Trying to do nothing


I felt the need for a mental detox. ‘Felt the need’ being a euphemism for ‘my body and mind refused to operate without it’. Blame the flu, blame the antibiotics, the weather, work, gadgets, news.. the mind itself- all of it seemed equally plausible.

When one morning I simply.could.not. even answer emails without inviting a headache, I said, “I give it up”. I truncated an ‘urgent’ email thread which could not wait through my sickness, with an abrupt ‘reply to all’: “Sorry, this will have to wait.”

At 11:00 am I checked out mentally, and checked into ‘a day of doing absolutely nothing.’ It sounds easy, but it can be quite an effort. Now, this is no humblebrag. It is one thing to have nailed ‘doing’ a lot, while accomplishing nothing (which one does with a flourish!). And quite another to actually do nothing- no watching TV, no long phone calls to pass time, no doing anything on the computer, no reading- simply no stuffing one’s brain.

I cooked. I ate. I looked out of the window.. walked out of the door. I reached the park.. lay down on a hammock. I vaguely saw everything around- the kids playing, the sun shining rather bright, the massive trees, and a clock tower behind the trees – it was almost 2 pm.

I saw two ladies arranging the party hall at one end of the park, perhaps for a tea party. I noticed the angle of the sun changing now and then, and adjusted myself accordingly. I heard the sound of the kids playing just behind me, the voices noticeably changing as one group of kids would replace another.

And with the bright sun shining in my eyes, and kids creating cacophony, I fell asleep on that hammock. I, who cannot sleep unless there is complete silence and complete darkness.

I awoke with a start. “Oh my God- what day is it? What year?”

It was 3 pm. I couldn’t believe so much could be packed into 1 hour.

I walked home, feeling fresh and confused. Had tea. Looked out of the window. It seemed to me that everything seemed brighter and clearer, as if someone had just sharpened the outlines, or increased contrast on everything. I could notice minute sensations in my body- how this muscle is feeling, and that bone, and the scalp. And then it seemed as if some toxicity wanted to creep out of my head- a bunch of unpleasant thoughts, uncomfortable feelings.

“Where is my phone?” I picked up my phone. Then kept it back in a moment, as something challenged me, “What do you need it for?”

I was reminded of the time I had attended a Vipassana camp for kids. In the camp, all day, you could do only two things- either sit quietly and meditate, or eat bread and jam at the snack counter. I have never eaten such copious amounts of bread and jam ever, before or after that day.

This picking up and keeping away the phone happened several times in a matter of minutes. I was not allowing myself any bread and jam today.

Just as the possibility of losing my mind started to seem real close, the phone rang. It was my husband calling to see if I was fine. “I’m afraid I am losing my mind, and will never find it back,” I told him.

“Do you want to draw?” he asked.

I have drawn only once in over a decade. “Ok,” I said.

Over the next couple of hours, I drew. I was not breaking my agreement, because I was not stuffing anything into my brain, but only letting it out.

Slowly, I felt better. My confusion began to evaporate. My emotions stabilized. My energy seemed to come back. It felt like someone pressed a ‘reboot’ button inside my head.

I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but by that night, I had recovered. I am since trying to keep invading stimuli minimized- limiting pointlessly looking at screens with moving pixels, or checking phone every now and then, or that devil thing called multi-tasking.

Bread and jam beckon. Hopefully I’ll wait till I am hungry, not bored.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. It’s just the way you write, Shefali – it can be about nothing and everything at once. 🙂 The Vipassana camp for kids made me chuckle (how British of me). Some things in life can only be done when it’s time!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. PS: Would it toss your mind into an thought/stimuli overdrive if I casually let drop the remark, “Hmm, I wonder what that drawing might symbolise…”? (Oops)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha.. you, mischievous you 🙂 No actually I did wonder (and interpret) what the picture may mean. It took me no time to conceptualize etc. It was the first thing that came to my mind- in full, the moment I thought ‘drawing’. I think it’s one picture for the many words 🙂


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