finding balance

The Art of Nothingness: Why Balance Matters

It would come as no surprise to describe our culture as one that is obsessed with doing, consuming and achieving. These active roles are very important, as they are the ways in which we navigate our physical world. The ego enjoys these outward expressions because they help to sustain its identity. With so much focus on the doing, we sometimes forget to simply be. It is in our being-ness where the true joy of life resides. But with so much energy spent on comparing ourselves with others, how can we slow down to benefit from the art of doing nothing?

We have a complex relationship with the art of nothingness because it defies what our culture says is valuable. Our initial response to anything that does not add value to our resume or bolster our reputation is “why do it?” I believe that the ego has a real disdain for simple acts of being – meditation, self-reflection or relaxing walks because the mind is asked to quiet down. The ego is uncomfortable with the quiet, trying to convince you that the incessant commentary running through your head is a necessity. Even exercises like yoga, tai chi and qigong are refuted by the ego for their apparent lack of benefits.

The Italians have a fitting expression: il dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing. Life is meant to be sweet but most of us are much too focused on the doing to enjoy it. We forget that the Universe and all that it contains rely on balance to sustain it. For every action, there is a reaction. To have hot, there must be the experience of cold. Yang must be balanced with yin. We forget that the micro (our bodies) is like the macro (the world). We need balance to be in harmony. With all of the focus on the active, it is no wonder that people find themselves feeling depleted, stressed out and overtaxed. The push for greater achievement creates an imbalance in our life. With such focus on doing, we may miss the opportunity and the necessity of rest. The value of nothingness lies in its ability to rejuvenate and replenish. It fuels the flow of Life by creating a space for the ebb.

When we take the time to reflect or contemplate – by way of slowing down and being mindful, we are better able to access a higher source of energy, insight and resolution. The very nature of nothing is like an empty cup, waiting to be filled. There will be times when it is beneficial, if not necessary to empty your cup consciously in order to make room for something else. Longer stretches of nothingness are like periods of incubation. The alchemical process of Life takes place in the yin aspect of your being in preparation for the outward, active expression of yang. In times of stillness, we can allow the divine to reorder our lives in extraordinary ways. God does not need your permission to change your life but in the active side of nothingness, we work in unison with the divine.

The sweetness of doing nothing can be found in calming the mind to allow our subconscious to evaluate thoughts, feeling and perceptions missed by our conscious state. One of my favorite things to do to bring about stillness is a walking meditation. During my walk, I keep to being a silent observer, refraining from labeling or judging anything I see. I no longer identify the trees, houses or people I see. I simply observe as though I am witnessing them for the first time. Without the mental designation, my gentle awareness picks up something within me. It is my soul percolating to the surface and a sense of calm fills my being. I am deeply aware of the sense of aliveness within my body. It is the feeling of being in the world but not of it. These meditative walks, from an external appearance seem to be ordinary. But my internal experience is filled with the extraordinary.

I invite you to choose to experience the art of nothingness next time you can. Enter into your stillness with as much joy and anticipation as you do any other action. Let yourself steep a little further into it’s sweetness and come out of the quiet with a view on life a little sweeter.

Kevin Joubert is the founder of Thoughts Unearthed.

Photo credit: Photography Blogger

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/William-Yancey/100001417982872 William Yancey

    It is when we quiet the noise in our heads (our thoughts) that we can finally hear the truth and reality around us.  Good post I enjoyed it.  Thanks

    • http://twitter.com/breathingkairos Kevin Joubert

      I like that you’ve named the thoughts in our head as noise – that’s exactly what they are! I agree, they can be a huge distraction to aligning with our true nature!
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post!
      Kevin

  • Sahasaurav

    Really nice article…I do try this exercise sometimes but now that someone has voiced this rationale…my beliefs in this nature of attaining relaxation has become more stronger

    • http://twitter.com/breathingkairos Kevin Joubert

      Thanks for the comment Sahasaurav! I bet more people would be willing to try meditation if they knew you can do it while going for a leisurely walk. I’m glad you are benefiting from your walking meditations – keep them up :-)
      Kevin

  • Sahasaurav

    Really nice article…I do try this exercise sometimes but now that someone has voiced this rationale…my beliefs in this nature of attaining relaxation has become more stronger

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic and refreshing write up about Ego vs God, duality and the necessity of connecting oneself to the higher power… loved it. 

    • http://twitter.com/breathingkairos Kevin Joubert

      I just love your descriptor of the article as ‘refreshing’! A big thank you to you! I’m glad you enjoyed the article.
      Kevin

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic and refreshing write up about Ego vs God, duality and the necessity of connecting oneself to the higher power… loved it. 

  • http://www.qwitr.org/ Tony Fuentes

    I recently as this morning, I woke up and decided that I need to stop “trying” to live. I feel a need to just be. To just do nothing. To stop listening to all the advice out there about how to live, even if it’s good advice. I just feel a need to follow and trust myself and stop trying to be something. I already am.

    • http://twitter.com/breathingkairos Kevin Joubert

      I completely agree. There is nothing you need to do. Trust your intuition and know your wholeness.
      Kevin

  • Breezyblnd

    This is a message I needed!  In the past 8 months I have made a transition from Executive Assistant to Retired – sold house where we lived for 30 years – moved to new location 300+ miles away and close to grandchildren.  I have been trying to determine what my life is now…….now I realize I need to ‘experience the art of nothingness’ to quiet and be able to listen.

    • http://twitter.com/breathingkairos Kevin Joubert

      Wow! You have made some really big life transitions and it sounds like you are managing yourself quite well. I wish you all the best while you enjoy your new practice of nothingness :-)
      Kevin

  • Pingback: Tools For A Great Life – The Art of Nothingness: Why Balance Matters

  • Pingback: The Art of Nothingness: Why Balance Matters | goalcreating.com

  • MichelleP

    Thank you Kevin. Actually taking the time to stop and read, actually read and take in what you have written is a major step for me. I usually read, whilst thinking what else I should be doing.

    After having a career that defined who I was. I am now having “issues” on how to accept this new version of my life without feeling guilty because I am not doing anything of what I call ‘real value’. I run a household, look after my husband and our three dogs – a long way from my career as a highflying Executive Assistant. What I know do or rather what I don’t do.

    Reading your article made me see that sitting down at times and doing nothing but simple enjoying doing nothing is ok. It’s actually good for you.

    So first step in removing the guilt. It may take some time, but baby steps. And you never know, my mind may just decide to slow down with me.

    Wish me luck!

  • MichelleP

    Thank you Kevin. Actually taking the time to stop and read, actually read and take in what you have written is a major step for me. I usually read, whilst thinking what else I should be doing.

    After having a career that defined who I was. I am now having “issues” on how to accept this new version of my life without feeling guilty because I am not doing anything of what I call ‘real value’. I run a household, look after my husband and our three dogs – a long way from my career as a highflying Executive Assistant. What I know do or rather what I don’t do.

    Reading your article made me see that sitting down at times and doing nothing but simple enjoying doing nothing is ok. It’s actually good for you.

    So first step in removing the guilt. It may take some time, but baby steps. And you never know, my mind may just decide to slow down with me.

    Wish me luck!

    • http://twitter.com/breathingkairos Kevin Joubert

      Hi Michelle!
      Thank you for sharing your story! I think a lot of people are disillusioned with their work and they are trying to find meaning or purpose within their particular job or in looking in other work. My intuition tells me that you are on the right track by first learning to accept this new version of your life. Acceptance does not mean it won’t change, it means your experience of the moment will. 
      I know that with acceptance will come a new found appreciation and value in the current circumstance of your life. Remember – you are not your life’s circumstances so try not to let yourself be defined by them.
      Your life sounds beautifully simplified and in there, somewhere, is a wonderful opportunity.
      I will send you more than wishes of luck, I will be sending your affirmations of much success!
      Keep me posted :-)
      Kevin

  • Jan

    Thank you Kevin,
    We have been fed this notion that life only rewards action. It rewards inspired action and that can look like “the sweetness of doing nothing”.
    How can god speak to us when we are busy talking, judging, comparing and trying.
    The best I can do for now is to turn up fully and see what life presents and respond wholeheartedly. Much better than trying to control things and push my way through.

    • http://twitter.com/breathingkairos Kevin Joubert

      I salute your efforts in turning up fully to see what life has in store for you! I remember a time of unemployment and the most difficult thing to do was accept my circumstance and open up to life by being present. I learned quite a bit about myself during that time of “doing nothing” – by all outward appearances I wasn’t doing much but my interior experience was full and transforming.
      All the best,
      Kevin

  • Chubbyslatte

    The person I want to be.

  • Docnick37

    This article seems to have an adult focus… The worry for me with what I see with my grandchildren lives and the structure of school and family is they never have quite time…. As a psychologist this is a big worry because there is simply too much stimulation…. Long term effect will be very harmful.

    docnick 

  • http://ignitechange.net/ Craig Morton

    HI Kevin. I enjoyed this post.  It’s all about balance right?  Push too hard in one direction without considering down time will just break you.   If we put importance on the doing, then we have to put an equal importance and effort on the “not-doing” .  Thanks for this

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/غلا-السعودية-غلا-السعودية/100003643188981 غلا السعودية غلا السعودية
    • http://www.facebook.com/people/غلا-السعودية-غلا-السعودية/100003643188981 غلا السعودية غلا السعودية
    • http://twitter.com/breathingkairos Kevin Joubert

      Hi Craig,
      It really is all about finding balance :-) Imagine how we would manage our lives differently if there was equal importance on the “not-doing”. I think that there would be a greater appreciation for both the ebb and flow of life.
      All the best!
      Kevin

  • M. Hajjar

    There is too much noise around us, and most of it is self made.  We occupy ourselves with mundance things and little details that few years from now will look worthless.  So perhaps we should filter the noise and only accept what’s relevant and important… then let go of the rest.

    I am amzaed at how we choose to pollute our lives with worries that we create by focusing on really non-important stuff (the latest telephone, the features in the car, the latst shoes, the nonsense music, etc…) We really don’t need all this… A mobile phone is a mobile phone no matter what new features they introduce… and the car is to take us from point A to point B.. it doesn’t influence our personality… I love the saying “great people our simple”…

    so i guess great people have better filters in their head… they focus on what REALLY matter

    • http://twitter.com/breathingkairos Kevin Joubert

      Hi M. Hajjar,
      Thank you for your comments. I completely agree that there is far too much noise and too many insignificant distractions in life. It’s interesting to observe how much of our identity is found in the material objects of our lives. Spend a few days with the cell phone turned off and notice what feelings come up. We give so much power to objects because of the status they give us or from a perceived need. The challenge is to find what truly matters in life and spend your time and energy living from a genuine place.
      Kevin 

  • M. Hajjar

    There is too much noise around us, and most of it is self made.  We occupy ourselves with mundance things and little details that few years from now will look worthless.  So perhaps we should filter the noise and only accept what’s relevant and important… then let go of the rest.

    I am amzaed at how we choose to pollute our lives with worries that we create by focusing on really non-important stuff (the latest telephone, the features in the car, the latst shoes, the nonsense music, etc…) We really don’t need all this… A mobile phone is a mobile phone no matter what new features they introduce… and the car is to take us from point A to point B.. it doesn’t influence our personality… I love the saying “great people our simple”…

    so i guess great people have better filters in their head… they focus on what REALLY matter

  • http://twitter.com/lexhis Em Beil

    Well Kevin, I found your article simply healthful.

    Nowadays I’m in a big trouble, I fear. I have very few friends (for some circumstances, they almost disappear!), I think I’ll have a boring job just after I graduate, and I’ll probably never leave my country in order to get new experiences and to know new people.

    So, the best I have to do is thinking. But when you’re alone, thinking is deleterious at least. Because your thoughts are not “thoughts”, they are “commiseration”. Nothingness is the remedy.

    Don’t ask me what I could do in order to change my life. I’m still finding, but it’s hard. I like what you said, talking to Michelle: “You are not your life’s circumstances so try not to let yourself be defined by them.” Yes, but: when the closest persons to me will be able to understand? When they’ll stop thinking me like a loser? I hope soon.

    Thank you. :)

    • http://twitter.com/breathingkairos Kevin Joubert

      Hi Em Beil,
      Thank you for your comments. I’d like to share something with you: One of my greatest life lesson’s has been to ignore the good opinion of others. Whether they approve, disapprove, like or dislike something about me is irrelevant. I’m learning to dis-identify from the experiences of life…to simply let them be and let them pass. 
      I wish you well,
      Kevin

      • http://twitter.com/lexhis Em Beil

        Thank you Kevin for your reply! :)

        Your advice is really precious  and really wise: henceforth, I’ll start considering things from this perspective.

  • Kate

    very well written..have you read “keeping quiet” by Pablo Neruda ?
    it is a poem on the necessity of doing self introspection… very similar to your “art of nothingness”… 
    thanks for such a lovely post

    • http://twitter.com/breathingkairos Kevin Joubert

      Hi Kate,
      Thank you for reading the article. I will definitely check out Neruda’s “keeping quiet” – thanks for the tip! 
      Kevin

    • http://twitter.com/breathingkairos Kevin Joubert

      Hi Kate,
      Thank you for reading the article. I will definitely check out Neruda’s “keeping quiet” – thanks for the tip! 
      Kevin

  • haoxinren

     However, after you start seeing the effects and sensation all that new energy that Coach Sale eveningNothing concludes instructor Factory Coach Cheappossessing a bang a great offer better than a tremendousCheap coachnight. Have everyone out using the available and lighting a fireplace while youcoach outletget near to and inform experiences and stories.

  • Fayettebuchen

    Sometimes we just feel like we’re nothing, and we start looking for answers.typing in a word or two on line and looking for answers.
    Then you read a article that moves you.you feel touched very strongly by it. Like the person that wrote It knows you.You check the author out. Tears start to role down your cheek,cause you just found a dear friend you have been searching for , for years. My dear dear friend , you are so beautiful.
    Thank you for being you. Kevin.
    Your dear old friend Fayette Buchen

  • Annette Gendler

    I love your title! And yes, doing nothing is damn hard but so refreshing!