OPW: Matthieu Ricard on Busyness

I’ve talked about Matthieu Ricard’s excellent Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill twice before. This bit is about how we’re all so afraid to slow down.

“Living it up” has become the leitmotif of modern man–a compulsive hyperactivity without any downtimes, no gap of unscheduled time, lest we end up alone with ourselves. The meaning doesn’t matter, so long as it’s intense. We feel that without constant activity, life would be fatally insipid. Friends of mine who lead cultural tours in Asia have told me how their clients can’t bear the least gap in their itinerary. “Is there really nothing scheduled between five and seven?” they ask anxiously. We are, it seems, afraid to turn our gaze in in upon ourselves. We are fully focused on the exterior world, as experienced through our five senses. It seems naive to believe that such a feverish search for intense experience can lead to a lasting enriched quality of life.

If we do take the time to explore our inner world, it’s in the form of daydreaming and imagination, dwelling on the past of fantasizing endlessly about the future. A genuine sense of fulfillment, associated with inner freedom, can also offer intensity to every living moment, but of an altogether different sort. It is a sparkling experience of inner well-being, in which the beauty of each thing shines through. It is knowing how to enjoy the present moment, the willingness to nurture altruism and serenity and bring the best part of ourselves to mature–transforming oneself to better transform the world.

personal, ruminations

How To Spend a Do-Nothing Day

Sarah MurrayDoing Nothing - Rain

It’s not as easy as it sounds, doing nothing. It’s too easy to think of all that you could be doing. All that you should be doing. In a country that seems to possess a cultural bias against stillness, doing nothing can feel dangerous. Immoral even.

It will also help, if you want to do nothing all day, to have nothing to do that day. No obligations of any kind. No work that needs doing. No driveway that needs shoveling. No social commitments that need attending. Not even phone calls that need to be made.

All prepared? Good.

Now wake up late, but not too late. 9AM is a reasonable time, 11AM is essentially too late, 1PM and you’ve already wasted your nothing day.

Then eat breakfast, preferably something that requires little work and creates little mess. Cereals–both hot and cold–are probably the best choice.

Should a dog need to be walked after the meal, ignore him for at least 15 minutes. And then, when you’ve rested from the exhausting effort of breakfast, take him. Not for too long, mind you. And not if it’s too cold.

Then, and only then, do you really want it to snow. If it’s the wrong time and place for that, rain would certainly suffice. Strong wind could work too. Anything that makes it unappealing to go outside.

Then put on some comfortable inside clothes. Get to a comfortable inside place. And do comfortable inside things. Reading, watching, listening. Baking, playing, organizing. Whatever it is that you like to do, do it. And do it a lot. You’ve got a whole day ahead of you. Don’t waste it on anything that needs doing, nor anything should be done. This is a day for things that could easily go without doing for years. Lifetimes even.

When meal times roll around, it’s imperative that you find food in the refrigerator. Knives are allowed but discouraged. Cooking by any method but the microwave is frowned upon.

Pretty soon, if you’ve done all this right, it’ll be late. Past-my-bedtime late. And you’ll sit up and wonder where the day went. But as you crawl into bed, be happy that you did it. You spent the day doing nothing.