The Art of Non-Doing
· 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.
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Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley