The Art Of Doing Nothing

Musings / Monday, October 12th, 2020

‘If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learnt how to live’ – Lin Yutang

Lin Yutang was a Chinese philosopher who knew how to lead the good life. I clearly am not a philosopher, and neither do I seem to be doing great at leading the good life. But there was a time I thought I did. I used to get up on Sundays a little bit later than I do these days and lounge around in bed, reading. Then, meditation entered my life. I switched my workouts such that I was doing a longer workout on Sunday. I forgot to lounge in bed and read because I am of such mind that I think – Oh! I HAVE to get up. I HAVE to meditate. I HAVE to work out!

(I know, I know. I need help ;-))

But on Sunday, when I woke up after another rain-interrupted sleep, I felt like reading instead of rushing about to do my ‘tasks.’ “It would be nice to lie down on the roof and read,” I thought, dragging my meditation pillow and mat outside. The roof was soaked from the rain—patterns of the night’s past still fresh in the present. It was still drizzling when I settled in under the awning. I lay down with the book and smiled at myself, delighted that I have rewarded myself such. My mind went to Rosario in Argentina as I read through ‘Furia.’ Plip plop beat the rain against the awning. But there was a slightly different sound after a few moments. It sounded like a whoosh, a flutter, and a kiss all at once. I turned around, trying to locate the sound. 

There they were. 

A flight of dragonflies. 

Plip plop went the music from the rain. And there were these adorable beings, dancing to that music, just delighting in being alive. They looked utterly joyful as they danced what must have been the Bangalore Tango. Hop here. Hop there. A swoop here and a graceful lift there. I laid my book down and watched in amazement. For that moment, my dear heart, so full of anxiety, smiled. 

I don’t know how long I watched them. Maybe it was a few seconds. Maybe it was a few minutes. I kept the book aside, and as Lin Yutang advised, I did nothing. I watched them dance. 

(I wanted to share that moment with you—so a few seconds later, I did take this video. Aren’t they the sweetest? My phone skills aren’t the greatest, and this is a 3-year-old phone, so please bear with me for the poor quality).

When I kept the phone aside and turned back, they were gone. Just like that. Isn’t that our life these days? Isn’t that how it feels? We turn around and there! Our years have become generations. People have become memories. And we somewhere forgot to dance through it all.


This crystallized display of joy was a reminder of something we are struggling to find within ourselves during these times. But it’s there.

We haven’t forgotten to dance. 

We can smile because we feel the sun or laugh because the rain tickles us. 

We are alive. And oh, let’s be useless. 

And how beautiful a thing that is. 

A hug from me to you. Be well. May there be a dance in your day today.

10 Replies to “The Art Of Doing Nothing”

  1. Dear Smitha, after reading this post, I want to pause myself. I hope, I am able to reward myself with some things like these two beautiful dragon flies. (I loved the way, they “waved” through) I am so glad you did this and I hope I will do this too….:).

    1. Sudha, you are already. I love your color-filled emails to me, brimming with life. I can see the colors you described on the sunset in your last email. Everytime you do see that, you are already pausing.

  2. Doing nothing makes you feel that you are also special ,wise,beautiful, good and many more. But unfortunately we are living in the world of comparing ourselves with everyone . But your posts often remind us that you are not less than anyone . I Thank you for that. 😊

    1. Srushthi – I don’t know why – but I somehow feel like saying that you are amazing – a beautiful human being. The one thing I have learned in the wake of this pandemic is that we are all interconnected – the great equalizer of this virus has shown us that all comparisons are odious. You are truly beautiful. Also, be a little useless today. 😉

  3. Sometimes, sitting and doing nothing is the best something we can do.
    Living in the moment without planning out our time is actually real living. It took me too long to realise this.

    1. I agree. I think it too me too long as well. But well, what’s long these days? We are here, learning and stumbling along. We really will master the art of being useless one of these days.

  4. Doing nothing often leads to the best of something, said the very wise philosopher Winnie the Pooh. So, we can safely assume you are the wisest of them all. That video is nothing short of mesmerising. There is something about watching dragonflies dancing around no?

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