· Non-doing has nothing to do with being indolent or passive.
Quite the contrary.
It takes great courage and energy to cultivate non-doing,
Both in stillness and in activity.
Nor is it easy to make a special time for non-doing
And to keep at it in the face of everything in our lives
Which needs to be done.
- Jon Kabat-Zinn
One of the great quandaries of life is that there is always so much to do! Always a never-ending to-do list, at home and at work. And in this digital age we are always connected, always on the grid, always available. Social media adds a 24/7 never-ending to-do list. There is often a feeling of not wanting to miss out, or if you are not connected or active you are missing out.
Kabat-Zinn makes an important distinction in pointing out that non-doing is NOT being passive. On the contrary it takes great courage and energy to go against the grain, to feel like you are swimming upstream in the river of this "doing" oriented culture. It takes true commitment and determination to NOT do, to court stillness, to not reach for the phone, the computer, the TV or any other device. It takes courage to be still, to simply BE, to not do!
Not-doing is often uncomfortable; you may feel restless, your mind may wander, thoughts and worries may flood your mind, you might sense uncomfortable feelings in your body. Not-doing is truly an art, a passion, a commitment to yourself, to getting to know yourself in a deeper, ultimately more satisfying way.
Can you give experiment with non-doing for a few minutes before you begin your day, before you go to sleep, at moments throughout your busy day? As you do, notice how it impacts your mood, your state-of-being, your sense of yourself. Maybe you will be surprised by who you meet within when you are not doing.
Look at every path closely and deliberately.
Try it as many times as you think necessary.
Then ask yourself, and yourself alone....
Does this path have a heart?
If it does, the path is good.
If it doesn't, it is of no use.
It can be difficult to make an important decision; often you may have no idea what to do, or how to decide, or you may feel torn between seemingly opposite choices. Or the consequences of taking a stand and making a decision may invoke fear: what if this is the "wrong" decision, you may ask; you may have a history of shame associated with making mistakes or wrong decisions, with not being perfect.
There may be a lot riding on this decision: a relationship, a pregnancy, a job, a course of study, or other major life transition. It can be extremely nerve-wracking to turn the options over and over in your mind, asking others for advice or feedback, feeling confused and paralyzed.
Castaneda's criteria for making a decision is the best I have encountered, and certainly one I have seen and experienced as successful. It is important to explore each path, each possibility thoroughly and thoughtfully. To research options, to think it through, to meditate and contemplate, to discuss with trusted others.
Often the choice comes down to what the mind thinks is right and what the heart or intuition knows is right. Our culture teaches us to value the mind more than the heart, so it can be difficult to truly listen to and trust the heart's desire. Ultimately the litmus test is: does this path have heart? Does it come from my heart? Am I wholehearted about it? I have never known this to fail. Give it a try!
Your willingness to
Wrestle with your Demons
Will make your Angels sing!
It seems to be part of human nature to avoid "wrestling with your demons." People tend to avoid the demons below the surface that may be troubling or haunting them, keeping them stuck, stagnant or unhappy. Who would want to wrestle with something that feels so big, scary and overwhelming? Yet ignoring these demons, is not a useful or growthful defense or strategy. Turning away from them, refusing to face the demons within, simply gives them more power to control your life.
Often you may not even be aware of the demons, simply feeling a malaise, a lack of energy, fear, nightmares, anxiety. You may find yourself turning to food, sex, substances, the internet or work, obsessively or compulsively. Maybe it is time to question what is beneath the ways you distract yourself from your inner life ( and from living a richer outer life).It takes courage to look deep within and face the demons, the ghosts from the past, and the pain that unconsciously motivate many of the feelings, thoughts and actions in your current life.
A common theme in nightmares is running away from someone who is perceived as dangerous, feeling terror as the person draws near, waking up before s/he reaches you. Yet rarely does anyone turn and face their pursuer in the dream ( when they do, it shows that something has shifted within, that they are ready to face their demons).
What might it be like within the dream, or in waking life to turn and face what is most feared, to confront and wrestle with your demons? Clearly the fear of annihilation often cuts off this possibility. What might it be like to remember, even in the moments of terror, that there is growth, light, peace, self-mastery, living your life more fully, that can emerge from having the courage to wrestle with your demons? Would you take that risk, would you be more likely to plunge in if you could trust that this effort would truly "make your angels sing?"
A Person who never made a mistake
never learned anything new.
- Albert Einstein
Most people are extremely critical of themselves for making a mistake. Many people are also equally judgmental of others for making what they view as errors. There is often not a lot of mental bandwidth for trying new (or old) things and not doing them well. There is often an assumption that if you can't do something well at first it's best not to continue, better to cut your losses and quit while you're ahead.
A mistake is often viewed (and felt) as something really horrible, humiliating, or shameful. It may feel irreparable if it involves another person or a work or school problem or situation. Often the impulse is to distance yourself from it as quickly as possible.
Yet as Einstein says in the quote ( and surely he made his share of mistakes before arriving at his brilliant theories!) it is impssible to learn something new if there is no space for making a mistake, if there is too much fear to try something new. A mistake is simply part of the learning process in each person's life journey ( or school, career or relationship). Can you allow yourself to learn from your mistakes instead of shutting down and not trying again?
Many people learned fear and avoidance of mistakes from childhood: from parents, teachers, peers, and church leaders or teachings. By adulthood mistakes can become something to avoid at any cost. However the cost is high: living a small, fearful, inhibited life.
I like to look at the word mistake as the two words that made it up: a mis-take. It makes me think of movie sets or recording sessions where the first "take" ( or often many "takes") are not what the director is looking for so s/he calls for "take two" or "take three" or however many "takes" are necessary to produce something new or satisfactory. Can you allow yourself that attitude about your "mis-takes?"
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley