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Unstructured Time. Or...Doing Nothing On Purpose ((gasp!))


I had set up the arena for an equine assisted learning activity. The props were neatly organized, and I went out to greet my students, leaving the horses alone for a few minutes. They took advantage and I came back to find them...well, watch the video.


Horses, of course, can teach us a lot about the importance of unstructured time and play. They're really good at it and they're not constantly angst-ridden that they're missing out on something else.


But our culture has gotten away from allowing unstructured time and play and I'm not talking about the necessity of it for children here. There's lots of research out there about them. I'm talking about us -- the adults. Those of us who think every minute needs to be filled. Those of us who can never say no to a request even when we're already so overburdened.


Those of us who actually get anxious if there's too much quiet.


Yet it is from this discomfort of unstructured time that we can gain so much of what we're missing.


If you need to call "doing nothing" something there's actually a term for it! Wu Wei is a Chinese term that means literally “non-doing." It's a Taoist concept referring to natural action that is free-flowing, harmonious, and spontaneous.


Many of us complain that there's not enough deep connection in our lives anymore or that we don't get to play and create and just have fun or that we never have an unexpected adventure or that spontaneity is a thing of the past.


Connection, joy, creativity, and an experience of Oneness can seemingly magically happen when we allow ourselves to sink into unstructured time unfettered by expectation and agenda.


Don't plan ahead. Just allow pockets of unstructured time in your schedule and see what comes up.


Maybe you'll just sit. Or NAP. Or take a really slow walk. Or sit in a cafe by yourself with a cup of coffee. You can't say now what you'll do then because that wouldn't be spontaneous.


This isn't time for distractions from the present, like TV or talking on the phone or scrolling through social media. This is time to experience each moment with your senses and to observe yourself and the world around you in real time. This is where we meet our true selves; this is where our horses want us to meet them too.

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​© 2016 by Stephanie Sawtelle