Don't just do something. Sit there.
It sounds completely counterintuitive and jarring.
Yet it says a lot in just a few words.
We spend much of our time "doing" things in our day as opposed to "being" in our day.
Being in our day requires some silence and stillness, observing, listening, letting things be. Getting out of our own way. Holding our thoughts, emotions, fears and sensations in our awareness, as opposed to acting on them.
Let's be clear, I'm not suggesting that we abandon 'doing things' in favour of 'doing nothing'.
What I'm advocating is this:
If we don't make time in our day for doing 'nothing' ('non-doing'), we're putting ourselves at risk of increased stress and anxiety and significantly limiting our growth and full living potential.
Non-doing is not relaxing, taking a vacation, or reading a book. Research to date clarifies, that when we are relaxing or daydreaming, the brain doesn't really slow down or stop working.
Non-doing is something we don't typically make time for.
I'd like to unpack that for a moment.
We're highly skilled at filling up time.
We live in a culture obsessed with keeping busy and doing things. Thanks to the marvel of information technology, we now have infinite possibilities for never-ending activity and distraction. Society simply doesn't support the idea of sitting and doing nothing.
Consider this for a moment.
When was the last time you had nothing to do...can you remember?
For many of us, being busy is preferable to doing nothing and being alone with our self. Busyness is a great way to procrastinate and keep ourselves distracted from the stuff we don't want to think about or do. We've even be known to experience boredom when there isn't something to do...
We have a tendency to jump in and fix things.
Often, our first impulse when we see things that we think we need to stop is to jump in and fix them. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to sit back and watch a colleague or child doing something wrong? Did you notice an instinctive need to intervene?
It's inherent in our nature to give advice and offer help, but sometimes in doing so, it prevents another person's growth and mastery of their own life. We prevent them from taking responsibility for their own actions.
We have many default behaviors.
We're so accustomed to responding to people in a split second.
Our behaviour isn't always a result of careful reflection. We have tendencies to react automatically to things we're not paying close attention to. Many of these default patterns are wired into us via thousands of years of evolution.
Some defaults serve a purpose, they save time and effort. Others do more harm than good and too often lead to unproductive behaviours and outcomes.
When we're in the moment, trying our best to perform well, non-doing can be the difference between success and failure.
the benefits of non-doing.
It creates space for us to respond rather than react.
It creates an opening to new possibilities.
It can empower others to solve their own problems and build confidence.
It deepens our listening capability.
It strengthens our attunement to take in what's going on in the present moment.
It increases our productivity.
It decreases our need to control outcomes and teaches us to let go.
3 WAYS to incorporate it in your day.
1. Be aware of your automatic patterns.
Make a list of your reactions during tough moments in your day and become more aware of your defaults. I have several default patterns. On occasion I'll talk too much to fill space in a conversation and in confrontational situations I can become competitive and argue back to win.
2. Pay attention to your intentions.
I was in a meeting last week and knew it would be really important to create space for the other person to talk. I brought awareness to this and set an intention to ask questions and listen as opposed to talk. As I was driving to the meeting and during the meeting, I continued to pay attention to my intention and I achieved my goal.
If careful listening is your goal, but frequent interruption is your default – rehearse a plan for better listening and create a better chance of overriding your automatic reflexes.
3. Pause before acting on impulse.
There are multiple opportunities in our day to create some space for more considered reflection and response. Next time someone asks a question, or something pulls at your attention, intentionally pause and take a breath. It might just be for a few seconds. Notice what your impulse is. Then respond.
“Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There” was the title of a book written by Sylvia Boorstein, a meditation teacher, psychotherapist and storyteller. It's an inspiring book about creating your own meditation retreat.
(Image Copyright: ASchindl/Shutterstock)