This is what we should all be doing before the end of the year.
It will be our greatest act of self-love.
The gift of doing absolutely nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch.
“Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” ~ Winnie the Pooh
I don’t mean that we should all be lying in a collective coma between now and January first. We all have things to do, duties and responsibilities and we will do them. They will get done.
I walk to the kitchen to make tea before I start to write this. Moments later, it’s done. I didn’t sigh at the tremendous exertion it would take, or tell myself that against all instincts to the contrary, it had to get done or else I’d be a failed human being.
I just did it and then I had tea in my hands.
There are many things we do everyday that build a life lived and this is the life we have chosen. If we would have done different things we wouldn’t have this life to reflect upon as the year draws to a close.
Yet we don’t applaud ourselves for these things, just like we don’t thank our bodies and minds enough for the things they allow us to do and be in this world completely naturally.
We do what we can do. All the rest creates stress and pressure, projection and regret, craving and aversion. I need to, I should, what-if-I-don’t.
Contrary to what our self-destructive sides want us to believe, needing to do something and doing it are two totally different things.
Needing to do it does not get it done. All it does is gnaw at us and shadow our every move and cause us to feel unworthy or unaccomplished.
Doing it, on the other hand, is an action—if we can do it, then great.
If not, don’t do it. But here’s the thing. Let’s try this: let’s acknowledge that we didn’t do it and then enjoy whatever it is we are doing.
The best chance we have of enjoying anything we’re doing, and even guiding ourselves to the desired outcome, is to accept the current state of affairs, as is.
The world won’t end if we don’t finish our book before 2014 ends, or if we don’t lose the last three pounds, or reach whatever goals we set for ourselves last New Year’s to torture ourselves for 12 months. The world isn’t keeping track of our to-do list.
Setting goals and working toward them are wonderfully productive and satisfying things to do. It’s how we go about it that marks the crucial distinction. We really should all aim for the stars, I believe this, because living is fun and wondrous and let’s make the very most of it.
Let’s also remember that those stars are not just in one place, but all over, and scattered through time, too; we can can forge our own path there and set the timeline by listening to our internal rhythms.
How do we let the pressure go?
Let’s use mediation as an example. When we sit down, telling ourselves we must meditate and cannot stand another day of falling short of perfect stillness of mind, all we’re doing is putting our body-complex into a warfare mentality. This will help no one, and it’s certainly not meditation.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve not-meditated, how many hours I’ve spent disciplining myself and measuring myself against insane benchmarks instead of just doing what I was doing: sitting and being alive.
Imagine that: just sitting there and accepting and noticing that my thoughts are doing a circus act in my head and smiling instead of hating myself—this is meditation.
Now let’s get off the cushion. We are proverbially sitting and being alive as long as we still have breath running through us. Yet, we are mostly trying to climb somewhere else.
The great teachers all say the same thing—this applies to meditation and yoga and extends to everything else. Find that balance between working diligently and not overdoing it.
Encourage yourself. Don’t give up. Reach toward the goal. But be friendly to yourself. Don’t resist too much. Find your edge and try to comfortable live there. And breathe.
Berating ourselves for not doing something, or not doing it right, amounts to a double negative: the goal is not reached, and we’ve created hatred, aversion and hostility—toward ourselves.
How productive and healing can this possibly be?
So, as year-end approaches, let’s try this.
Let’s sit and be alive. Let’s climb without forcing ourselves to climb. Let’s do or not do things and accept the situation either way.
Let’s rest in the moment and accept the fact that another long and full year of our lives is coming to a close and let’s attend to each part of it with a whole lot of love and attention and gratitude for what has been.
If we do something, then it gotten done. If we don’t, then we’ve done something else instead. Nothing is stopping us from doing what we want to do another time. Not even the very last page of this year’s calendar.
“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.” – Lao Tzu
*This was published in elephant journal, here!