'At any given time, I am thinking about 8 things: and at least 7 are useless...'

Kaz Cooke


This global trend for mindfulness and meditation makes me want to take a big, deep breath – and then distort my face into a Munchian maw and shriek until my blood pressure goes ballistic and my ears blow off in a cartoony way.

It’s genetic, I think. My nanna’s motto was, “The devil makes work for idle hands”, which, while leading to some objectionable macramé, does seem to have taken hold as the central philosophy in my own life. I can’t just watch TV – I also have to have something in my hands, like sewing, or a bowl of peas to shell, or an engineer.

Friends tell me that I am really, really bad at doing nothing. Even the idea of doing nothing is discombobulating. It makes me want to immediately start making an outrigger sail out of old napery, or design a sort of pulley system I can use to haul baskets of oranges up the stairs. Or start writing a romance novel set on the island of Fang a Tof’u, which I need to check the spelling of on Wikipedia immediately. (It’s Fangataufa, BTW.)

I have never understood it when people claim they were “thinking about nothing”.

This is how I remember my nanna; she was always doing something. She could and did crochet an antimacassar out of old hankies, churn her own butter and slaughter a chook.

And now I can’t stop either, although I’m not being so useful or self-sufficient. I’m checking Twitter, or doodling, or looking at pictures of other people’s houses on an interior design app and wondering if this inexplicable global wall-antler fetish will run forever, or thinking about a hilarious thing I could have said at the right time, which is now about three weeks ago, and isn’t it excellent that there is an actual person called Boaty Boatright.

I have never understood it when people claim they were “thinking about nothing”. At any given time, I am thinking about eight things, at least seven of them useless. When researching my ebook, Sex With the Lot, I watched some DIY-style raunchy videos from “women-friendly erotica websites”.

They were deeply offensive. I have no idea what the protagonists were doing to each other because I was transfixed on the motel-style manchester and wallpaper. How anybody can get aroused on floral nylon with a double valance is a sorrowful mystery to me.

Then I started to think about who invented the valance, and remembered that Holly Valance is now married to some British squillionaire called Mr Candy. I don’t think this is what it meant by “mindfulness”. Although it certainly feels like mind-fullness.

I tried meditation. I had a tape that got you to close your eyes and imagine you were in a hot air balloon, which loosened its rope bonds and floated gently into the air. How terrifying is that? As the Californian accent droned on, I could only start to wonder how a balloon “loosened” anything – what is a balloon doing with free will?


How would I get down from there? What sort of gas do they use in balloons? Natural? Helium? Swamp?  Surely in this age of nylon and carbon fibre one can get hold of some decent tether ropes? Self-loosening balloons should be a thing of the past, like Alice bands and Bavaria. Although some things are remarkably tenacious and haven’t changed at all, such as the hook-and-eye bra fastener, which seems to have remained unsullied by modern improvements.  Where was I?

Relax … stop thinking …. oh wait, I’m still thinking.

The other side of the meditation tape (yes it was that long ago, shut up) told me to imagine I was high in space, becoming one with the stars. I cannot arsing BREATHE, my mind began to say, moving swiftly on to It is bloody freezing up here and I can’t see a thing. And how does Pluto feel about no longer being a planet?

I thought maybe it would be easier if I had somebody else participating in the meditation, to stop me going off into la la land. (Where is la la land? Are there package holidays? Are you allowed to go if you can’t sing?)

So off I popped to a hypnotist, who led me through a session of guided exercises that were so spectacularly dull I spent most of the hour rearranging my face into pious positions, while trying to decide what was my favourite kind of sausage.

All religions have some sort of calm session, meditation, prayer or “stillness”, in which you can focus on a goal or thought, or daydream, or try to rid the mind of clutter and think of nothing at all. And I can see why it makes sense. I’m just crap at it. I may as well try and stand in an empty cupboard, or do some maths – there’s nothing in it for me.

I know that having a multi-tasking spin-dryer of a head no doubt makes for more stress and the sort of scatty ditziness that may have been briefly adorable in Goldie Hawn in about 1963 but frankly hasn’t done anyone any favours since. Somewhere, my inner-Nanna tells me that I’ll be a long time dead not thinking of anything, so I may as well stay busy.

What am I hiding from? Who will arrest me if my hands are free? Am I frightened of metaphorical mental tumbleweeds? What will rush into the calm space of my mind if I give it half a chance? Going on present indications, it will be wondering why jumbo corduroy went out of fashion, inventing names for the new AFL women’s teams, and wondering if anyone has ever trained a wombat to totter on its hind legs.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and find out how to pronounce ‘hyperbolic’, scan all the family photos back to 1872 and find out why physics happens.

Kaz Cooke is an Australian author, cartoonist, radio broadcaster and public speaker. Some of her bestsellers include Up the Duff, Kidwrangling, Girl Stuff and Women’s Stuff. Her collection of Women’s Stuff ebooks on subjects close to the female heart (and various other parts) is here. You can also find her Facebook page here and her website here.

Can you ‘do nothing’? How do you switch off and relax?