Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There: Doing Nothing and the Art of Niksen

I recently became acquainted with a Dutch concept called Niksen. Niksen is the art of doing nothing. The idea is, well, to just sit there. No work, no distractions. No Facebook or journaling. No counting your breaths or repeating a mantra. No reading. No phone calls. No intentions. No nothing.

Why would anyone do this, you might ask? Isn’t it boring, a waste of time? Well, the proponents of Niksen suggest that it’s a curative to the overtaxed nervous system in cultures saturated with constant stimulation. To ‘do nothing’ is not only the antidote to stress but the fertile ground for creativity and good mental health. Letting your mind wander and letting your ‘being’ rest offers a reprieve from the onslaught of constant everything everywhere at every moment.

So I tried it. The suggestion is to start small so as not to be overwhelmed by the shock of sudden nothingness. I sat on my patio and set a timer for 5 minutes. The first minute felt longer than the month of March. But then I settled. By the third minute, my senses were heightened. The breeze felt like a caress on my face. I hadn’t noticed how green the plants were. And the birdsong. Heavenly. By the final minute, sweet memories surfaced and I just let them flow. And then my alarm rang reminding me to return to task, which suddenly felt a little less pressing.

Is doing nothing doing something? I’m not quite sure. But in the end I loved it and plan to do more of nothing. And I invite you to join me. Sit still today and try the art of Niksen for five minutes. Stare out the window. Let time idle away and notice how refreshing and delicious it feels to do nothing. My new motto just might be “Don’t just do something, sit there.”

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