The emptiness of doing nothing is full of growth

I recently spent a week in Spain at the house of my best friend. I was allowed and had the luxury to do absolutely nothing for a week. My agenda was empty, my daily schedule was empty, my mind even managed to become empty (well sort of…).

Emptiness as a human condition is generally associated with boredom, social alienation and apathy. Feelings of emptiness are often accompanied by loneliness, depair or even depression. A sense of emptiness is also part of a natural process of grief (for example after a separation or death) or other significant changes. However, the particular meanings of “emptiness” vary with the particular context and the religious or cultural tradition in which it is used.(1)

While Christianity and Western sociologists and psychologists view a state of emptiness as a negative, unwanted condition, in some Eastern philosophies such as Buddhist philosophy and Taoism, emptiness (Śūnyatā) is a realized achievement. Outside of Eastern philosophy, some writers have also suggested that people may use a transitory state of emptiness as a means of liberating themselves for personal growth.(1)

No one can see their reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see. — Taoist proverb.

Many people are unable to ‘do nothing’. I admit I have my difficulties with it. As soon as I have some ‘free time’ I like to finally read those books that have been building up on my shelves. Others fill their empty evenings with television, partying…

I was in Spain with my two kids – so the days weren’t really empty :-) I had to entertain them a little, supervise them when they were in the pool or at the beach. But the rest of my days were devoid of the usual to do’s, chores, musts and shoulds (thanks mainly to my wonderful friend who did not let me cook, clean or wash up! – and no, I will not give you her address! :-)

Besides being a creativity technique, doing nothing is also something many of us try to achieve when we go on holidays, when we look for some peace and quiet. There are many (at least 57) reasons to go on a retreat for example (check out the one I am organising in November).

When you are in Spain in the summer, the heat forces you to take a nap, which, among other things, makes you happier and healthier.

So besides reading, napping and watching the kids, the emptiness allowed me to deeply rest, to see some things more clearly, to look at my still water and see.

With the busy lives we lead, we have to plan such ‘empty slots’ into our agenda. Like an appointment with the hairdresser, a dinner with friends, schedule some empty time into your calendar (and try no to fill it with something else!).

I am already planning another week in September! When are you?


(1) source; Wikipedia

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