“Dare to be idle”, advises Caroline Hamming — not as easy as it might seem. It sounds a bit like mindfulness, and it sounds a bit like meditation, but it’s neither of those things.
I think niksen is kind of like what Joseph Goldstein refers to as, “black lab consciousness”— relaxed and carefree. But lacking intention. A pathway to ease and random connection, but not what one would call purposeful brain-training. The mirror opposite of the quote attributed to Sylvia Boorstein: “Don’t just do something, sit there”!
Niksen seems to be less about what it is that we’re doing (or not doing), and more about our purpose (or lack of purpose). Maybe niksen is just that — the absence of purpose. That feels right to me, and seems to be consistent with Ms. Hamming’s challenge, quoted above.
Niks–ing is not something one does in order to actually achieve anything. Quite to the contrary, niks—ing is simply about being. Quoting another Dutch source (sociologist Ruut Veenhoven) Time.com concluded its July 2019 article about niksen with the observation that, “what it all comes down to is finding out ways of relaxation that fit you best. Something that’s passive and somewhat second nature, like knitting or taking a walk — as long as you’re giving yourself permission to niks regularly and without an intention”.
Confused yet? Niksen seems to be a close cousin of mindfulness and meditation, but it’s really not? The Mindful Law Group advocates for the introduction of mindfulness and meditation in the legal profession, but it also embraces niksen? Mindfulness and meditation are tools that can help us cultivate purpose and intention, but niksen celebrates the absence of purpose and intention? How can all those things be reconciled?
In a word (albeit, a hyphenated word), that reconciliation is found in our well-being. It’s the yin and the yang. The light and the dark. The ineffable balance of purpose and intention with the very absence of those things. In my lexicon, it’s the balancing of “me time” with the discipline of meditation and the resulting state of awareness referred to as mindfulness. For me, that balance is what we commonly refer to as well-being.
So, don’t be nixin’ niksen— it’s unfortunate that the word rhymes with the last name of a former US president, but 17 million Dutch can’t all be wrong!