Do Nothing

2016-06-28 Do Nothing

I have always enjoyed camping. We did it a lot growing up, mainly with Girl Scouts, but also as a family. But we haven’t camped as much in the last several years, just an occasional trip here or there. It had been a couple years since our last one when we went with friends two weekends ago.

What camping brought back for me that weekend was the slowness and do-nothingness that I’ve been lacking in my life lately, so I’m still reflecting on that and trying to make some of those important lessons part of my every day life again. Here’s my second piece related to that trip.

I lay the blanket out on the soft pine needles, straighten the flopped corners, and sit down. Two friends– and a greyhound– sit down beside me as the light breeze plays gently with our hair. The lake is stretched out, picture-perfect, in front of us, framed with evergreen branches that reach out toward the clear water. We watch as two of our husbands attach colorful dancing lures to their fishing rods and speculate about where the fish are hiding. One rolls up his pants and wades in a few feet. The other, my husband, steadies himself on a large rock and casts out his line.

I think, I should have brought a deck of cards or crossword puzzle so we could occupy ourselves while these two fish. I’m wrong. We don’t need the cards or the puzzle. We don’t need to occupy ourselves at all. 

I can’t remember the last time I sat in the shade of a pine tree on a perfect summer day. I can’t remember the last time I turned off my phone and noticed the color of the sky reflected in the lake. I can’t remember the last time I stopped all the busy-ness and did nothing at all. Until today. Today, we do nothing for a little while.

I have a terrible habit of letting the clock tell me what to do and how to feel. And I fill up every moment with work or school, events and parties, chores and DIY projects. Even the times when I have nothing scheduled or am too tired to do anything that requires effort, I fill those moments with tv and social media. Rarely do I sit doing nothing at all.

But here we are. Sitting. Looking, but not really watching. Hearing, but not really listening. Chatting, but not really talking. It helps that we might actually be all talked out right now– it’s been a weekend of catching up and asking big questions and supporting each other through some of life’s hardest things. So we just sit, or lounge, and let nature do some healing, even just a little bit. 

Have you sat and done nothing for twenty minutes recently? You should really try it. I may make it sound effortless, but it’s not at first. At first, you have to put down the phone– actually decide to put down the phone. Then you have to stop thinking about all the things you could be doing. Then you have to stop thinking of all the things you’re going to do later. Then you have to stop thinking about that how weird this feels.

Somewhere along this process you may have to put the phone down again (do you mindlessly pick it up when you’re hands are idle, like I too often do?). Just turn it off. I know, it’s risky, but it’s also exhilarating. Decide the texts and Facebook notifications and games and Googled answers can wait. Then … do nothing. Just sit. Don’t try to make conversation. Don’t give up too soon. Just let the nothingness sink in for a little bit.

There are so many things to do, aren’t there? Life is so full of engagements and responsibilities and tasks to complete. Trust me, I understand. I spend much of my time scheduling out the rest of my time so that I can get the most done, be productive. And then I follow that schedule with dedication fifty percent of the time, too exhausted or overwhelmed the other half of the time to do anything but watch a movie. Doing nothing seems pointless and wasteful of this resource that is always running out– time.

But just try it for half an hour, fifteen minutes. In nature is probably better, though not necessary (I’m just partial to warm breezes and wide open skies). And then let me know how it goes.

6 thoughts on “Do Nothing

  1. Thank you for this Jamie.

    I’ve sat still before. It is so enjoyable. It is in the stillness that we’ll hear the voice of God.

    I do like Chad’s assessment of the verse in Isiah. We are part of something bigger, beyond ourselves. It would do us well to forsake the selfishness and constant refrain of how things affect us and trade it for reflection on how we fit into the bigger picture, or just sit and be. He did say, “Be still and know that I am God.” When we are still, especially I find it true in nature, we will begin to grasp even the slightest sliver of God’s power, majesty, and peace. Just sitting allows us to experience a whole other plane.

    Also, your response to Chad makes sense. I really enjoy hosting and entertaining, but since I’m also struggling daily with approval addiction, I’m always concerned that I haven’t cooked, cleaned, or conversed well enough.


  2. How true. It is so hard to just sit and do nothing, yet so rewarding when we do. I feel like every year after trips like this, or vacations, the first thing we do when we come back is comment on how we need to spend more time relaxing and having fun, making it more a part of everyday life. But then the scheduling starts and the projects pile up and it all feels overwhelming so we work and work and try so hard to keep up. In reality, we’ll never keep up. We were never meant to.

    There was a line this morning as I was reading in Isaiah about God’s plan for his people, where they came from and where they were going. It talked about how God will “whistle for flies..and bees” calling them to settle in a certain area. And I thought, how often do we think that the story is about us? We think that God created this world for us and that the salvation story is about us; when really, we’re just one small part in the whole story. Here God is communicating with flies and bees and we think we’re the only ones that he talks to. And then I think about how we should treat nature and be a part of it and realize our place in it.

    It’s about perspective, and I love the perspective that sitting and enjoying the world around us can give.


    1. That’s really beautiful, and so true.

      It is really hard to not let the schedules take over. And I think there’s a perspective problem too when we’re constantly overwhelmed– even things that should be relaxing and fun become part of the rush. Like visiting with friends or going to BBQs and things that we so often do in the summertime. Those could be relaxing, do nothing moments, but because they are packed in with so many other projects and obligations, we are often rushing to arrive and can barely relax. I don’t know if that makes sense…


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