Discover The Art Of Doing Nothing

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”
― Seneca

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The basic premise of mindfulness meditation is that we already have everything we need. By taking the time to slow down, to notice and appreciate what is happening around us, we tap into an infinite well of patience and peace. We have an inherent basic goodness that is here, just as a result of us being alive.

It is the same essence of the trees, the sun and the moon, the vast open sky. Our very breath can bring us to this place of stillness, where we realize that all that we are seeking – that next job, that better relationship, that bigger house – are not really necessary. They can be nice experiences, sure, but we don’t need any of these to feel truly at home, at peace, and able to bring our gifts forth to the world.

There is a simple practice that is very helpful in touching in with this truth – the art of doing nothing.

Doing nothing is about Equanimity and Surrender. We are equanimous when we loosen the grip of right and wrong, and of how things should be. We surrender to the moment when we choose to focus on working WITH things as they are, rather than AGAINST them.

Doing nothing will challenge you to notice the many many ways that you (and I) constantly interfere with the natural sense of goodness that exists inside of us. Where do you fight, resist, and punish yourself and others? How often do you get stuck on right and wrong, good or bad, wishing that things were different than they already are?

Here are some ways that you can practice the art of doing nothing today:

1. Formal Doing Nothing Practice – Aim For 3-5 Minutes, 5 Days A Week.

Sit in a comfortable position, with a straight but relaxed spine and open heart. Allow whatever is arising in your mind and body to be there, just as it is. Notice the thoughts as thoughts. Don’t engage them. If they are going on and on about your grocery shopping or the disagreement you had with a colleague, just watch.

Don’t interfere. Don’t purposely add to the dialogue either, just watch what arises naturally. Drop all resistance to what is happening. If there is discomfort in the body, allow that in as well. Hold it all in the cradle of lovingkindness, as a mother would hold her infant child. Let the whole thing be, and let it be ok.

2. Doing Nothing – Surrender To The Difficulties In Your Day

For this one, you will look out for moments when something goes “wrong”. The next time the alarm doesn’t go off, the subway is delayed, the kids are screaming and fighting again, or your boss gives you a project that makes you want to scream, rejoice! Your opportunity to Do Nothing is here.

Take a few breaths, and bring your attention to the strong resistance that arises in your body. Your mind might be saying – NO NO NO NO! Your body will likely be contracting in the belly, chest and shoulders. There might be tension in your neck and maybe a headache starting up. Let it all happen for a few moments. Do nothing. Then, put all that aside and move along to your next task.

3. Doing Nothing When Others Are Plain Wrong

Neighborly disputes are perfect for this one. Imagine you have a beautiful tree in your backyard that you enjoy immensely. One day, you see someone with a chainsaw trying to cut off a limb. You know that if that limb is cut off, the tree will die. You go to talk to your neighbor, and he is convinced that it is his right to cut off the limb as it is causing shade in his property. In your mind, the neighbor is clearly wrong. How could you possibly just stand there and Do Nothing?

The doing nothing in this scenario involves letting go of all the ways in which your mind is focusing on attacking the person. How could he do this? Is he insane? Does he not have any appreciation for living things? All that has to go. We Do Nothing in letting go of trying to prove the person wrong, and instead bring all our energy and attention to the problem at hand.

In focusing on your interest in saving your tree, but also considering your neighbor’s interest in not having shade, you could come to a resolution where smaller branches aPin Itre cut rather than the whole limb. This kind of collaboration can only happen when we first do nothing with all our blaming others, victimizing ourselves, and focusing on being right.

Doing nothing is coming back to our raw emotions of anger, fear and frustration, noticing them in the body and mind without acting on them, and returning to that place beyond right and wrong that can bring to light useful and creative solutions to our problems.

Try it out, and see how your ability to bring energy into your life arises spontaneously when you choose to let go of resistance and embrace life, just as it is.

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