JUST MY OPINION...: The Art of Doing Nothing

I heard a very interesting interview about the Dutch concept of doing nothing.

It’s called niksen. My full attention was immediate, as I thought I know about this concept quite well. I am sure I do it often and very successfully too. How hard can it be to do absolutely nothing for at least an hour, as that is what the niksen guru recommends.

Shortly after the interview, I started to read articles and do some research on the practice of niksen. It quickly became very clear to me that in this practice one prepares oneself to do nothing, intentionally. One must set an hour of time aside, to sit in a very comfortable environment preferably in nature, and one has to consciously plan to do absolutely nothing. One just must let oneself “be” in the moment. No thoughts should be intruding that moment. Just relaxing the brain.

That is the entire focus of niksen.

Up to this point, doing nothing for me meant wasting my time. In fact, I was actively wasting my time by mindlessly watching the TV screen, scrolling through my iPhone or staring at my iPad. I was comfortable sitting on the rug doing nothing. But I caught my mind wandering in every direction, observing and creating more anxiety, more stress and more to think about.

Meditation never worked for me either for those very reasons. Mindfulness activities were never practical for me because most days were very busy ones. Therefore, it was never realistic for me to effectively bounce off my thoughts as I were supposed to with, perhaps a mental tennis racquet.

I was ready to find another way to clear my mind. Niksen may be the answer. The art of doing absolutely nothing! But how to begin?

We are, at the moment, snowbirds in a place of warmer climate. One early morning, I decided to sit by the swimming pool when no one was around to see me trying to do absolutely nothing. Water naturally has a calming effect, so I sat down on a comfortable lounge chair by the large sparkling swimming pool. That was my starting point. I stared at the water, I let myself “be” and I allowed my thoughts to go where they will.

Oh! How I struggled. After a few minutes, I noticed a water toy floating by. I really should retrieve that toy, was my thought. I didn’t.

Then I began to rehash mentally a text message I sent to a friend; how defensive I’d been. I wanted to re-read that text at that very moment and resolve the issues.

This is not working for me, I thought. I was really thinking how I just wasted 30 minutes of pretending to be doing nothing but in fact my mind was doing cartwheels of jumbled thoughts trying to make sense out of them. At the end of the niksen exercise I was supposed to feel stress-free, lightheaded and with clear thinking. I felt none of these!

I was thinking more along the lines of, what a beautiful morning it was, with full sun and warm gentle breeze. And I really could use a cup of coffee right about now. Niksen or even meditation, I found out, are not for me. I need to make a conscious effort to focus and for me to gain some benefits, I need to relax into it naturally. I have to say though, that I discovered how challenging it can be to sit and do absolutely nothing, not even thinking. I must do better the next time.

Unfortunately, the unvarnished truth is, that I have more time behind me than in front of me and so, I cannot spend time doing absolutely nothing.

I will try again though, in a different space and in a different time.

It’s just my opinion
Éva H.

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