Doing nothing: the ultimate form of self-care?
How Doing Nothing Helps Accomplish Everything
“The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. The best way to govern is to let things take their course,” Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher, 500 BC.
When people are allowed to act freely and follow their own inclinations, they’ll naturally find their own way and create harmony in society.
The concept of “wu wei” or “non-action” in Taoism is the idea that we’re more effective when not forcing or struggling against the natural flow of the universe. “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished,” Lao Tzu wrote in the Tao Te Ching.
Another Chinese philosopher, Zhuangzi, also loved to go with the flow of the universe. “The fish trap exists because of the fish; once you’ve gotten the fish, you can forget the trap. Words exist because of meaning; once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?” This illustrates the idea that true understanding comes from letting go of preconceptions and being open to the world as it is.
Confucius also emphasized the importance of non-action as a part of his philosophy, writing, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is the noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
The idea is that true effectiveness and understanding come from going with the natural flow of the universe, rather than trying to control or force things to happen. In effect, by “doing nothing” we allow a larger power to take over.
For me, doing nothing blunts the edges of ego, allowing the deeper murmurings of intuition to emerge…
Allowing “nothingness” and dulling ambition creates an inner space that allows joy to flow in. If we’re always busy, we may never find this space.
Of course, “doing nothing” doesn’t mean being lazy or unproductive; rather, it means taking a break from the constant stimulation and activity of our lives and allowing our minds and bodies to rest and rejuvenate.
But perhaps one of the greatest benefits of doing nothing is that it allows us to tap into our creativity and come up with new ideas. As the famous inventor and futurist Buckminster Fuller said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Sometimes, the best way to build that new model is to step away from our work and allow our minds to wander.
So, next time you feel overwhelmed or stuck, remember the words of the playwright Oscar Wilde: “I can resist anything except temptation to work.” But do resist that temptation, at least for a little while. Allow yourself the time and space to do nothing, and you may be surprised at the results.
Doing nothing is not a crime, it’s the ultimate form of self-care, how we recharge to come back stronger. So, enjoy those breaks, those naps, those books … relish every moment of silence doing nothing. Your mind and body will thank you.
Ironically, doing nothing more often may inspire your most productive era.