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Learning Nothing: Niksen, Zilch, Nada

Updated: Mar 7

Six tabs on my current desktop as my audiobooks plays. Ping! An email. I slide over five other desktop screens with countless tabs open trying to get to the email screen. I stop scrolling to quickly finish signing up for my yoga class and get distracted once more by my TurboTax tab. I realize that I haven’t heard a word of this last chapter of the book and pick up my phone to restart it, when I respond to two texts, check instagram and snapchat, and my email (again) but this time from my phone.

The audiobook playing, you ask? The Lost Art of Doing Nothing: How the Dutch Unwind with Niksen by Maartje Willems.

Willems is a Dutch journalist and writer who defines Niksen as “The absence of any other activity,” later saying “Niksen is suddenly, in an unguarded movement, having nothing to do and not finding something new to do. Or instead of doing an activity, niksen is canceling it and replacing it with absolutely nothing at all.”

Well, I thought to myself, I meditate – I do nothing sometimes. But, the author points out that in meditation we observe our thoughts and when practicing(?) Niksen we do l i t e r a l l y nothing. Sit, be still, let the mind wander. Willems suggests doodling without purpose or staring out the window. No mental checklists or reminders, stillness and bliss. And of course, limit your distractions.

Illustration from the book

Though I haven’t quite finished the book (blame the 34 open tabs), I am a fan of her references to

  1. Ikigai - a Japanese concept for “finding your life’s meaning” where your passion, skills, profession and offerings meet

  2. Hygge - a Danish concept of coziness, simplicity and wellbeing

  3. Lykee - the Danish word for happiness.

In exploration of these concepts, I enjoyed Fisk’s short read of 10 Little Words of Happiness as a reminder that the English language is not all encompassing of emotions, pastimes, and experiences. That concepts outside of our orbit can be relatable and hit a sweet spot, like you’ve been searching for this word all along.

My personal challenge for March was to meditate daily so I will up the ante and encourage myself to do: Morning Meditation and Nightime Niksen…. You’re allowed to schedule it in, right?

Check out some of the tips taken directly from the book! And, as other goodreaders suggested: the physical copy > the audiobook as the illustrations are enjoyable.

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