Monday, June 2, 2014

The Courage To Do Nothing

Solitude is the place of purification. - Martin Buber

The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil. - Thomas A. Edison

I was reviewing someone’s reading list the other day and noted that the titles were themed around the 10 steps to this, the 5 steps to that and that all of his books were wired around action.

He and I discussed how the world lacked courage to do things and he indicated that by being constantly busy, he was demonstrating to the Universe that he had the courage necessary for success.

I replied by asking him if he ever had the courage to stop, do nothing and just be.  He paused, his brow furrowed and as he did so, I could tell that an answer to my question wasn’t coming easily for him.

In a text he sent me this morning, he’s still stuck on the question.

Those of us who are ultra type A spend our days learning, sharing, thinking (sometimes grinding), giving, expressing, creating (sometimes destroying) and executing but I believe that too often, we don’t take enough time for just being.

We receive thousands of emails daily / weekly from people who need help, advice, guidance or a connection to someone else we know.  We are bombarded with information and requests and in the cacophony that accompanies the activity that we are blessed to experience, we often neglect the greatest gift that all of us have been provided with – the gift that is the unique combination of our mental, physical, emotional and Spiritual selves.

And while a steady diet of knowledge acquisition and sharing matters, the cerebral part of our brain is not the only part of us that needs nourishment and rejuvenation.

Daring to do nothing

On the heels of an insane schedule that I have been told by people who know such things is not sustainable by mere mortals, I will be leaving the Earth as of Friday.

Well … not literally of course unless the line from the Styx song Come Sail Away is true.

I thought that they were angels but to my surprise
They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies

Many of us gauge our sense of self, our sense of value, our sense of worth, our sense of contribution and our sense of growth by how much we can accomplish in a day, how many people we can talk to, how many reports we can produce, how many Tweets we can make, how many Facebook likes we receive, etc.

I don’t.

On Friday, I will leave all my electronics at home and disappear for a few days.  Only one person will know where I am for the purposes of emergency contact.  If you attempt to reach me in any form, you will receive a polite notice that I cannot be found anywhere.

I’m taking four books with me:

They will be printed on paper and not in e-book format - I’m not taking electronics, remember?  There will be no books or papers on strategy, business, politics or technology – the worlds I live in about 20 hours a day, 7 days a week.

And of course, I will have my journal with LOTS of room for writing.

For three days, I will not know what the world is doing nor will I care. That being said, don’t blow it up while I am gone.  The world will not know what I am doing either which suits me just fine!  Please don’t ask others on social media if I have died just because I am not publicly visible (people have done this in the past).

I will read, write, reflect and contemplate but most importantly I will just be.

The Bottom Line

Henri Nouwen recognized the value of solitude when he wrote:

Solitude is very different from a 'time-out' from our busy lives. Solitude is the very ground from which community grows. Whenever we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we are potentially opened for a deeper intimacy with each other.

I hear lots of people talk about the courage necessary to do this, that or the other thing.

That may be so but I think for the busy, engaged mind, sometimes it takes even more courage to stop doing and start being.

And maybe, just maybe, by doing nothing you are actually accomplishing much more than you realize.

What do you think?

The Bottom Bottom Line

Do you have the courage to unplug from the world for a few days?

Do you believe the world can survive without you during that time?

Do you believe that you can survive without the world during that time?

Do you believe that you know so much that a few days of solitude would offer little of value or substance?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – The Result - June 8, 2014

When one takes time to go from meeting overload ….


…. calendar overload ….

Calendar overload

…. communication overload …..

Communications Overload

…. and social media overload ….

Social media overload

…. to nature overload (click on the image for a larger version) ….


…. I am reminded of a spa’s advertising poster that I once saw in NYC where they noted:

Come in feeling like a dominatrix and leave feeling like Mother Teresa.

Well … the gender is wrong but the transformational effect this weekend was the same.

By the way, the flower in the picture is one inch tall from the ground to the top of the flower and there was only one there that I could see.

There’s also a metaphor contained within the photo.

Can you see it?

PS Thanks for not blowing up the world while I was gone.  It was also refreshing to relearn that the world and I were both able to live without each other for a little while without significant damage to either.

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