Why is it so hard to sit still and just do nothing?

Does the thought of sitting still … give you the heebie jeebies?

Forget about meditating – do you find it almost impossible to sit still and do nothing? And when I say nothing, I mean nothing. No distractions; no phone, no tablet, no book, no TV, no radio, no music, no food, no drink. Zero, zilch, nada … Nothing. That’s right, absolutely jack.

Well, you are not alone. Many of us are so busy and hyped up these days that our ‘nervous systems’ are in a constant state of arousal. Crikey – no wonder we’re exhausted.

When we live in this pumped up way it can be hard to simply stop, sit, breathe and do nothing. It just feels so … uncomfortable. We immediately become aware of our unpleasant feelings, because as human beings we are hard wired to notice ‘what’s wrong’.

The first thing we meet when sitting still is our discomfort; difficult emotions like anxiety, irritation or a general sense of being ill at ease. Nope – can’t do it!

So, unable to be with our feelings, the mind does its job and scans for ‘what is missing’ and we get the irresistible compulsion to do something … anything … to fix ourselves – NOW.

University of Virginia Study 2014: Participants were asked to sit quietly in a room for 15 minutes and entertain themselves just with their thoughts. No phones, no books, no nothing.

They were offered the option to give themselves an electric shock with no reward or payoff.

70% of men and 34% of women pressed the switch. One guy gave himself 190 shocks. Yep, we busy humans will do anything rather than just sit still with no distractions. We have forgotten our natural birthright of simply sitting still and just being, or even just watching the world go by.

Delinquent and Non-delinquent Fixes

We make valiant attempt after valiant attempt to fix our discomfort on the inside with something on the outside. Food, alcohol, buying ‘stuff’, working, social media, binge box-setting, dating, sex, fantasising, making other people wrong, gossiping, oh and unsolicited meddling in other people’s problems can be a most excellent distraction.

Some non-delinquents (we know you’re out there!) even use seemingly wholesome pursuits to fix themselves; getting addicted to activities like gym, running, cycling, yoga and even meditation.

But, when we live in a habitual ‘doing’ state, even these healthy activities can become just another pressure and something else to add to our ‘to do’ list. We become a relentless self-improvement project, always leaning forward to the next thing and never quite getting there.

This human condition … it’s a pickle all right.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Blaise Pascal