There’s a term in the mindfulness world, non-doing, which rubs against our social conditioning. We hear the phrase “non-doing” and balk at the idea, interpreting it as laziness.
When you imagine someone in a state of non-doing, what comes to mind? A messy home, a lackluster career or even poor health? Now consider the opposite. And maybe this is YOU. When you imagine someone in a state of total doing, what comes to mind? While they might be efficient can you feel their frenetic energy, lack of focus, stress and overwhelm?
When our nervous systems are dysregulated, a.k.a. out of whack, we unconsciously attempt to bring ourselves back into balance. In some ways this is a beautiful thing! Your body intuitively always searches for equilibrium.
“Doing” is one of the ways we might attempt to manage our anxiety or attempt to reestablish inner balance. You might do this by cleaning, multi-tasking or organizing. This state of overt doing may provide momentary relief but leaves the underlying symptom, anxiety, unaddressed. In a short matter of time the urge to “do” something once again arises and we find ourselves in yet another tailspin of tasks.
Clinical research shows that multitasking is actually connected with a lower IQ. The human brain is not built for multitasking, which creates stress and reduces your ability to focus. In the moment it might feel good to get a lot of things done but the long-term ramifications include you avoiding feeling what your body and mind are actually begging you to acknowledge.
Non-doing might just be the medicine you need as you discover the simple beauty of being. After all, you are a human being, not a human doing.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mind Body Stress Reduction (MBSR), writes that when someone practices non-doing “they are purposefully relaxing into the present without trying to fill it up with anything…They are simply allowing themselves to be in the moment with things exactly as they are, without trying to change anything.”
In a practice of non-doing you are simply resting with your moment-to-moment experience. Non-doing is a specific practice, and not necessarily a way you would live an entire day or life (although you could!).
Non-doing requires setting aside specific time each day to simply BE through such practices as meditation. For a few, quiet moments in the day you rest with the fullness of your experience – your breath, body, mind, physical sensations, sounds, emotions and heart.
Without trying to change anything, without trying to get anywhere, without labeling any experience as “good” or “bad,” you simply sit with yourself in a state of receptivity and presence. But why?
Imagine how beautiful your life and our world would be if you could rest with your inner and outer experiences exactly as they are. This doesn’t mean you don’t vote, have boundaries or experience tremendous accomplishments in life.
It means that you have honed a skill, the skill of non-doing, and are able to receive each moment, no matter how beautiful or challenging it might be. The benefit of this is a life fully lived.
We miss so many important moments in life, so many opportunities to connect with ourselves, our partners, kids or friends because we are too busy doing things. We are so busy multitasking and checking things off of lists that we miss life as it is happening right in front of us.
We miss the cues of a child asking for a moment of love and attention. We miss the cues of a partner asking for the same. We bulldoze through life and in the end, we die. As we lay there in our final moments we don’t want to look back and realize we were so busy doing that we forgot to be together, to be with ourselves.
There is beauty in being. Give it some practice. It won’t be easy but, it will be worth it.