our moments of true happiness bring purpose to everything we do.
We have so much trouble with doing nothing. It doesn’t matter that we never truly stop being; even at our most inactive, a thousand natural processes happen inside us without our slightest interference. And we continuously perceive, process, ponder. Even when we stop running, we are still elegantly moving through life.
But we define ourselves by oughts and shoulds_, and when a quiet moment surprises us, a gap among our daily duties, a tiny bit of panic seizes hold: "_Why am I wasting my life away?"
We’re raised to believe that we never have enough, that we never do enough, that we must make a name for ourselves, we must work hard and save for retirement, we must do something; and if we are not in motion, then we must be sleeping or sick (and we are impatient with both!)
When we stop to do nothing, guilt and shame swoop in & harangue us for our laziness. We should be using this time wisely, they chide impatiently. And they have this peculiarly effective way of motivating us: an uneasy tightening in our guts, around our hearts, pressing against our lungs. They know too well how frightening this feels!
To stop the torture we put down the book we were reading and leave our partner – restfulness – to lounge in the bed alone. We reluctantly leave the company of leaves underfoot and the rhythmic slapping of the waves against the promontory to perform our obligated duties.
And even when we can find respite from constant action, we begin to think.
Thoughts of question and wonder — the true beauty of doing nothing — they are hungry kisses, electric caresses, clasping us together with life and experience and our world as our lover, and bring us great joy, great creative energy, and impregnate us with inspiration and greatness.
But we feel guilty for those thoughts, so they remain, for most of us, tiny vignettes, snapshots of brilliance among a million moments of mediocrity. In the quiet moments, don’t we find it easier to turn to doubt and fear? What frightening thoughts suddenly charge out of nowhere to seize your mind? What worries come up the moment you don’t have something to do?
We’ve been taught that contentment causes stagnation. We’ve been told to believe we are never good enough, because if we were we’d stop living. We’ve been raised to believe that ‘wasting’ even one moment of our lives on silliness such as our own simple joy and happiness – taking extra time to enjoy that steaming cup of tea… lazing in bed for an extra half an hour… watching the clouds form and dissipate in the sky – is sinful.
Even the most decadent among us fall prey to the guilt and the shame stamped into our spirits. Our salvation, our true happiness is always ahead of us, waiting for us to finish our appointed tasks and get on with our lives. So we accept our lot and believe that if we pay our dues now, we will reap our rewards someday in the future. And when we steal a moment of bliss now, guilt attacks us for what we don’t yet deserve.
Our greatest, most joyful, most inspired moments come not when we’re struggling with what we should and ought to be doing, not when panic or despair set in as we grasp the weight of our requirements…. these moments come when we’ve chosen to set ourselves free, now, this moment, and commune directly with our world instead of through our alarm clocks and calendars. These are the moments that inspire us to train for a marathon, the moments that we cross the finish line. These are the moments that breathe life into a beautiful poem, that write the first words of a novel.
Our moments of true happiness – whether sharing smiles and a loving gaze at someone on a hazy Sunday morning, stopping to enjoy the feeling of a clean apartment, setting out on a hike, whatever those moments contain – our moments of true happiness give us renewed energy, renewed life, and bring purpose to everything we do.
If we cannot allow ourselves bel far niente, the beauty of doing nothing, then the purpose of our lives is to work and to wait for happiness. Our purpose is to do what we expect of ourselves and what’s expected of us, regardless of whether it fulfills us.
But if we learn to allow ourselves happiness in this moment, to allow ourselves to embrace our experience directly, to let go of fear and guilt and act out of what fulfills us, what inspires us, what compels us into motion… Then we are not stuck, we are not standing still, we propel forward with all the force of our being, with none of the sorrow and dissatisfaction that comes with living a life that we constantly resist.
The beauty of doing nothing is that we find our true selves in those moments, we see our faces clearly. In those moments, the voice of God, or the universe, or of our own pure selves, speaks to us and lights us afire with meaning and purpose.
We can believe that the heaven of happiness is a place we earn our re-entry, or we can open ourselves to the possibility that it exists all around us, if only we could free ourselves from guilt and oughts and shoulds and musts for long enough to see the truth…
Happiness is not something we can ever strive to attain; it is not a state to be maintained. Happiness in alive in each moment if we choose to turn and see the beauty of our lives, if we choose to accept ourselves, and stop resisting ourselves.
The beauty of doing nothing is that doing nothing may be the most important work of our lives.