We are a very fidgety species. Apparently this is true physically and mentally. We can see this when we observe people who are closest to their unsocialized state–children. When kids aren’t physically checking out everything and anything, they’re busy asking questions. If this curiosity isn’t forced out of them, they grow up to be adventurous, inquisitive, happy adults.
There is another aspect of childhood that is frequently overlooked by we adults who are eager to mold children into people who act and think as we do. It’s the natural ability to do nothing.
Do you remember that part of your childhood?
Either out of sheer exhaustion or a sudden urge to just halt all the fidgety stuff for awhile, kids will just plop down. They stop doing and thinking. Kids have the skill to simply be alive. The English language has a great absence of adverbs and adjectives that describe this state of being. So we might pigeonhole this state of being into the category–do nothing.
By the time we grow into late adolescence and then adulthood, many of us attempt to rediscover the primal state of doing nothing. Sometimes it is thought of as another goal to achieve, like finishing one’s education, achieving a successful position at work, dating, and having a satisfying hobby. There are many people whose search for rediscovering that simplicity has become an avocation.
Maybe, for many of us, this search comes about from a desire to pause the neurosis of daily life for awhile. Modern life is full of stress, anxiety, and the social pressures for us to do more and be more. This search transcends the concept of letting go of one’s struggle in order to gain more productivity in an economic sense. The true sense of doing nothing, in the childlike manner, is about rediscovering our humanity for its own sake. The “do nothing” we’re inquiring about is not the kind of doing nothing as in giving up effort to accomplish a task. Nor is it apathy nor indifference towards responsibility.
There are many triggers that cause us to search for this do nothing state of spirituality. (I hesitate to call it spirituality, because that implies doing something, not doing nothing. I use the word spirituality as a convenient place holder word.) Maybe we have encountered death through the loss of a loved one or a brush with our own death. Maybe we feel the state of ennui or depression. Perhaps we’re tired of the frustrations of life so we want to “connect with God”. Maybe we feel powerless when facing times and events we can never control. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of vaguely remembering the do nothing times of childhood.
Many people search for this state of mind by practicing a religion. Other people follow a guru, or take up esoteric meditation practices. Others may become nihilistic. There are upsides and downsides to all of these. The catch is, these are searches for “the other”. We may discover that these practices are sophisticated techniques to re categorize ourselves.
We might succeed in shifting our philosophical, theoretical, “spiritual”, or mental frameworks. At best, we see things from different points of view. Yet there is still a lingering need to enhance love, bliss, state of peace, and unity with perfection.
Eventually, some of us observe that all this searching, studying, believing, and paradigm shifting have become mental fidgeting and stopped being tools that enable letting go. We discover we are tilting at windmills. We notice that we are attempting to live life according to the ideas we have inherited from our families and our social culture.
Is there a way to pause this mental conditioning? To ask the question is to find hope in yet another technique to engage us with still more mental fidgeting.
The “answer” is something that we knew when we were young kids. Just plop down for awhile and do nothing.