This time around we planned our vacation such that we would DO NOTHING except rest. We decided to go to Goa (an old favorite), stay at our familiar resort and simply spend the whole day alternating between the Sun, Water and Shade. An activity which we call "bumming on the beach" :-). After the hectic very active life that we live day to day, we thought this would be an ideal method to recharge the drained out batteries.
However we found that we were such creatures of habit, that it was actually quite challenging to simply lie around on the beach and do nothing.
The first day was really tough with a high amount of restlessness creeping in and a deep desire to DO SOMETHING. While we may have been physically relaxed, mentally we couldn't adjust to this inactivity.
The second day we started the day with a walk, carried a book each to read and again tried to just BE on the beach. Despite adding some activities, it was still quite tough. I observed that while we were trying to just BE physically, the mind was all over the place. While we were supposedly resting, we were still restless.
By the third and fourth day, the part about doing nothing started to grow on us. And we actually started to be able to just relax without doing anything at all. The environment was very also very supportive viz. Ocean, other lazy people on the beach essentially doing nothing, the sun, no interruptions, chilled beer on demand :-) etc.
I realised that for people like us (I call them the DOERS), our mind is at rest when we are doing something. I feel more relaxed when I am active and engaged. The activity could be writing a document, taking a walk, folding clothes, dusting the house, cooking, or whatever. It took us 3-4 days of practicing DOING NOTHING to get used to the idea of Rest.
Most of our lives are lived mechanically. While we are doing, our mind is continually churning thoughts. We are in essence multi-tasking. Driving the car and thinking about work, cooking and thinking about the evening shopping appointment, talking to a customer and thinking about home, etc.
To give you an example, reflect on the time when you are driving. Are you really present in the car? Are you aware of every inch of the road you move on? Are you aware every time you manipulate the car's controls. Ever reached your home and realized that there is a gap in the memory of the part when you left your office and when you reached your home. You were possibly preoccupied with the problems of work and were missing in the drive. Your drove home in autopilot.
This continuous mental activity causes immense amount of stress, anxiety and body ailments.
Mind you, I am not talking about Sleep as a form of rest, which is a natural cyclic method to rejuvenate the body. Even during sleep, you may not really be resting. (Ever had dreams/nightmares; Ever woke up feeling very sluggish and grouchy; Ever kept tossing and turning on your bed; Ever found it difficult to find sleep).
Lying down, sitting down, reclining are simply methods to relax the physical body. More often then not, it does precious little to calm the mind. In fact, the fact that you are at rest, gives the mind excess energy to be more of a monkey that it already is.
Rest as we have come to understand is the mental relaxation, the slowing down of the incessant thought stream, possibly being thoughtless for a while, being aware. This is the practice of MEDITATION. This is the practice of DOING things meditatively. This is the practice of being fully PRESENT in every action.
I have come to realise that for most people to become restful, they need to practice the activity of being inactive (Something we don't learn in shool, college or at home (unless you are lucky). )
To rest, I recommend the following
- PRACTICE taking frequent breaks from what you are doing and switch to another activity (Active Rest). This could be another aspect of your work, a short walk, or simply stare into the distance (your eyes will thank you for it)
- PRACTICE finding 2-3 slots of time a day, when you are sitting and simply observing your thoughts and not attending to them (Meditation). Over time and with regular practice, you will observe that the continuous stream of thoughts will be broken and will thin out.
- In your every day activities, PRACTICE slowing down and being fully present only in that activity (Being mindful)
To master the Fine Art of Doing Nothing, you have to Practice Doing Nothing.
Is this Paradoxical? Not in my opinion :-)