Master The Art of Doing Nothing

Life Balance

Ann Pardo, Director of Life Management, Canyon Ranch in Tucson

By Ann Pardo

We’re all busy women with busy lives. We’ve got friends, bosses, rabbis, dentists, kids, husbands, mothers-in-laws, pets, and all the “works”- housework, homework, busywork, yard work and work-work.  I floss, brush, scrub, revise, manicure myself - and the yard. I shovel, type, mail, drive, import and export both people and things (never mind ideas). I clean, straighten, cook, fret, think-think-think, revise again, and converse and emote and solve….

Where do we have time for all this? How can it all be done?

By doing the exact opposite of what you think you should do – by doing nothing. Think about it, What if we did JUST enough to gracefully fill a day, rather than frantically racing from activity to activity and switching from role to role? What if we…

  • let our breath slow down and be “complete breathing”? Complete breathing is healthy breathing and this means about 6- 8 breaths a minute.
  • let our brain waves sway into slower rhythms? Slower brain wave activity can be a healthy way to balance on-the-go brain waves.  This is the difference between beta brainwaves and alpha brainwaves.
  • let our thoughts be as slow as a caterpillar on a broad leaf?
  • let our muscles have a few minutes to melt into graceful shapes? Relaxed muscles are healthier than tense muscles. 
  • let our important, intimate relationships support our slower breaths, our slower brain waves, our graceful bodies? Complete interactions create better breathing, better heart rates and better blood pressure.

Below is a 3-step process for designing a time and space to experience sheer luxurious simplicity, aka doing nothing.

Step One: Ask yourself how much time you have to be only with you, only about you, concerned with nothing EXCEPT you.

You’re a busy woman and your life is full of exquisitely important things. Chances are that people depend on you to solve important problems -- that other people NEED you.  So consider this – If you’re not making the time for rest, how well are you able to support your loved ones, and yourself? Remember IT IS PERMISSIBLE TO HAVE 20 MINUTES TO YOURSELF.  Not only is it a good thing to do, but it may actually create some healthy outcomes for you and the people depending on you.

Step Two: Simmer, savor and relax. 

Choose a place that will be designated your area for rest. (If it’s a place you enjoy, you’ll be more likely to want to go there.) Try these ways of simmering down:

  • Write in a journal that is your favorite color.
  • Walk slowly through your neighborhood and smell what’s around you.
  • Watch hummingbirds; hear their happiness.
  • Slowly trace the alphabet with your hips; make the letters as big and as sensuous as you can.
  • Make one cup of brewed tea and smell the tea leaves.  Notice the feel of the cup against your lips.
  • Hold a velvet pillow against you chest and feel the luxury of the fabric.

Step Three: Choose a way to do nothing or as some of us say, ‘…to disappear myself.’ 

This is one of the ways teachers explain meditation – as emptiness, as unity of purpose, thought, action.  Some call it simply sitting.  Try it.  Turn off the cell phone, choose a place, get into a graceful, symmetrical, comfortable position and close your eyes.  Now simply notice your breath.  Notice the way it feels to breathe in and how wonderful it is to breathe out completely… Thoughts will stray into your head; do not fret, simply refocus on the breathing -- one slow inhale and its best friend, the slow complete exhale.

If you take just 20 minutes, you will refresh your brain, your mind, your body, and perhaps a piece of your soul.  Try to work up to giving yourself a full day of doing nothing – think of it as a mini-vacation or spa day, without going anywhere or spending any money.  You may be pleasantly surprised by the effects. And this means Health!!!

Ann Pardo is the director of life management at Canyon Ranch in Tucson. Pardo has a Master's degree in counseling from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, a Bachelor's degree in dance therapy from Columbia College of Chicago and a Bachelor's degree in Italian literature from the University of Massachusetts. Pardo is an avid cyclist, biking advocate and ride leader/ bike safety patrol for El Tour de Tucson.

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  • I almost hit the "delete" button on the email before taking the few minutes I did to read it; and everything clicked into place. I had forgotten those 3 little steps that if you take to heart, can lead to a less stressful life. I was in the middle of a work meltdown, normally I am very patient, but as "wonder woman" many of my co-workers tend to push the envelope on asking to take on a project for them. Always one to stay at my desk during break, lunch, etc., I literally got up and walked away for 15 minutes. I found a nice spot outside where I was able to listen to the family of birds nesting closeby and felt the tension melt away. God bless you for reminding me of the 3 little steps!

    Posted by charm126, 11 March 2010.

  • I used to think that I had to work continuously to feel productive. I have incorporated more me time into my life, by walking when I felt like it, by knitting, when I wanted solitude, by giving myself permission to take a nap, when I felt tired. I even give myself permission to eat only when I am hungry. I am grateful about the time I have with myself, which nurtures my soul.

    Posted by Daniela, 8 March 2010.

  • I have never had any time of "doing nothing". I guess that is why I am usually so stressed out. I spend way too much time taking care of other people to think about me. Thank you for this wonderful article. I am going to try very hard to follow it's principles.

    Posted by AnnCares, 8 March 2010.

  • Gosh! This really hits home for me. I know it is so important to take time for just me, do I do it all the time or as much as I should? Not at all. I enjoy quiet and serene moments where my mind can become clear and at ease. Life is such a gift and should be cherished. Take a moment at a time is my motto. Simple is what I need to bring each day. I like the statement of 'to disappearing myself'.

    Posted by brookiej637, 8 March 2010.

  • I've come to appreciate the quiet times to relax and have nothing to do!

    Posted by rdgeronimo, 8 March 2010.

  • Mastering the Art of Doing Nothing allows me to "hear". I can hear my
    own heart beating strong. I can hear nature, like birds and wind in the
    trees. I can hear God guiding me. This all brings me peace...and is peace not what everyone is searching for? It's this easy! Pass it on.
    Sheri, 47

    Posted by smiles2u, 8 March 2010.

  • I've come to cherish the times when the house is quiet and this explains why. Thanks for the reminder.

    Posted by KarenGS, 2 March 2010.