Friday, December 27, 2013

Why is idleness such a drudgery!

It's a long drive, let me pick up some music to listen while I drive.

It's a long journey, let me pick up a book to read on the train or maybe I can carry my DSLR to capture some good photos.

I have to just wait in the hospital room, let me load up my kindle with some recent books to catch up.

I have nothing to do while I am waiting there, let me copy some movies to my phone to watch.

Let me check Google news and see what's happening. What's happening with my friends on Facebook?

What am I going to do alone at home over the weekend? Let's see if there are any new movies on Showcase.

These are all my recurring thoughts when I think of idleness. Like many of us, I am afraid of being idle. I don't know if it is fear, avoidance, or sheer unpleasant feeling that makes being idle a difficult option to choose from the plethora of other stimulus of entertainment.

It is not as if I am worried of not being productive being idle, for in any of the alternatives I choose from, nothing is productive per se. They just help me get lost in some other realm. Music takes me to a different plain; books put me in a serious philosophical battle, movies captivate my senses and push me between past and future, and online chatter keeps me engaged without having to think of any purpose. I am not saying there is anything wrong with any of these. Just wondering how come idleness is such a drudgery.

It is one of my recent insights that we avoid idleness because it has the potential to bring many unconscious conflicts to the surface. Conflicts which we don't want to resolve; which seem too overpowering upon us, or the ones which we do not have the resources to solve (or so we think). It is also possible that the idleness is an antidote to the rush that is created by our mind in its script of survival and mind does not like this antidote at all. It is very difficult for the mind to accept that sometimes, its services are not required. The mind keeps all its resources on toes to deal with all kinds of situations.  There is lot of counter pressure from the intelligence of the body to this kind of bossing. To justify this bullying, the mind has to come up with some strong overdoes of logic that it needs to do what it is doing. It is like our politicians, perhaps, who create a crisis to keep themselves important.

So, in light of such a crisis between mind and body, it becomes difficult for us to make a decision in favor of our body.  You may ask, why? I don't know. But I think the most probable reason is this: we are not sensitive to the messages from our body.  We are way too much in our mind and don't know when a message from our body knocks on the door. We don't pay attention to the body, till it knocks us down! Even when it knocks us down, we seldom take the message. We treat the symptoms and move on in the glory of our victory.  So, the result is that we are more sensitive to the messages from our mind than our body.

Think of this situation; we broadcast a message which is in the ultrasonic range to a large group of people. No one responds but their pet dogs are going bonkers. The dogs are sensitive to hearing those messages; we are not.  Fortunately, unlike ultrasonic sound, messages from the body are in a range which we cannot become sensitive to.  In fact, originally, we were sensitive to them but that faculty just got clogged with the constant hammering of messages from the mind. Imagine a traffic junction of a major highway and a small village road.  For every 120 seconds of highway traffic, 30 seconds of village traffic is released.  Again, you might ask, why consider body messages village traffic. If it is important, why does the body not send more powerful messages.  Unlike our mind, which is a fully dependent manager, our body organs are self-sufficient groups.  By and large, they do their work with commitment and try to get things done and don't keep raising false alarms all the time.  So, there are fewer messages from the body.

Well, I have come a long way from idleness to complicated entangled thoughts.  The point is we try to avoid idleness because we are not trained to become sensitive to other inputs.  So, without any inputs our sensory system does not know what to do. It sits and counts the stars perhaps. Meanwhile, the mind goes into internal loops which bring out the hidden conflicts to the surface which are not very pleasant.  Most likely these conflicts push us to take actions which we do not want to!

It would not be a great insight if it just ends with more explanation of the problem instead of a solution. The solution is mindfulness and meditation practice. Both these practices train us to turn our senses inwards as well as experience the bliss of doing nothing!  So, I recently made a choice that I will embrace idleness and do meditation or practice mindfulness instead of take the cover of other stimulus.  Of course, I will read when I feel like; but when I don't have anything else to do.


  1. Makes a lot of sense especially to someone who embraces idleness wholeheartedly yet does not have time for the thousands of things he wishes he could do. Would be interesting to explore where and when idleness started getting labeled as an undesirable behavior. Is it just a self-justiifying, survival machination of the mind? Or is there a greater economic and political context to it? Good to see this blog being updated again.

  2. It is just the mind over body - just like how the governments of the world started believing that they are more important and powerful than the people. It is perhaps a stage in the evolution of systems.