Fans of the Jerry Seinfeld show may recall the episode where George Costanza and Jerry meet with the executives of a TV channel to discuss the concept for a new TV sitcom and persuade them to approve a pilot. The meeting starts off genially and when asked what the show would be about, Jerry Seinfeld says that in it he would play himself – a stand-up comedian living in New York, who has a friend, a neighbour and an ex-girl friend “all of which is true”; George then interjects, smirking as he pauses for effect before expansively announcing, “But nothing happens on the show; just like life … you eat, you read, go shopping, you read … The show will be about “Nothing”!” Addressing the bewildered TV executives, George then proceeds very deliberately – as if addressing little kids who might have difficulty understanding a tough subject – to describe how the proposed show will showcase the minutiae of each character’s daily routine as they go about their lives. “What did you do this morning?” he inquires of the incredulous Chief executive, who responds that he woke up, dressed and drove to work. “There” exclaims George, “That’s the show!” In essence, the entire Seinfeld serial which ran over nine seasons was just that – about nothing. The manner in which it highlighted the attitudes and every day actions of the principal characters in a critical and honest light may have resonated with audiences as they could relate to similar situations in their own lives.
Perhaps, knowingly or otherwise the show also provided a profoundly philosophical undercurrent. “When walking walk, when eating eat” is a well known Zen Buddhist quote. My late mentor, Prof. Singh would say, “When loading the dishwasher or washing the dishes, if you think “I am loading the dishwasher or washing the dishes” it then becomes a chore, for your mind tells you it is something that you have been forced into. But, if you allow yourself to just go with the flow and not place emphasis on your “self” as the doer the work gets done just as easily but does not feel like a burden”.
Speaking with friends or colleagues at work about vacation plans, the standard comment would be, “So, what are you planning to do?” or, when returning from a vacation, being asked, “So, what did you do in your time off?” My best holidays have been the ones where I did – yes, you guessed right – nothing!
Just the other day, I was reading about the Dutch relaxation technique of Niksen that is becoming increasingly popular. It is the practice of just stopping yourself and doing nothing, even if for very short bursts of time. As thoughts arise in your mind, you allow them to just drift away. Easier said than done, you might say. In one of his discourses on mindless meditation, the Indian mystic Osho metaphorically likened the human mind to clear blue sky and arising thoughts as the clouds that float in and obscure the sky. He encouraged people to observe the clouds but instead of dwelling on their changing shapes, watch them float across while staying focussed on the panoramic background of the clear blue sky.
I am not sure if you have experienced the pleasure of taking time off, even one solitary day with no plans to keep yourself occupied, deliberately choosing to go with the flow of your mood. Instead of jumping out of bed, just lolling around a bit longer. Giving up the run or the gym routine. Taking a walk around the neighbourhood park or lake to observe (not merely look at) the flowers, birds, butterflies, geese, loons or wildlife etc. Simply curling up with a book that you had been planning to read but never had the time for doing so. Listening to (not just hearing) music that you like. The pleasure of doing NOTHING has to be experienced. Try starting your day doing nothing at all, even if only until the kids holler for their breakfast or it’s time to put the garbage out on the kerb.
I am now off to lie back in my zero-gravity chair on the deck under the canopy of the locust tree and listen to the instrumental version of raga Bhairavi. No lyrics or words to concentrate on. Nothing but sheer bliss.