In a world that thrives on activity, it can be a radical thing to deliberately be still and do nothing. Interestingly, the idea of resting or doing nothing is alien to the way many Africans were raised. Take Nigerian parents for instance. They would invent errands once they saw their kids doing nothing because ‘an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’
This was just as true for me growing up. Having a rather active mind meant that I would get bored without something visible to do. But a lot of times, I got into trouble with my parents for appearing to be idle.
Beings, Not Doings
Years of this conditioning got me to the point where I started to struggle with the idea of staying still or simply relaxing. If I didn’t have any activity to engage in, or I was too ill to do anything, I would feel simultaneously restless and lazy. Like many other people, even leisure has to be full of activity. We need the TV on for background noise. We must play a game or go on social media, or just DO something. The only time we really don’t do anything is probably when we’re asleep.
It has taken a lot of work for me to start feeling comfortable again with being inactive. Only recently have I begun to grow into a person who can truly be still. I’m still work in progress, but I’m beginning to appreciate the reason we’re called human beings, not human doings.
Staying Still Can Be A Gift
This leads me to the concept of mindfulness which is a natural consequence of being still. Many times, when we practice being still, we allow our thoughts to slow down and build up our capacity for self-introspection. But this takes willful effort. Mindfulness is really about living the whole of your life consciously and deliberately, whether you’re working or playing because it requires you to take a break from the scramble of activity.
So every now and again, make a deliberate effort to be still and happy with it. Appreciate the true gift of rest, and remember that it’s okay to just be.