“Summa irupathey sugam” is a Tamil language phrase used repeatedly in comedies. It loosely translates to “It is a pleasure to do nothing”. When somebody questions you about the work that you were supposed to do, you would reply wittily “Summa irupathey sugam”.
One of the comedy scenes that I enjoy time and again is by the comedian Vadivelu where he challenges a fellow villager to sit idle doing nothing for one hour. Sorry, this does not have subtitles but here is the link
What do these two have in common? Though they were meant to be a comedy we cannot dismiss them as a joke. These two convey a valuable life lesson like a hidden treasure.
We often take pride in being busy. We block our calendars completely with activity to show that we are buzzing with life. We take pride in having too much on our plate. As a Zen quote goes,
Beware the barrenness of busyness
We avoid boredom like a plague. In the current hyper connected world, being bored is no more an option. Thank god, some of the vital systems in the body are involuntary. Else, we will forget to breathe in our busy attempt to soak up the information overload.
Recently, some researchers have highlighted the true value of downtime where you do nothing. This is super important for your brain to make connections, apparently. Many successful entrepreneurs are taking a scheduled downtime to recharge themselves.
In the book, Essentialism, the author Greg McKeown has dedicated an entire chapter on the importance of sleep. In this chapter, he gives an example of an ambitious and accomplished entrepreneur who was a workaholic and was forced to quit his company and take a downtime for two years. The most important lesson that this person learnt during downtime was to protect the asset. The asset being yourselves. We run behind so many things in life in search of success while neglecting what is truly important.
When Geoff was asked to share what he learnt infront of two hundred plus entrepreneurs, he said “If you think you are so tough you can do anything I have a challenge for you. If you really want to do something hard: say no to an opportunity so you can take a nap.”
Some of us have a medical problem that prevents us from sleeping and we will do anything to get some good sleep. Many of us do not have the disorder but yet throw it away by getting the priorities wrong.
I want to emphasize it is that it’s okay to be bored, it’s more than ok to sleep in, it’s ok not to be busy on trivial stuffs, it’s ok not to be over ambitious, and sometimes it’s ok to just be and do nothing. Breathe.