Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The merit of doing 'nothing'

I recently purchased author and life coach Martha Beck's 2003 book, The Joy Diet. I have not yet finished it, but in my opinion the value of this book is apparent from the first page. Her overall analysis and advice begins by explaining that many of her clients have that dreaded but still uncomfortably common feeling, that something is missing from their lives.

What intrigued me is the very first challenge she puts forth. Do nothing- just for 15 minutes each day. Her account of people's reaction to this suggestion is descriptive, as she quips many "balk like irritated camels".

But, imaginative comparisons aside, the analysis and argument she discusses is convincing. 'Nothing' in this context is not bad, lazy, or negative, as our psyche obsessed with 'progress' and 'productivity' might subconsciously hiss.

Referring to the struggle people face in overcoming trauma and finding meaning in their lives, Beck writes:

"The best way to break through any barrier is to access a point of perfect stillness at the center of your being, a self deeper than your senses or your mind."  

That stillness, that place of peace, cannot be accessed as we flutter about, chasing after everything in our tumultuous lives and minds. Ambition is fine, and indeed admirable, but we have to make the time to just be still, so we can come back to ourselves and eventually grasp the 'whys' and the 'hows' of who we really are.

As I read the chapter it became clear that the essence of what Beck suggests is meditation. When stripped of the stereotypical accessories and preconceived notions, meditation is really about 'doing nothing'. Or perhaps more precisely, as a living, breathing, sentient being, one is non-doing. And that non-doing is the mindfulness bell that brings one back to the breath, core purpose, and eventually, one's core being.  

In the past, I have admittedly viewed meditation as just another thing I feel obligated to do, whether consciously or not. But with the wisdom of many funneled through the skilled writings of Martha Beck and others like her, I have come to realize that meditation is one less thing to 'do', and, more importantly something to drop all 'doing', and just experience. After all, everything we would ever need to know, want, and love is already present at our core being. To access that, we are blessed by the fact that all we have to do is sit down and shut up- if only for a few minutes each day.

What does non-doing or 'being still' mean to you? What experiences have you had just 'being still'? How could it benefit you and other beings? 

May all beings be happy!

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