3 Ways to Embrace the Art of Doing Nothing
by Nicole Barton
What if we could find freedom from all of our suffering by simply embracing the art of doing nothing? I’m here to share exactly how we can do that, offering three ways we can begin to reconnect to our inner wisdom, instead of looking outside of ourselves for even more ‘to do’ in order to feel better.
With the social illumination of issues like #MeToo, increasing suicide rates and mental health challenges such as stress, anxiety and depression at an all-time high – not to mention the prevalence of huge political and environmental unrest – we are constantly living in our heads.
And yet, I didn’t even used to realise that I was thinking. When I suffered with anxiety in the past I would constantly feel gripped by it, and I found myself on a never-ending journey to seeking peace – even travelling as far as Bali to try and ‘heal’ myself. What I didn’t notice, though, until I began to get quiet, was that the inner peace I had been looking for was always within me, and simply hiding underneath layers of thinking.
As I began to see three simple truths – that 1) we think, 2) this creates our feelings and experience of life, and that 3) underneath all of this is the ever-present true essence of who we are (connection, peace, love or whatever we desire) – all of my anxiety began to fall away by itself. In that moment, I had an insight that changed everything. I realised we can find freedom from all our suffering – whether day to day things like anxiety or depression, or even heavier suffering like grief and trauma – without needing to do anything but seeing the role of thought.
This was a huge relief for me, because I had found it a full-time search outside of myself to try to be more whole and less anxious. I realised I could simply ditch self-help in favour of self-rediscovery, and that this is where our true freedom lies. All we really need is a deeper seeing of the innate wisdom we already have, underneath the thoughts that we don’t. I began to see that whilst the £13 billion self-help industry is thriving and our appetite for self-help has never been higher, we actually don’t really need to do anything but reconnect to our own wisdom! This is something I am writing a book about, because it is so important that we understand this new perspective. We don’t need healing, but instead need to see that we are already okay. It is empowering and profound, and yet so simple at the same time!
For World Mental Health Day, I created a #DoNothing campaign urging us to stop looking for external plasters in tools and techniques, and instead embrace self-inquiry through ‘doing nothing’. I want the world to see that there is nothing to do to fix ourselves, because we aren’t broken in the first place – and also, it is always okay to not feel okay. So, here are my three easy steps to embrace the art of doing nothing:
Allow yourself the time
Carve out 5 minutes each day for the next 7 days to simply sit or lie without distraction, without any technology, books or music – simply just being with yourself.
Begin to notice any thoughts that arise without trying to fix or change them, instead simply observing and seeing that a) they are not always true, and b) that our feelings come from our thinking.
Rest in presence
Rest in a present awareness of your wisdom. Notice the intelligence behind life that is living nature, that is living us. We don’t tell our hearts to beat or our lungs to breathe, so why do we tell our minds how to be psychologically okay? Notice how you can connect to a sense of calm whenever you want to. It is always there!
This is a powerful exercise in awakening our ability to experience our innate calm, irrespective of outside challenges. Of course, we don’t want to make doing nothing another ‘something’ on our to do list. The point is that there is nothing to do in order for us to be psychologically okay. This exercise, though, is great because it points us back to the truth, and the more time we spend resting in simply noticing our inbuilt wisdom, the more we can return to this feeling at any point – because it is always there, under the thinking that it isn’t!
About the author