The Gift of Nothing

Early Winter in Washington

I bought a book recently called “The Gift of Nothing,” by Patrick McDonnell.  It’s an awesome children’s story about two best friends, and one of them is brainstorming like mad about what gift to give to the other.  Finally, he decides: nothing!  But it isn’t like he’s given up or gotten cheap or anything — he wraps this “nothing” up in a box, slaps a big, fat bow around it, and beams triumphantly.

I adore this story.  No, I A-D-O-R-E this story.  I adore it because of the lesson that things don’t necessarily show appreciation.  I adore it because of the gesture from one friend to another, the thought of how, exactly, to effectively manifest love, the verb.  I adore it because of the subtle truth that, sometimes, the best gift you can give is nothing at all, except for yourself.

I recently rewarded myself with a similar nothingness, and I’m tellin’ you…

It rocked my world.

The thing is, as a biz owner, I’m always working.  I’m always writing, analyzing, calculating, reviewing, editing, reading, researching, tweeting (although that really wears me out), blogging, selling, connecting, marketing, fixing, talking, emailing, buying, business-generating.  I’m making lists, friends, contacts, business plans; drafting policies, contracts; creating products, campaigns, promotions, my brand.  This is what I do, even in a small, service-based, yoga-focused business; even in an industry centered on centering, balance, serenity.

And here’s where that golden nothingness comes in.

With any job, there’s stress.  With any stress, you need relief.  I used to find relief in travel, massage, Louboutin heels, outstanding restaurants, yoga retreats… and [anyone who’s thinking of getting me a holiday gift should note that] I often still do.  But today, for a reprieve, I left the to-do list at home.

Maybe it was the naked tree branches, the almost-dead cold of winter, that inspired me to streamline my day and take on less.  Whatever it was, I picked up a reasonably trashy fiction novel instead of The Economist, holed myself up in my favorite cafe with a cappuccino and a croissant, and just read.  Just sipped, absorbed a few pages, watched my coffeeshop colleagues. Just sort of did nothing.  For hours.  And I tell you, it really was a gift.

When’s the last time you experienced that?

In yoga, we work to get centered, peaceful, quiet.  We worship “savasana” (the Sanskrit name for the ultra-restorative “corpse pose”).  We strive to reach contentment through resting the body so deeply that the volume of, and in, our minds actually turns down.

Now, when’s the last time you experienced that?

Sometimes, there is pure pleasure in consciously, mindfully practicing doing nothing, whether on the mat in savasana, or off the mat in your favorite coffeehouse, etc.

This holiday, as stress builds (work pressure, family stress, loneliness, and other common ailments), consider furthering your contentment by adding “nothing” to your to-do list.  It just might be the best thing you accomplish all month.

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4 Responses to The Gift of Nothing

  1. han b says:

    loved this kelly xox

  2. Sunny says:

    These thoughts are not just words of the month, they are words FOR THE LIFE! The life of one’s spirit, one’s body, and one’s mind…you say it so well, so directly – doing nothing is a GREAT approach to healing! I am slowly learning to do this – nothing – without feeling guilty that I’m not being productive with every minute of my day. But that was kind of the point of changing my career, to give myself a life where I can have time to do nothing if I choose. THANKS for reinforcing that it’s okay to give nothing to oneself! It is SO rewarding!!! Love you!

    • Kelly says:

      agreed on all counts. most of us can find at least a little time for nothing, no matter the career, but a shift like yours makes ALL the difference. so loving your new-found nothingness!! love right back at ya. 🙂

  3. David Phillips says:

    Check out the song ‘Box of Rain’ by The Dead. Written by Phil Lesh and Robert Hunter for Phil to sing to his father dying of terminal cancer.

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