Whether we are working or retired most of the advice we read about in columns like this, talk about finding ways to manage our busy lives, set goals, have some balance, set priorities and plan.
If we find ourselves with a spare moment during the day we are urged to think about what to do next. So at these times, what do we actually do? Do we muster up the energy to deal with something on our to-do list? Or do we actually turn away from the list and feel the urge to just take the time to do nothing? What about giving in to the impulse, pouring a cup of tea, sitting down and drinking in what we can see and hear?
By simply taking time out, with no radio or television noise in the background, we may have time to be grateful and appreciate what we have. We may have time to reflect on the people we have been in contact with recently and their importance in our lives.
Most of us have cravings for a better life, whether we are struggling with trying to make more money, find our ideal job, improve our relationship with our spouses, losing weight, or going through the actions of going to work day in and day out. At most times of the day we may ruminate to ourselves about this. All of us yearn to empty our minds and indulge in the simplicity and beauty of the present moment.
The idea of doing nothing and the difficulty we have doing it, whether we are working, parenting or retired is no better described than in Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love.”
Italians are the masters of Il bel far niente. This is a sweet expression that means the beauty of doing nothing. Italians have traditionally always been hard workers… But even against the backdrop of hard work, Il bel far niente has always been a cherished Italian ideal. The beauty of doing nothing is the goal of all your work, the final accomplishment for which you are most highly congratulated. The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life’s achievement… Anyone with a talent for happiness can do this, not only the rich.
Il bel far niente is a concept that has the potential to really stress out individuals living in society today. Why is that? Because perhaps we feel guilty if we are not accomplishing something. We feel like sloths when we take the time to actually just sit and relax. We see ourselves as human “doings” rather than human “beings”. We spend the majority of our time working hard at whatever profession that we have chosen, striving to achieve a goal that we believe will make us happy. Many times we spend our days striving to get to Friday so that we can wind down, however when we get to the weekends we busy ourselves to the point with all our activities that we are more exhausted when Monday arrives again.”