Much Ado About the Pink Elephant in the Room

Cultivating Contentment through Doing Nothing

Cultivating Contentment through Doing Nothing

Today I will spend 15 minutes doing nothing.


Did that sentences strike fear into your heart like it did mine?


Do nothing for 15 minutes?! No way, I have too many things to do. I’m too far behind. I already have so little time for everything that I’ve got to pack every moment with stuff or…


Or what?


What kind of life is this if I can’t take 15 minutes and do nothing? Not a life I want to have. So, why am I so resistant to the idea of doing nothing for 15 minutes?


Doing nothing doesn’t mean watching television or surfing the net. It doesn’t mean trading productive tasks for unproductive ones. It means literally doing nothing.


So, I tried it today. I sat and tried to do nothing. And I couldn’t do it.


The first 5 of the 15 minutes, I spent alternating between flogging myself with the guilt stick and flogging myself for flogging myself with the guilt stick. For the last 10 minutes, I made mental lists of all the things I need to do, reminding myself to stop making lists as I was supposed to be doing nothing, thinking about how much my partner would be pissed at me for doing nothing when he was so busy, and making lists again. Round and round the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel…


Then, thank goodness, my alarm went off.


But, I learned something. I need to do this more often. Sure, I spend time meditating, practicing Yoga, reading, and writing. But, I have become incapable of wasting time in any sort of useful manner. I have to always be “doing” and this leads me to avoiding things in other areas in my life. The avoidance leads to more stress and it just gets bigger from there.

On the way to Contentment

On the way to Contentment


I have been concentrating solely on things to fill my bucket because it seemed like the way to be happy. Happy happy. And I don’t really want to be happy happy. I just want to feel content.


Contentment seems far more elusive to me than happiness or joy.


I think the way to contentment might be cultivating emptiness-not the emptiness of sorrow or pain. The rich emptiness of ease.


The doing of No Thing.



How does doing nothing for 15 minutes strike you? Can you cultivate contentment? I’d love to hear from you.


20 thoughts on “Much Ado About the Pink Elephant in the Room

  1. i think this is a great idea! how is it different from meditating though, or is it another form of meditation? (i don’t know much about meditation.) doing nothing for 15 minutes will be impossible for me right now, haha. maybe i’ll try for 5 minutes and work on gradually increasing it to 15.

    • Thank you, MarfMom. I think your idea of starting with 5 minutes is a good one. I’m differentiating doing nothing from meditation because in doing nothing, I’m not trying to clear my mind, focus on anything or find something to do-not worrying over the past, or making plans for the future. Although, I suppose you could call it a type of meditation practice because it is a form of training the mind 🙂

      And I am planning an upcoming meditation primer, as soon as I can fit it into the schedule…

  2. The only place I can ever spend 15 minutes doing “nothing” is when I’m in the sauna. I sit, close my eyes, and do nothing more. And I can only justify it then because I know that even though I’m doing nothing, I’m doing something – I’m giving my body the benefits of the sauna. And even those 15 minutes can be hard.

    Since I can justify it by this sort of multitasking, I’ve found it easier to get my 15 minutes in, about 3 times a week. I didn’t really think about it until I read this post, but why? Why is it so hard to give ourselves just 15 minutes? Why do we feel we have to justify the time, earn the time, deserve the time before we let ourselves have the time?

  3. I have worked on this on and off in the past months. Sometimes it goes well. Sometimes it is very difficult. And it’s really hard to keep doing it!

    I have started practicing reiki, and that gives me something to focus on while I meditate. It really helps me to get past the resistance, to actually do it. I guess that is also what mantras are for. Maybe focusing on the one thing can sneak you into the place of doing nothing by tricking you into thinking you are doing something. I think it’s a starting point!

    • Thank you, Erin. It can be, can’t it? I tried again this morning and realized I had become completely distracted. I am still searching for this nothing between trying to meditate and trying to “do”

      • Becoming distracted can be part of it too though. Just noticing where your attention goes when you don’t direct it. Coming back to it when you realize. I find some days I get distracted over and over, and either eventually just stop, or the distraction slows and quietness comes.

  4. Brilliant exercise! I always feel like there is something else that needs my attention or I’m being dragged to do / fetch something every 2 minutes. I rarely JUST sit and do nothing. If I do, I find myself wondering what I should be doing, which of the many things I should choose to do. I think that is the only time I do nothing, when I can’t decide which thing to do!

    Today I sat outside and just watched my husband play with our daughter. I think that is about as close as it gets and I got teary eyed with joy. Admittedly, I was having a particularly hormonal pregnancy day.

    Still… I think this is excellent advice to follow. Take some time to DO NOTHING.

    • Thank you, Momma Jorje. Yes! That would qualify as doing nothing, wouldn’t it? Perhaps I can ease myself into this by watching my kids. I can do that for 15 minutes, especially when they’re sleeping. Ha!

  5. Just yesterday I read something on FlyLady about sitting down and drinking water for 5 minutes. It was amazing how quickly I dismissed this instruction. FIVE minutes? She’s got to be kidding! 🙂 Seriously, though, I think I may have lost that ability when my first child stopped nursing for long periods of time. When she was a newborn, I could sit on the futon and literally do nothing (but nurse) for an hour and a half at a time. I actually really admired myself for being able to do that. Now, though, with the two kiddos running about I’m out of practice.

    • Thank you for commenting, CJ. I hold no truck with the Flylady since I read her holy war on wearing shoes in the house 😉

      It’s hard. I remember being really good at it pre-kids, as well. So, it’s obviously something I really need if I’ve been avoiding it to the point of not noticing for this long.

  6. I absolutely did get a sick feeling when I first read your statement about doing nothing for 15 minutes. Weird.
    I love this “wasting time in any sort of useful manner”
    And I love “The rich emptiness of ease.”
    I honestly can’t even wrap my brain around one minute of nothing.
    I do understand the idea of contentment. I feel that a lot. It’s separate from stress or overwhelm or the bummer of certain situations. It can co-exist. It’s a good one.

    • Thank you, Teresa. I’m glad it wasn’t just me that felt ill contemplating it. Contentment and carefree are two words I’ve never understood.

      Although, I have to admit to understand contentment after having my babies and everyone has left. It’s just me and the newborn squishiness. That is contentment

  7. I’ve never believed in soulmates, but you, Dear Zoie, might turn out to be my SoulSister….

    Would you believe that TODAY was MY first day of spending 15 minutes doing absolutely nothing? I agree: it was not easy. I sat on a pillow on the floor while my son napped in the bed beside me. I wasn’t really meditating, but I tried to focus my thoughts on my personal goals, specifically trying to picture myself achieving what I long for. To be honest, my thoughts were ALL OVER THE PLACE, but I really enjoyed the attempt at just being still.

    Your take on joy, happiness and contentment deeply sparks my interest. I hope you will write more about your discoveries.

    Much love to you !

    • Thank you for commenting, Patti. That is hilarious. There must be something floating around out there about doing nothing. I will write more (assuming I actually follow through and face those 15 minutes again. Ha!)

I love comments and try to reply to each one. I look forward to connecting with you. Namaste

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