St Peter's House, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9GH

Chaplaincy to The Manchester Universities. The RNCM & The University Of Law.

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People Just Do Nothing

I’ve not seen this show (which in itself makes it noteworthy TV after my year of lockdown viewing), though I hear its very watchable. However, its title resonates with me this week, in the appeal to simply stop and ‘do nothing’. I realise that this may seem a little off-message in current climes, with every newspaper, blog, website, magazine etc constantly exhorting us to explore ‘new ways to wellbeing’, ‘spring into brighter/better/bolder’ versions of ourselves, or take up any number of new and edifying hobbies. 

I don’t know about you, but I feel a little overwhelmed. I’m trying to eat well, sleep well, follow good routines, do all the good things that I know keep me well. I’ve got to do all my work, take care of family, keep on top of jobs around the house, take care of all the practical stuff that makes life keep running as well as possible during lockdown. I want to keep in touch with family and friends (digitally), take regular exercise, relax in the evening by watching every last thing on Netflix…. And I bet you’re much the same. 

We’re all going through our lives at the moment acutely aware of the basic things that fill our days and make our human functioning possible. Now that so much has been stripped away, we really see the ‘nuts and bolts’ of ourselves in this time – we may not be thriving, but we’re surviving the best we can. In such states of flux and change, where nothing has seemed certain for so long and many of the joys of life missing – community, connection, freedom to choose – we’re hunkered down and getting by. 

Therefore, when I’m assailed by page after glossy page of ways to ‘up the ante’ on my day-to-day, something in me kicks back. “Isn’t it enough that I’m surviving well?” I think? “Stop telling me to ‘do’ things to feel better. I’m getting by, floating on this strange new covid-filled pond of life – doing what I need to do whilst trying to make minimal disturbance of the water around me!” Especially when I note that often the incoming suggestions will cost me money and more of my precious energy.

(Of course, I write with awareness that here at St Peter’s House we offer our own wonderful Wholeness classes and sessions. I can, however, honestly say that incorporating some time daily for movement or mind-settling meditation is an essential to my basic ‘survival level’ and therefore fits within my definition of ‘do nothing’.)

However, examples of suggestions that I have not taken up to ‘increase my wellbeing’ (despite suggestions from blogs/newspapers/magazines…..) include: LED facials, poetry therapy, online couples group sex, adopting the ‘dopamine dress code’, weekly batch cooking of granola, establishing a more effective skincare regime, learning 30 yoga poses in 30 days, becoming more political, taking daily cold showers…. Added to various self-development courses (yet to book) and zeitgeist messaging that I should emerge from lockdown having learnt Italian/Samba/something deep about myself, then a deep and creeping sense that if I’m not butterfly-ready post-vaccine then I’ll have somehow wasted a perfectly good year or so with nothing much else to do….

Well, I’m just saying No all that nonsense, and instead say, ‘People, (if you want to) Just Do Nothing!’ 

I have some major and in bold caveats to this. Whatever else you do or don’t do, the following fall into ‘functioning’ category that I find are needed for basic survival. Moreover, these caveats aren’t unique to me but fairly much universally acknowledged as essential for keeping well and keeping going. Therefore, even within your ‘nothing’ you must keep:

  • A rhythm and routine so that mind and body knows what to expect day-to-day
  • Eating well, and eating regularly (The Well is here to help with that) 
  • Connected, as much as possible
  • Moving, outdoors preferably (you could try our lovely sessions maybe [link]). 
  • Caring for your mind with both quiet times (you could try our mindfulness) and keeping thinking and engaging too. 
  • Breathing, and noticing that regularly. 
  • Accepting yourself, as you are each day, completely. I may not be starting new and impressive habits or jobs of a to-do list, and I may not have much to report at the end of each day. That’s OK. 

Alongside my suggestion to do nothing, most of all I believe this is the time to be excessively gentle with ourselves. Just to ‘be’. Sometimes that’s just what we need, space to be. To stop trying to work towards ‘wellbeing’, to stop thinking about it. I gift myself this ‘being’ sometimes, and it feels like the greatest kindness – the most loving thing I can do for my tired and overwhelmed mind. 

In time the seasons will change. We’ll feel the energy in the earth as the buds begin to appear and the ground warms beneath our feet. The days will stetch and the first fluffy new birds will emerge from their nests. Perhaps as that new Spring sun brings warmth and light we too will feel a shift, and our survival time will begin to pass. I look ahead with hope to that day, trusting that we will blossom in time with the trees this year. 

For now, let’s hunker down…. One day we will be together. One day things will be better. For now, let’s just be.  

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