Something's Missing

A common reason that people seek coaching is that they sense that something is missing from their lives, but they are not sure what it is. That something is often nothing. That's right. Nothing is missing. I have a feeling that nothing is missing from your life. I know it was missing from mine. And the more we try to cram into our caffeinated schedules, the more we need nothing.

What I mean here is that we need to spend time everyday doing nothing. If there is a secret to life or one most important habit to develop, this may very well be it. If you're like me, this sounds difficult, maybe even torturous and logistically impossible. We are a culture obsessed with being busy and "getting things done" (Right now, a book by that title is sitting on my husband's night stand). We feel good about ourselves when we are doing things, and if we are moving at a frantic pace, we must be getting even more done. Well, as it turns out, that is not the case.

Believe me, I tried to get out of doing nothing for a long time. But it kept coming back to haunt me. I just looked at my bookshelf and counted about 20 self-improvement/psychology/spiritual/coaching books I have read in the last six months. Virtually every one of them recommends taking time for stillness or doing nothing for 15 minutes every day. One of those books is written by an architect. I thought for sure that she would let me off the hook. But no, there is a whole chapter devoted to doing nothing. And we all know what Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) did in India. Apparently, doing nothing is non-negotiable.

After building up much evidence for doing nothing, I am now convinced that it is one of the most important things I can do to be present in my life. I now want to convince you. Here's my case:

Doing nothing gives us access to our deep, true, essential selves. Eckhart Tolle claims that "You are never more essentially, more deeply, yourself than when you are still." In case you wonder what is so great about being yourself, you should know that who you really are is filled with peace, truth, consciousness, acceptance, and connection. By tapping into who you are, you will know how to live. As Martha Beck writes in The Joy Diet, "from this still core of self...springs...the real operating instructions for your life." The value in doing nothing lies in its effect on the rest of our lives.  If we take action from a place of peace, clarity, consciousness, acceptance, and connection to life, imagine how calm and efficient we are when we approach situations. We can handle anything.  We don't waste time working toward the wrong goals. Creative solutions come of out nowhere (or nothing). To paraphrase Einstein, we don't try to solve problems with the same thinking that created them. Taking time to do nothing actually ends up saving us time.  It improves the quality of our lives and I suspect it may even increase the quantity of our years (more time to get things done!). As Martha Beck sums it up, "doing nothing is the most productive activity you will ever undertake."

If you want to do nothing but think you have no time, think again. Actually, think differently. As is the case with everything in life, the only thing stopping you is your thoughts. Think about the evidence above. If 15 minutes sounds daunting, start with 5 minutes. Wake up earlier, sit in your car at lunch, lock yourself in the bathroom and pop in those headphones. If the whole thing sounds unappealing right now, don't worry about it and come back to it when you need it.

So, how to do nothing? As I did research for this post, I admit that I became overwhelmed with the amount and variety of information out there on "doing nothing" (There is something ironic about being stressed about figuring out how to do nothing). There are different methods for doing nothing/being still/meditating (don't let that word scare you) and endless resources out there. I have included recommendations on my website's Inspiration page and I will continue to add to the list as I test drive other options.

Traditional meditation asks that we sit with a straight spine and bring attention to our breathing. Now here's the thing: Sitting still can be very difficult for some people, so uncomfortable that they never even try it or try it and give up. I believe that traditional meditation practices are the most powerful, but if following such instructions is not fitting with your life right now, try "doing nothing" while taking a quiet walk, soaking in the tub, or lying in bed. Expect thoughts & feelings, including those of grief, anger & fear, to come up. The key is to do this:

Let your thoughts arise without judging them (We judge ourselves enough the remaining 23.75 hours of the day); just watch them. Don't try to control the process. Then let go of your thoughts. You don't have to stop thinking; just stop attaching to the thoughts.

You can try letting go of your thoughts as if they are bubbles floating away. The Joy Diet suggests watching your thoughts pass by as written words on a ticker tape, a waterfall, or a parade.

There are many audio recordings that teach you to meditate. There are also many that guide you through processes of relaxation, releasing thoughts, etc. While the latter would not be considered traditional meditation, I believe they can help us feel more calm and peaceful. They are also easier to do, providing a great introduction to doing nothing.

So give nothing a try. Just stop doing and start BEING and see what happens.

Ok, I must now stop writing and get back to doing nothing.

I am so busy doing nothing... that the idea of doing anything - which as you know, always leads to something - cuts into the nothing and then forces me to have to drop everything. -Jerry Seinfeld

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

Your treasure-your perfection-is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of your mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter the silence of the heart. -Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love