The value of sitting doing nothing

The Summer is a law unto itself in that our routines can fly out of the window.  For many of us this is a rare treat, while others find it very difficult to navigate daily life in the absence of a structure or a plan.  We are all different in this respect, yet we can all fall into the trap of thinking we don’t need to keep a self-care routine going.  It’s almost like we have a sense of trust that the summer itself will look after us. And yes, I think it will, to a certain extent, if we spend enough time outdoors and in nature, being active, getting fresh air, connecting with friends and family and very importantly, taking time to rest. Prioritising those little actions that we know keep us well is so crucial, all year round.

Yet this is often precisely what we forget to do. In the headiness and excitement of these lovely long summer days, often jam-packed with choices and possibilities, we try to do it all.  I have really noticed this strong urge in myself to “pack it all in” and I wonder why this urge to be busy feels so strong at times when there is true contentment to be found in learning to stay where you are. It is a true gift to be able to sit and do nothing. This does not come easily to all of us and for me, is a direct result of my mindfulness training and practice.

I had wondered what to write about this month, so much happens in an hour, a day, a week.  It can take a long time to process events, and sometimes far more time, if ever, to write about them. So, I decided to write about the joy of sitting doing nothing, or at least doing very little. I have discovered that less can be more when we stop and notice what’s around us during these precious moments of down time. Pausing just now, hearing the clock ticking, my washing machine spin clothes, a pot boiling on the cooker, feeling the breeze blowing in the kitchen door, watching steam blowing out, even attending to the sounds of my fingers on the keyboard. In these moments I find I want for nothing and am grateful for the gift of contentment that mindfulness brings to my life.  

There is such joy to be found in simple places and pleasures. Try taking a mindful pause every now and again and notice what’s happening right now in the space surrounding you.  We don’t have to fill every moment with ‘doing’ or planning but rather spending some time simply ‘being’, either by ourselves or in the company of others. Try really being where you are, whether indoors or outside in nature. Sometimes, even though we are physically present, our minds may have wandered off somewhere else, perhaps planning the next event, rather than enjoying the one we’re actually at.  

We can use summertime to restore and rejuvenate ourselves, to slow down and take our time, appreciating all that is around us. Allowing our minds and bodies to be in the same place leads to a feeling of embodiment, being fully present to our experience. We can bring mindfulness to any activity, for example, walking, cycling or swimming. Swimming in the sea provides a great example of literally soaking in a visceral outdoor experience. Feeling the water flowing like silk over our skin, the smell and taste of salt on our bodies after sea swimming, sounds of the sea washing over us, sights and sounds of sea gulls gliding overhead.  We have wonderful nature in abundance to enjoy during these beautiful Summer days and indeed a wealth of choices in how to spend our days.  The joy of making simple choices is captured beautifully by Alice Walker in her poem ‘grace’.


gives me a day

too beautiful

I had thought

to stay indoors

& yet

washing my dishes


my shelves


throwing out

the wilted 


shrunken garlic


I discover

I am happy

to be inside

looking out.

This, I think,

is wealth.

Just this choosing

of how

a beautiful day

is spent.

Weekly drop-in mindfulness sessions continue through-out the Summer from 9.30 – 10.30am on Tuesday mornings at the Market St Clinic, Skibbereen. For information on future workshops and courses call Susan on 087 2700572 or email:

Susan O Regan

Susan O'Regan teaches mindfulness and self-compassion courses and workshops in West Cork.

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