Niksen – A Dutch spiritual practice?

I recently had my first trip to IKEA, and so all things sort of Northern European/Scandinavian are interesting to me. So when I found out about the Dutch concept of “niksen”, I was intrigued. “Niksen” is best translated as “doing something without a purpose”, so it’s like staring out of a window just to stare out of a window, or listen to music just to listen to music, or to just sit there…and breathe. 

I’m not real good at “niksen” and I would be willing to wager that you aren’t either. At least in terms of our general American cultural cues, people who live in the United States are ultimate pragmatists. We want to see that what we are doing has some positive effect. We respond to advertisements that say “work hard, play hard,” because even our play has to have some purpose, some achievement.

But to be human means to occasionally find ourselves in “niksen”, in a place where we are just daydreaming, spacing out, or zoning. The question that comes up, of course, is the question of if we should allow ourselves to “niksen” or if we should “nix the niksen” and see it as a character flaw to be struggled against.

The reality, of course, is complicated. But the 3rd commandment seems to speak to this. “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.” In this sense, the Hebrew word for “Holy” carries the idea of being “set apart”. Whenever I have those niksen moments, they are set apart. They aren’t my normal way of carrying on, I’m usually pretty purposeful – but every now and then, I need those moments of niksen to set myself apart from my tasks.

Because that’s the reality of the Sabbath. God wants us to see that we are set apart from our tasks. He gives us our vocations, but He does not give those to us so that we will become our vocations. Who we are, our beings, are more than just purpose – they are the objects of His love.

So take some time today to “niksen”, and don’t let it have a purpose, but rather, simply let it be something holy set apart that reminds you that you are holy and set apart in God’s eyes because of Jesus Christ.