So right now, at this moment, I can write, read, play music, or listen to it. In the writing department, I can write not only essays and stories, but songs as well. For reading, I have Joan Didion’s “The White Album” by my side. If I were to go home, I’d also have guitar as an option.
And right now, I just don’t want to do these things.
Sometimes, no matter how hard we work at setting up a life, no matter how active we make that life, there are simply times where all of the things that we can do with that life, at the moment, don’t appeal to us. We could be in the middle of a time that offers the most exciting thing that someone could do, and still, our mind pushes it aside as if waving away an irritating statement from annoying little child who wants us to go outside and play with him. Yes, the kid is adorable, and it’s true that I could use some fresh air, but I’m just not in the mood for tag.
In fact, I don’t know what I'm in the mood for.
Yet as I contemplate this moment in which writing, reading, playing the guitar, and listening to music hold no appeal for me, I once again turn to an activity that has, lately, turned out to be something I like to do very much:
I close my eyes, breathe, and concentrate on being happy with the living that I’m doing at that particular moment.
There’s no truth to the sentence “I’m doing nothing.” When I’m sitting there all knotted up because I want to do something and can’t think of what I want to do, I’m doing something, even if it’s what people would call doing nothing. But it’s not; what I’m doing, during those times, is thinking about the fact that I want to be doing something else besides whatever is available for me to do at that moment.
Sometimes, during these moments, I know what it is that I want to be doing. Of course this leads to the frustration that comes with knowing that there’s something else that I want to, and that I can’t do it at that moment.
Worse, though, is when I know that I want to be doing something else, but just can’t quite figure out what it is. So I sit there, surrounded by books and my Bluetooth keyboard and guitar, and all of these things feel as if they’re betraying me.
Yet I know that I could deal with this a lot better if I keep working at this whole sitting somewhere with my eyes closed thing. They call this meditation, but to me, it is, at it’s core, merely the cultivation of the ability to say to myself “concentrate on everything that’s going on, right now.”
A while back, I wrote about how I envy creative people who do creative things and are completely in the moment, completely focused on whatever it is they’re doing. Then my friend Joe replied, rightly, that it is virtually impossible to be fully engaged in any creative endeavor—any endeavor at all, in fact—all the time, every moment. No matter how appealing the endeavor, there comes a point at which we grow tired of it, and need a break.
Which is why, it would seem, it’s so important to get to like the whole deal of just sitting down, closing the eyes, and breathing in and out. This is the best kind of Doing Something, even if people call it Doing Nothing. Yes, my mind says during the times I’m actually successful at this (it can be incredibly hard to do), there are other things to do, but isn’t this whole sitting with my eyes closed and breathing deeply thing great?
Indeed it is. Because when I open my eyes after it really works, those other choices somehow have reset themselves. Yes, I say to myself, writing or reading or playing the guitar or listening to music suddenly seems like a great idea, provided that it’s occasionally interspersced with time spent with good friends.
So as I sit here writing, I occasionally stop, steeple my fingers, sit up straight, close my eyes, and breathe. I don’t try to blank out my mind, because I know it will always be full of thoughts, so I simply turn my mind to thinking about all the things that are going on at the moment: the sound of my breath, the feel of my clothing, and parts of my knuckles my fingertips are touching when I hold my hands together.
Of the options available at the present moment, it is always there, and it always seems to make everything else a lot more appealing when I start doing those things. That’s why for me, it will always count not as doing nothing, but as doing something that makes all those other things else a lot more enjoyable and rewarding when I do them.