To do great work a man must be very idle as well as very industrious. — Samuel Butler
In front of me, the clouds swirled patterns of multiple shades of gray like a watercolor on canvas. Behind me, wisps of gray were taking over the white clouds in the blue sky. Around my feet the wind whipped up the leaves with enough force to make some of them land on my head.
To my left I heard rustling, and wondered what the neighbors were doing up on the hill. Finally, curious enough, I turned my head and saw squirrels playing in the leaves, making as much noise as possible, just like little kids.
Chickadees with their dip and sway flight pattern flew past me to the feeder, and then back to the trees behind me on a regular basis. I just sat there, doing nothing, watching a storm come in, and listening to the sounds of nature prepare for the change the storm would bring.
One of my favorite times outside has always been right before a storm. The wind has a special smell and urgency to it. There is preparation in the air. In my imagination, I hear animals and insects talking with each other; maybe with a wag of a tail, or flick of an antenna, suggesting things that they should do before the rain begins. I prepared by making sure the feeders were full, and rescuing my kindle from my favorite reading spot on the deck.
A coming storm also brings the promise of a snug spot at home for me, and a nest, or a hole in a tree for my forest friends.
Although I sometimes grumble about missing California weather, when I sit outside in the changing seasons, I am grateful that I live, once again, where storms arrive with their energy and promise; that there is always something new to see, and that I have begun to learn the value of watching, doing nothing.
I am also grateful for the budding understanding that doing nothing is not a “can do some time when I have a chance,” but a “must do as much as possible;” because if I want to progress, evolve, understand, know more, expand, and be more of myself, I have to sit outside, doing nothing.
The truth is, I am doing something, but it is not the busy work of doing. I am doing what Del has been teaching us. Expanding my senses, listening for the smallest sound, accepting the noise instead of fighting it, watching the patterns that exist in nature, observing the collaboration, synchronicity, commonality, and Love that we call nature; the ultimate symbol and proof of a divine Intelligence.
Doing nothing but listening, we can hear direction from the only place we should be taking direction, the still small voice. Mohandas Gandhi said, “The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within.”
Imagine the leaders of nations sitting outside in nature, doing nothing. Doing nothing but listening to the guidance that only directs us to a higher understanding, wisdom, and unity.
As I watched the storm come in, ideas also moved in. Some were simple, like the rose bush needs to be tied up. Other ideas related to my business and the book and illustrations I am working on. Others were ideas that can’t be explained in words, but are changing something within. The hardest part, for me, was not to get up and start working on the ideas, but to take a brief note, and continue to listen.
This time of doing nothing in nature is often called “sit time.” It is a practice of mindfulness. It is a practice of learning how to expand the senses. It is a time of feeling the harmony and calm, that exists in nature, and making it part of ourselves. It is a practice of paying attention to all that is going on; from the wind, to how many planes fly over.
If I tell you it is a requirement towards a meaningful life, will you (and I) feel less guilty about doing nothing, just sitting and watching what nature is doing, instead of the doing nothing called busy work?
I intend to do more. I intend to break a habit of not taking time to do nothing.
If you want to join me in this sit-time of apparently doing nothing, here are some basics. Find a place outside that you can get to within a minute or two. If it takes longer than that, you won’t go on a regular basis. I have a few places that I go to, right outside my door; eventually I will narrow it down to one.
Make it a daily event. Aim for at least thirty minutes to an hour. Include meditation if you wish, yet it is a meditation all on its own.
Don’t wait for the next storm to come. Don’t wait for the right time. Don’t wait at all. Just go outside – dark, light, rain, shine. Make yourself comfortable, sit still, do nothing, and listen for the gifts awaiting your arrival. Something different will begin to happen, try it, you’ll see.
Go now. Do nothing!
Would you like to join us in our two month mindfulness practice? You can do it completely on your own, but with the power of a group behind you. Learn more here.