The power of doing nothing

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

– William Henry Davies



I read this poem recently, and it struck something inside me that called to a deeper instinct to stop my incessant rushing. It’s true, I have been guilty of rushing so much that I forgot to actually stop and listen to what I needed. Rushing to my Zumba class, rushing to yoga, feeling obliged to go to town at night to socialise, waking to my alarm in the morning, rushing breakfast and zooming to work. All week, every week. Sound familiar?

Along with this rushing, if I pay attention I can notice a harder heart beat and a snappiness to my voice (the love of my life is usually on the receiving end). Also my brows furrow and shoulders slightly hunch (this makes me more streamline and able to move faster but is also quite a painful way to live). This is not the real me. It’s one version and I’m not entirely to blame. We begin our rushing practice as little tiny children, learning to arrive at school on time and getting our pasta necklaces finished during class. As adults we have refined and perfected our rushing, and tick off lists of 10-20 separate demanding activities every day! It’s amazing and impressive but really, honestly, sometimes we need a break.

And not a break like ‘I should really be doing some relaxing and beneficial things for my health today’ and making lists and ticking them off, feeling frustrated when interrupted. A real break!! Actual time out!! No ‘shoulds’ allowed.

So here are 10 ways you can catch a real break. Don’t use a single one of them if you can’t be bothered.

  1. Stay in bed for as long as you want
    Next time you have a day off let yourself wake up without an alarm clock and ask yourself if you feel like getting up. If the answer is no, don’t! Lie there in whatever position you want, go back to sleep, stare at the ceiling, read whatever novel you want. Pay attention to your heart’s desire. Listen out for that voice in your head that judges you and tells you you’re lazy etc. Laugh at it and continue to enjoy your rest. Of course family responsibilities exist and if you have little ones that are curious about your disappearance invite them to join in! After all, parents are the greatest teachers.
  2. Take your yoga practice down to the next level
    Let’s get out of this habit of thinking that yoga is always meant to challenge and improve you. If you are someone who is used to doing 10 rounds of Surya Namaskar to feel normal, try just getting on your mat, lying down and having a roll around. Organic movement for as long or as short as you want- let it be whatever it is, even if you end up doing some spontaneous hard-core yoga workout. Anything from lying in shavasana for a few minutes, to a little bit of cat/cow. It’s all good stuff and it’s all enough.
  3. Miss a class!
    Do you have a class you go to every week religiously? Next time you feel you can’t be bothered to go, how about giving it a miss for one week. Stay at home with a cuppa. Spin class will still be there next week, you won’t forget how to play piano or do yoga. Listen to your instinctive needs.
  4. Bath time
    The classic and long time favourite for relaxing is a bath. Ask everyone else in the house if they need the toilet FIRST so you don’t get disturbed and warn then you  will be at least 45 minutes. Baths are one of the best inventions ever because you get clean (sort of) by doing nothing (almost). But more importantly than this, they feel very luxurious and decadent which gives you a chance to really get into being inactive. Even better? Make yourself a chai tea, hot chocolate or other beverage. Better still a bath in the middle of the day is lush.
  5. Call in sick for work
    This one may feel very risqué but is it really? When was the last time you had a spontaneous day off? Have you worked through illness, periods, discomfort and depression before, when you would really prefer to be recovering your mind and soul somewhere dark and quiet? We are people, not machines and the sooner this society gets used to that, the better. So next time you wake up feeling like you can’t face the day at work, allow yourself not to. Or at least ask yourself ‘is today’s work more important than my health’. Consider that we have this one life to live and we might as well live well. Most likely the company you work for will recover from your absence, but chronic overworking is not so easy to recover from.
  6. Walk somewhere slowly
    If you have an urge to be moving around, wrap up warm if it’s cold out, and wander aimlessly down the street, letting your eyes fall on your surroundings and your mind be at ease. Feel like speeding up, go for it. Even break into a run for a block or two until you fancy stopping. There are no laws and rules. You may find the urge to actively engage in exercising to make yourself healthier but don’t forget that getting into the habit of letting the mind be relaxed and floppy for a while will probably have a very beneficial impact on your mental health.
  7. Cuddle an animal
    Many people have pets at home and they often demand a lot of attention and loving. Our important human lives get a bit too busy to stop for long and have a good cuddle. Next time your dog or cat roll around on the carpet get down and join them. Forget your chores for ten minutes and indulge them. It feels silly but they will love you so much for it. Spending time with animals is also stress relieving and we can learn a lot from our furry friends as they remind us of our own instinctive nature.
  8. Get into bed in the day time
    If you work from home or have a day off and feel like some time out, a bit of bed rest might be just the thing. The best is when you have only been up for a couple of hours and find yourself wanting to snuggle back into bed. Whose stopping you? That voice inside your head again? You know what to do.
  9. Film night
    Get all the duvets and pillows in your house into one place (if you have kids this job can be delegated), if you feel it’s worth the effort make a batch of popcorn, and stick on a random film with half-decent ratings. Anyone who wants to climb into the duvet fort can and if you’re alone, you can enjoy the whole experience to yourself. When the film ends stick on an episode of friends or another favourite if you fancy it.
  10. Create your own weekend retreat
    Let your family or close friends that you will be hermitting for the weekend so don’t expect anything from you. This is time for doing whatever you want, no more and no less. This is a great time for staring as long as sheep, rebelling against the frantic over-activity of today’s society, scrolling Facebook, looking at the sky, gentle yoga, cups of tea, cuddles with family, spontaneous dancing, sleeping, saying ‘I can’t be asked’ and generally chilling out. After all, society’s expectations are often not in line with our natural needs. Put yourself first for once and enjoy it whole-heartedly. Remind yourself that if you feel guilty, it is because you  have been taught to. Begin to re-educate yourself by letting go of what you feel is expected and taking hold of what’s important. 

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