(Translated from an article I wrote many, many years ago which was inspired by reading to my boys A. A. Milne’s Pooh books and by watching them in their own world…)
Doing nothing (October 1995)
“I like that too,” said Christopher Robin, “but what I like doing best is Nothing.”
“How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.
“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going of to do it, What are you going to do, Christopher Robin, and you say. Oh, nothing, and then you go and do it.”
“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.
“This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing now.”
“Oh, I see,” said Pooh again.
“It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”
“Oh!” said Pooh.
A. A. MILNE / THE HOUSE AT POOH CORNER (p. 172-173)
I remember when last I did nothing.
I was standing in the middle of the lawn, the sun streaming over my head, on my arms. A famous children’s song was playing on the record player at the nearby Kindergarten. Kids were running around, playing. It felt warm and safe and I was listening to all the things you could not hear and I was seeing all those things you could not see, not bothering…
I was suddenly jolted by an angry voice: “Stop dreaming and get into class!”
Guiltily I rushed to class feeling angry and ashamed. “Never,” I thought, “are they going to catch me like that again.”
They never did.
At 10 years old I stopped dreaming. I stopped seeing all those things you could not see. I stopped listening to all those things you could not hear. I stopped doing nothing and not bothering.
I grew up.
In the last few years I am working on “growing down”. I am attempting to do nothing again. Mostly through meditation, though taking a shower will do it sometimes, too, or seeing a movie. Or hugging my boy, sitting with him on the sofa, in the morning, in silence, doing nothing and having nowhere to go.
It is an art form I now have to re-learn.
You see, something important is taking place when a child, your child, is doing nothing. Something important is taking place when you are doing noting (though you will not catch many of us in that compromising position…).
Within the nothing we become enlightened.
Within the nothing understanding takes place.
Remember Newton who sat under an apple tree, doing nothing, when suddenly an apple knocked some sense into him and allowed him to re-write our physics books?
Remember Archimedes who discovered another physics law while lounging in the bath, doing nothing?
Within the nothing things find their rightful place.
Within the nothing we can see the whole picture. We can allow things that seemed unconnected to come together and create something new, effortlessly.
Within the nothing, articles are being written.
Doing nothing can only be done with a pure heart. A child’s heart. The heart of a child who have not yet learned that “just” being is inefficient and unproductive. That “just” being is not “right”.
The only requirement to doing nothing is the willingness and ability to let things be exactly the way they are.
To not add a thing. No guilt feelings and no “shoulds”.
Children are wonderful at “just” being. They are wonderful at doing nothing.
Children are naturally engaged in both the seen and the unseen world. In both the visible and the invisible. They are totally engaged. They are taking part at all that around them, exactly the way it is, while at the same time creating something totally new.
Children have in their hands the secret to living contentedly and creatively. The secret is out there, in the open and all we have to do is watch, learn and let go.
All we have to do is re-learn how to do nothing, and not bother.
Doing nothing means doing something that is beyond words, which is unfocused and cannot be explained. Something that encompasses the whole universe and includes all.
When we are doing nothing we are connected to the source, to all that there is. That is why nothing is usually done alone, in private.
Doing nothing is essential to living. It is as needed as the air we breathe. It is needed in order to grow, to be happy, to feel alive, to connect to higher power, to create, to be who we really are. That is why we all find “legal” ways to do nothing, ways that will eliminate the guilt involved with being inefficient…
We watch a movie or the TV, we meditate, we read a book that is connected to nothing, or if no one is watching we may just stare at nothing for a while…
But if we are kids, oh then we can just swing on the swing or sit on those special rocks, or play in the mud, or follow that cat to nowhere, or do any other thing that is totally unexplainable and call it nothing. It will include everything.
The next time you see your child doing nothing – tread lightly. Let him be. Leave him alone, allow him to do nothing. He is doing something that cannot be taught. He is doing something that many of us are trying to do again.
He is doing nothing.