The Art of Doing Nothing
Why Italians, Not Americans, Get This One Right
Posted Sep 02, 2014
As one of the male characters begins his diatribe about how Americans’ ideas of “relaxing,” are working themselves to the bone all week just so they can lay around in their pajamas on weekends, drink six packs of miller light, and watch other people live their lives on TV- he presents to the audience the concept of la dolce far niente, or the sweetness of doing nothing.
The idea that “doing nothing,” is actually an event in and of itself. The idea that we no longer run on a treadmill of activity from getting the kids ready for school, to brushing our teeth, to conference calls, to picking up kids, fixing dinner, and bed- only to start over again. The idea that our actions day to day become influenced by our instincts and no longer by routines, shoulds, and musts.
How different would your quality of life be if you made time throughout the day to experience la dolce far niente? Instead of using your free moments to catch up on what housewife bought what SUV on HULU, instead of checking your email one last time to see if anyone else is needing you to do something, instead of using your free time to check your bank accounts or pay that cell phone bill- What if you just did nothing?
Fighting that urge to just do, that puritan work ethic instilled in all of us at an early age, is just as much effort as going to the gym and doing the stair climber. Yet the results of our restraint are well worth the hassle.
That kind of relaxation. The la dolce far niente. The sweetness of doing nothing and enjoying where we are in the present moment- is the greatest thanks we can give for the lives and blessing we have.
All the noise- the facebook, the reality TV, the latest and greatest no-one-can-get-in-there-without-calling-a-month-ahead restaurant…it all fades away when we can just do nothing. What surfaces is life- our feelings at the moment (whether it be grace or despair), our ego vanishes and our true self emerges.
Maybe you sit and read a book. Maybe you stare out the window or balcony and listen to your favorite musician. Maybe you learn how to whistle…meditate…stretch…lounge…or (gasp!) nap. What can you do today to begin doing nothing?
Dr. Colleen Long is the author of Happiness in B.A.L.A.N.C.E; What We Know Now About Happiness as well as Meditation Medication. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and couples therapist with practices in Los Angeles and Manhattan Beach, California. You can follow her on twitter or facebook, or visit her website.