Thich Nhat Hanh Q & A: Doing Nothing

Q: I feel guilty when I’m not occupied. Is it okay to do nothing?

A: In our society, we’re inclined to see doing nothing as something negative, even evil. But when we lose ourselves in activities we diminish our quality of being. We do ourselves a disservice. It’s important to preserve ourselves, to maintain our freshness and good humor, our joy and compassion. In Buddhism we cultivate “aimlessness” and in fact in Buddhist tradition the ideal person, an arhat or bodhisattva, is a businessless person- someone with nowhere to go and nothing to do. *People should learn how to just be there, doing nothing. Try to spend a day doing nothing; we call that a “lazy day”. Although for many of us who are used to running around from this to that, a lazy day is actually very hard work! It’s not easy to just be. If you can be happy, relaxed, and smiling when you’re not doing something, you’re quite strong. Doing nothing brings about quality of being, which is very important. So doing nothing is actually something. Please write that down and display it in your home: Doing nothing is something.

From Answers from the Heart (2009) by Thich Nhat Hanh. With permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California.