We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.
-Tao te Ching
When was the last time you relaxed and enjoyed nothingness or experienced the empty spaces? When did you last experience the state of just pure being, doing nothing?
Go down the memory lane, you will realize that you have always been busy, hopelessly toiling or preoccupied with consuming information. You have come to believe that being idle is the antithesis of freedom. When your mind is not engrossed in anything, relaxing, you feel you are wasting your life.
It’s hard to be content with your life because you don’t know how to take a pause from your daily grind based on unconscious thought patterns. You are always up for something, constantly running. It’s an irony that you work all your life with the sole aim to achieve peace and contentment in the end.
The system, the society you live in, conditions you and shapes you as per established beliefs, practices, and principles.
Let’s break down what keeps you from acknowledging your serene emptiness within, the light of your pure being:
- The ways of being productive
- The overwhelming flow of information
The human society has a phobia for idleness and a fondness for workaholism. The society has failed to align the innate human desire to be productive with the economic system and employment trends. The unwholesome idea of productivity stresses on maximizing material wealth and achieving superficial success. It does not satiate your inner desire to be useful to your human community in some way. Thus, you are never satisfied no matter how much you achieve.
There is no limit to how much you can earn or create. Top billionaires of the world own as much as the bottom 50% of the population. Have they said enough yet? Are they satiated? Have they stopped working and started living in contentment?
The constant pressure of pushing your limits is taking you for a ride. It is only adding up to health risks. The rise in obesity, heart diseases, depression, anxiety, and other health problems proves that there is something wrong with the established system.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. – Antoine De Saint
The need is to think about productivity differently from how you have been conditioned to think. The ideal productivity is to produce slightly more than your needs. You just have to take care of the needs of yourself and those dependent on you. This should be the goal of your productivity, nothing less, nothing more. There can be no end to how much you can have but, there is an end to how much you need.
Coming to the second point, the overwhelming flow of information. Technology, especially the internet and multimedia, provides an endless series of things to do and think about.
The never-ending barrage of emails, texts, social media notifications keeps you occupied 24*7. You are caught up with the virtual world for work, entertainment, and validation so much that your real-world relationships are at risk. In times of information technology, your attention is the greatest gift you can give to someone.
Multitasking is another celebrated phenomenon in this unwholesome system. You multitask, assuming that you are accomplishing more, but in reality, you are not. People multitasking have comprehension levels lower than those who are intoxicated. With more tasks at hand and more information at disposal, your attention is scattered further and further apart.
The problem is you have a finite system. You get 24 hours a day in which you need to sleep for 8 hours, eat, experience, commute, etc. But the resources of information are infinite. In this situation, you have to slow yourself down instead of catching up with everything. You have to prioritize what is really important and eliminate those things where you don’t want to invest your brain.
Wherever you choose to put your attention becomes your reality. Look at your brain as a design and eliminate clutter, create more empty space, and emphasize only what is needed. The more time you spend doing nothing, the more successful you will be in doing what matters.