Don’t just do something, sit there!

Wheat grass and a warm radiator. Noah is content.
Wheat grass and a warm radiator. Noah is content.

I grew up in a household of rushers. I don’t remember ever seeing my mother sit down and just relax, or simply appreciate doing nothing. If my father wasn’t reading (usually the newspaper) or watching TV, he didn’t sit either. Sitting and relaxing were suspicious activities, often met with the words, “If you don’t have anything to do, I’ll find something for you.” But for all of this rushing about, they were both fairly unhappy with their lives, and somewhat believed that they were the victims of circumstances beyond their control, which led them to push harder, with still more frustrating results.

When I first began trying to work with my mind, to slow down, sit and do nothing but relax and imagine the outcome (of whatever it was that I was hoping to achieve), the thoughts that I was being lazy, irresponsible, and unproductive assaulted my mind with the words, “DO SOMETHING!”

I eventually began to see that calmly imagining what I wanted to happen, letting it go, and trusting that the right outcome would unfold, was doing something.

In this new year of 2013, I intend to relax more, smile more, breath more consciously, and trust more.

Try not to be tense or hurried. Tension and hurry delay demonstration. You know that if you try to unlock a door hurriedly, the key is apt to stick, whereas, if you do it slowly, it seldom does. If the key sticks, the thing is to stop pressing, take your breath, and release it gently. To push hard with  will power can only jam the lock completely. So it is with all mental working. In quiet and confidence shall be your strength.” pg. 156, Alter Your Life by Emmet Fox

36 thoughts on “Don’t just do something, sit there!”

  1. Love it, Mary…..”inaction is a form of action” , sometimes harder but the rewards are huge, to sit with myself , by myself with no distractions……”wonders hidden from view that come with being still” !!!!

  2. Mary, thank you for all your wisdom-filled stories, amazing quotes and great cat/dog photos … Best wishes for a healthy, happy 2013 to you and the WFF friends…

  3. I can so relate to this post. In the past I have found it difficult to just sit and relax. BUT…if I go outside and let nature entertain me, or sit at my window and watch all the winter birds feed, I can sit for hours! Time flies by and I am so relaxed and happy. So for me, combining relaxation with nature, any time of year, cures my tendency to rush rush rush. Happy New Year to all!

  4. That was just the reminder I needed right now to stop all the rushing around trying to clean up the house after Christmas. I’m going to go watch the birds at the bird feeder for a while!

    Loved the quote from Emmet Fox, too.

    Thanks –

    Susan R.

  5. Dear Mary, thanks for the great Emmet Fox quote and the reminder to slow down and live with awareness and peaceful intent. A wonderful way to look upon the new year and to allow things to unfold naturally and with wonder. Happy New Year! Thanks too for the invitation to share 2012 stories….it was such fun to read everyone’s positive comments and to reflect with positive thoughts upon life and the ability to see things with lightness.

  6. “If you don’t have anything to do, I’ll find something for you.”
    Such echoes from my childhood, Mary, I’d feel guilty if caught lying on my bed, reading; I always had to be ‘doing’ something useful and productive. I became ‘a doer’. I am unable to sit in meetings discussing fundraising projects such as cutting the crusts off sandwiches to serve or not (this actually happened years ago). When I discovered quilting, which led to designing, which led to teaching quilting, which led me into art college, I finally found an ‘excuse’ to just sit. But as to letting my mind focus on some mental activity that wasn’t productive, no. Once a doer, always a doer? Not allowing things to happen instead of trying to wrestle the answers I want out of life. I smiled when I read the title of the post as it came into my inbox and I smiled at Noah flaked out beside the wheatgrass on the radiator. And now, my homework begins. You have set forth a task to which I plan to become mindful of. How successful I will be, is not known. It’s hard to change the stripes on a cat.
    SandyP in Canada

    1. Now see, these differences in upbringing and childhood experiences are so fascinating to me, because I grew up in a family of sitters. My predominant memory is of everyone sitting in a chair or on the floor, reading. I always felt my life was overwhelmingly a life of the mind, and I envied children who grew up in athletic households where everyone dashed around playing soccer and softball. My struggle in late adulthood has been to stop sitting still and get moving.

  7. OMG Mary, when you quote your parents I hear my mother’s voice. Today’s “If you don’t have anything to do, I’ll find something for you.” has to be related to the “stop crying or I will give you something to cry about.” I think I took all of those sayings and decided I would be a better parent.
    I still struggle with taking time for myself and often feel guilty if a day goes by and I haven’t been my most productive. My mother can still make me feel inadequate when (at 84) she talks about cleaning which includes taking down and washing curtains, moving furniture to thoroughly clean under it, washing windows, etc…I enjoy clean but there is so much more to life than an immaculate living space!

  8. I loved your post today. More people should think of incorporating time in their day to do nothing! I too was brought up by ambitious parents and was tought to be productive in all things. Doing nothing is a skill to be devoloped for a happier life. Your quote from your parents made me laugh. I too heard that one many times.

  9. I became very annoyed with the remark, get out of your comfort zone! having worked my entire life, now, in my 70’s, retired finally, having discovered the joy of meditation, and loving to read, I am finally in a place to find my comfort zone! And I am in it, and staying there! Happily!

  10. Mary, you are such a blessing! This message resonates with me today as i sit in the hospital next to my now-fiance, who had open-heart surgery last Thursday. His recovery is going slowly and I have been stressing over getting him home (we are at a heart specialty hospital over a hundred miles from home).

    Thanks to the adorable pic of Noah and your wise words, I am going to practice *sitting still* and letting the excellent staff here do their jobs. It is not up to me to push the river. My mantra for today will be that the wonderful people here are giving Brad exactly what he needs for perfect health.

    Happy New Year and abundant blessings to the Flock.

    1. Ah Kelly, now I know what I was praying for when I saw your FB posting. I will continue, and I know that you will find Brad getting better every day. Blessings to you both and much good health going forward!

    2. I am picturing a warm healing hand over Brad’s chest, warm healing arms around you, Kelly, and warm blessings to the staff caring for Brad.

  11. You described my upbringing perfectly, Mary! I have always felt guilty,even as a child,to simply sit,relax,ponder,be grateful for the present moment and everything that brought me to it. “Victims of circumstances beyond their control” Wow! That is exactly how my family has lived and continues to this day. And how unbelievably poignant that you post this now,because I have been thinking these last few days,as we enter a new year,how I desperately need to SLOW DOWN and FEEL who I really am and how I truly wish to live my life. I feel as though a tremendous weight has been lifted from me. I feel hope and anticipation for my life,instead of dread and anxiety.

    Thanks for reaffirming my feelings.

  12. Marian – I too grew up with a mother who impulsively cleaned – she did a spring cleaning and a fall cleaning. She washed the kitchen floor every day. Fortunately my grandmother lived with us and she had plenty of time for me. I keep my house clean, but not spotless, and I feel no guilt when I “do nothing”.
    I’ve realized after 62 years that I need to take time to be alone, quietly.

  13. Oh,and Kelly French Trierweiler,I have been where you are. It is scary,overwhelming,a place in Life where one must have great faith,endurance and strength. My heart goes out to you. I will pray for you. You will endure. It’s a rough patch. You are exactly right in having loving,grateful thoughts towards the situation and the caregivers. All the best to you.

  14. you nailed it for me today, mary. i’m practicing mindfulness. walk to walk; this is all there is right now. there is nothing else going on right now. eat to eat; surrender to the now. when i think surrender, a calm comes over me, lets me breathe and sigh deeply. i need to be reminded often. yes, trusting the unfolding of the right outcome is doing something. thanks for the powerful reminder.

  15. My parents were readers and tinkerers, but decidedly unathletic. Hence (I say) I totally hate getting sweaty, sore or hurting from exercise. Only swimming is palatable to me, and I don’t do it enough. This week we’ve had a delightful family with us, the Mom of whom is an avid athletic health nut. A friend for 30 years, her mega-athletic family is slightly annoying to me & her comments on my health not appreciated. “I just want you to be here for their grandkids” she defends herself. Hmmmpf. Today’s post reminds me to go with MY flow and improve in MY way, but darn, it’s hard to change habits! Hopefully the first few months of ’13 will see me lose that 25 lbs AGAIN….sigh…

    1. Now that I’m 70, Kathi, my slogan has become, “Life is short. Eat dessert first.” That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

      I, too, want to go with MY flow. I think I’ve earned it after living a life, raising kids, working hard…and so that’s exactly what I intend to do. As much as possible, the rest of my life will be lived MY way, and with no apologies!

      I see many days of freedom ahead……

  16. Thank you for another perspective on that generation. I grew up with the same mentality. A lot of lost imagination time. Happy new year Mary. Et al

  17. My grandmother and grandfather would travel by car all the way from the northwestern tip of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Midland, Michigan (two hours north of Detroit) – and all I can remember is my grandmother cleaning the house from top to bottom in a spring cleaning frenzy with my Mom, who already kept a clean house, but had to have been intimidated by her own mother’s cleaning mania – My own Mom has passed on – fortunately she didn’t inherit the ‘let’s spend quality time cleaning’ genes! Last Wed., day after Christmas when I got my sudden attack of sniffles after my walk, I took the rest of the DAY off practically, in my Lazy Boy, unheard of to loll about so! But guess what? I whipped that cold in the bud, felt great the next day, and was reminded of how nurturing it is to sit, read at leisure, nap, listen to music. Here’s to finding quiet, slow moments every single day, flock! in 2013.

  18. It has taken me 70 years to push aside the guilt of not doing things the way my Mom did them.

    I used to think it was a hackneyed phrase, “Take time to smell the roses,” because my Mom never stopped for one moment, and that left me not knowing how to do it. Now I know how much truth there is in that phrase and I remind myself every day to cultivate these types of moments. And I’m better for it.

  19. I grew up with a mix — father who could not and would not sit still and mother who never got off the couch. Much bickering and disharmony and judgments about this (not just between them, but my deciding which was the “right” way to be). So, I’m pretty much the “have to be doing something constructive and busy” or else I don’t give myself permission to do reading or stitchery or just plain old sitting. Time to start looking at my activities and my viewpoints of each and of myself. Thanks for the reminder.

  20. Just realized we’re still “ruled” by our family members’ rules – we either try to follow the rules or rebel against them. Time to just BE ourselves. – no rules – just being.

    1. Mary Solomon, I’m wondering if, as Cindy below says…did we all come from the same set of parents. Was it the age of ‘sayings’ that ruled us ….I think of how I would feel lazy if my mother caught me lying across my bed reading…I had to be doing something though I was never sure just what….another saying that comes to mind: ‘you made your bed; now you lie in it’…meaning I guess, deal with the consequences of your choices and actions…not a bad thing in itself, it’s just the perjorative connotation that bothered me always. What those sayings, those looks of consternation did for me, from my mother, was to give me guilt trips. I later came to realize I had a choice in accepting them but I can still feel my mother’s eyes on me giving me ‘that look’. It took me years to feel I could operate my life without feeling the need for her approval before I did anything. I guess those looks spoke of control, to me.
      SandyP in Canada

  21. Loved reading all of the sharings. In my family house, the only time I could be alone to read was in the middle of the night at the back of the one closet my sisters and I shared with a flashlight which I turned off when I could hear from father approaching!! Now that I am “retired” from teaching, I can read pretty much whenever I want to. And I do!

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