This somewhat famous lesson from the Buddha, "Do nothing. Time is too precious to waste." has indeed perplexed me from time to time, because there are so many important and worthwhile things to do. And there is also so much that really and truly needs to be done. But then, blessedly, I find myself just sitting quietly somewhere, maybe gazing up at the clear blue sky, or indulging in a little day dream, and then I get it. The being part of me, the human being, rather than the human doing, settles my mind once more, and I fall into a deeper reality, a freer and wiser place within myself.
There is such an emphasis on productivity in our Western culture, what with the rush and pushing of time. And yet so often our most profound understandings and our sudden unexpected inner knowings for our best course of action pop into our heads, not while we are trying to figure it all out, but instead these insights occur most often while we are doing nothing. It is as if we humans really do need to step aside once in a while, to let it all come clear and slide into place.
Ram Dass, in his seminal work, Be Here Now, demonstrated the bursts of creativity that can come when we allow ourselves to simply focus on the moment. Watching the cat stalking stealthily in the garden, or a bee visiting a series of flowers, gazing into a campfire, or taking in the silence and stillness of the night, letting the mind simply focus on what is present, for just a few minutes, now and then, is natural and a very important part of who we humans are.
In our rush of technology, and too often wrongly in the name of efficiency, somehow the current trend has resulted in us letting these precious moments of doing nothing slip farther and fewer away. Instead we play word games or distract ourselves with videos, leaving the television or the radio to play in the background. Or we listen to talks or the news. All good ventures unto themselves and completely justifiable. But not so good for the seemingly ever increasing abstinence from open windows of freely attentive time. Time where nothing is happening. Time where we are not trying to meditate or take a nap. Time where we just take a little break and let ourselves be.
Our brains get so used to us filling every moment with varying pursuits, sounds and distractions, that it actually starts to feel uncomfortable to do without. Open space for our mind's to gaze at something, or to wander around in, become no longer familiar, and it can start to feel really weird to do so, unless we consciously begin to cultivate empty time, intentionally, once again.
Allowing this free flow of mind is important, because it is in this open state of simple clarity that epiphanies arise. Inspirations live here. The non-focused gentle resting of our attention opens the door to our connection with everything. This is how we spontaneously see the bigger picture and move past our fears or self-imposed limitations and progress into the free flow of fresh ideas and more prescient understandings and deeper connections.
So, though I too can get frequently lost in the 'brownie points' of checking things off of my 'to do' list, and rushing on ahead to getting things done, the Buddha's words do reach through this furor from time to time and remind me of the clarity that I can find by just taking a moment to look around and do nothing. So, join me. Let's just relax and let the moment in.