What exactly does that mean? Martha Beck in her book The Joy Diet talks about how doing nothing should be an important ingredient in your day. Do we sit there and stare at the wall? Isn't that close to meditation? The act of "doing nothing" is the paradox it seems to be. Is is the active pursuit of doing nothing that perplexes us. Let me try to explain is with a metaphor.
Our minds are so constantly filled with images, junk, lists, thoughts, ideas, complaints, self-criticisms. The list could go on forever. Doing nothing means letting all of those thoughts drop off like a spilled glass of water falling all over the table and floor. The water runs onto your lap. You bolt from the chair. You rush to clear the table. You head jerks to find the nearest towel. You pay attention to spilt water. Your thoughts are like spilt water.
What doing nothing asks of you is for you to just sit there. You must actively stop yourself from getting up. Feel the wetness. Stop the judgement about what is getting wet, what is getting wrecked. Like water, your thoughts threaten to make a mess if they are being ignored. They demand attention. However, like water, they will seek their own level and get to room temperature if left unattended.
The other day I sloshed cold water on myself at the sink. I cannot wash dishes or rinse them off without dousing myself at least little. For about 2 minutes the ice cold water soaked the front of my sweater; the sweater taking a healthy drink of it. Yikes it was cold. It wasn't so bad, so long as my baggy sweater didn't rub up against my stomach. But when it did - wooo! Eventually the water temperature got warmer and matched my own temperature (at least a little bit). Then I was able to ignore the wetness.
We need to give our minds a rest, we need to let those rushing fluid thoughts of ours slow down and reach their level. This is actively doing nothing. We will not drown in them, they will just slow down and become still. They will become room temperature.
Exercise - Just about every meditation book on the planet will tell you this...
- Sit in a comfortable position
- Become aware of your breathing.
- Notice your thoughts.
- Let them go where they must.
- Do not react to your thoughts.
- Do nothing about them.
- Do this for at least 5 minutes a day.