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Friday, January 22, 2021

Karma Sutra: The supreme art of doing nothing

It’s important that we realise that even when we are not attending to anything, we are still doing something.

Written by Ritu S | New Delhi | Updated: June 15, 2016 1:11:54 pm
blank-board_759_ThinkstockPhotos-495071504 “Idleness is fatal only to the mediocre”. (Source: Thinkstock Images)

‘Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing’ — Lao Tzu

Our existence seems justified only when we are busy with a task at hand; only when we are occupied with something productive do we feel that we are making use of our time — in short, our life. This feeling of being of use or being busy is so deeply ingrained in us, especially during our formative years that we feel almost guilty when we indulge in a “non-productive activity” or are just lounging about, doing nothing.

And yet, when we are not attending to anything, we are still doing something. We are recharging ourselves. Most of us undermine the importance of leisure but without it we extend ourselves. Most of us undermine the importance of leisure but without it we extend ourselves to the point of a burnout. There’s a time to work and a time to play. Leisure activities help us become one with ourselves. It’s meditative in nature. Whether it’s gardening, sowing, reading… there’s no better therapy than these pastimes where we are completely immersed in the activity without worrying about the productive aspect of it.

Through these leisure activities we unleash the child in us, we discover our creative self. These leisure pursuits are an end in itself. While we can be creative in our vocation (work) and productive in our leisure activities (play), it’s our state of mind that makes all the difference. Mostly, we overwork as a means of self-escape. Our leisure activities are an antithesis to self-escape. It is a process of self-discovery. It enriches our inner world.

Read all the Karma Sutra columns here.

Even seeming non-activities like reflection and observation are just as potent in self-discovery as painting or writing are. Most ‘eureka’ and ‘Zen’ moments have happened during this state of ‘nothingness’. During this state of nothingness emerges that which is beyond the deliberate self. Through these seeming ‘non-activities’ we ponder over our strengths and weaknesses, our actions and reactions through various situations of life and learn to centre ourselves.

Philosopher-author Albert Camus had once said, “Idleness is fatal only to the mediocre”. For the mediocre, an idle mind turns into a devil’s workshop, but for the genius, it’s a creative playground where one reinvents, rediscovers and recharges oneself.

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