes time and doesn’t accomplish much of anything.
I read a book awhile back that encouraged doing nothing from time to time. The book was aimed at artists like myself, but I really think it applies to everyone. I know some fellow musicians who practice every single day and transcribe solos from jazz records while they’re riding on the bus or eating lunch, and I guess that’s OK for them, but I’ve found that taking breaks provides openings for your creative intuition to get in, while constant activity tends to shut it out.
There have been periods during my life when I’ve stopped playing music altogether (one time for seven years), and when I came back I was not only fresh and full of new ideas, but I seemed to be playing things I had never played, or even thought of playing before. It was as if all the things that were going on in my life during my absence from music had actually contributed to my store of creative fodder, ready to spring into action when I was ready to go back.
Those of us who were raised with the so-called “Protestant work ethic” or something similar, have been programmed to feel guilty if we’re not always doing something, always producing. Even during vacations or entertainment breaks, we feel that we have to be busy at something every single minute. It took me decades before I was finally able to sit down in a chair and do absolutely nothing for a period of a half hour. No book, no laptop, no iPod, no food, no cell phone, nothing. After getting into this new habit, I discovered that there was a freshness, a newness to my thought, as if I were opening a door into something much broader and deeper than my limited little thought patterns. If you’ve never tried this, I highly recommend that you do. You don’t have to meditate on a mantra or even say a prayer. Just be still. Be quiet. You’ll like the results, I promise.