A client of mine once told me that when he was young, his parents would never let him just sit and be still. “Do something!” they would exclaim, “Even if it is wrong, do something!” This is all too common in the way we have been brought up and how society sees success. It made me reflect on my own life and how the only acceptable time to be doing nothing was if I was in prayer or meditation, and even in those circumstances, I was still technically doing something.
So how often do we just do nothing? And I’m not talking about sleeping or meditating or even bird watching. I’m referring to the act (or non act in this case) of just being. Impossible! some say. “My mind is too busy, I am thinking and planning”, “My thoughts can’t stop.” and “This gives me anxiety” are just some of the responses I get. So I’ve created a process to help get you there. Some may call this meditation, but I like to call it just being, being you, and being part of the world at large:
1. When to be:
So technically, if you plan out a time to “do” this, it is still a thing to “do” but until it is woven into the fabric of your day to day, you have to make a loose plan or intention. My favorite Zen quote is “Everyone should meditate for 20 minutes each day, but if you don’t have the time, then you should meditate for an hour”. So find some time, and my suggestion is to not keep in on a strict timeline. Teach yourself to just know, that at some point in your day, you will be dedicating 20 mins – 1 hour to just being. If you create a schedule around it, it becomes a to-do thing. Instead, ask yourself, when things get busy, or you become stressed, is this a good time to step away from the drama of life and just be? Eventually, the goal is to step away all the time, and master the art of being in the world, but not subject to the illusion of its play.
2. How to be:
Start by sitting. In Ayurveda, we say walking is a Vata or “wind activity” so being in action, does not support being still. It doesn’t matter how you sit. Then just breathe. And watch what your mind does. Let your gaze observe your surroundings and how your body feels. Listen to noise around you and watch yourself as you place judgment on it. For example, I’m a little OCD so when I’m just “being” I can’t help but notice the dust on the floor, or a picture that is hanging crooked. But I fight the urge to “fix” anything and move on to the next observation. When your mind has wandered and you are thinking about work, relationships, problems or even joys, just come back to your present moment and keep observing. You may see birds out the window, but don’t bird-watch or take pictures to post on social media, just smile at the play, that has nothing to do with your participation.
3. Why to be:
So what’s the point you ask? Why would I bother doing this? Well, if you are anything like the rest of us, you just want deep ease in your life. You want to be released from the uncomfortable-ness that cripples you when you are not feeling deeply rested and content with your life. You want to stop constant rat race you have entered and join the world of being at peace in the middle of chaos. You want to be centered. And being in the moment, as uncomfortable as that may be, is where life happens. 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “If you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” Your thoughts are a reflection of who you are, and this is the place where you finally get to decide who you want to be in the world. You get to sit at the helm of your own life and watch it instead of being a victim of circumstance.
This exercise is not to replace or take away from the other practices you have in your life, it’s just a different way of learning how be contact with your spirit. People often ask me what makes this different than meditation. Meditation helps you go inward and still the mind. This process helps you actively live in the world and create non-judgment for what you see. It essentially helps us build compassion.
Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Victor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”