December 14, 2018

The One Thing I do Every Day to keep myself Sane in this Crazy, Fast-Paced World.

What does doing nothing mean to you?

Take a moment to really think about it.

In this fast-paced world of overstimulation, do you ever just take five minutes or an hour or a day to just do nothing?

My personality is definitely wired for the overdoing, anxious, fast-paced lifestyle. My mind defaults to overthinking and either living in the past or the future, but not being mindfully present.

I’ve invested decades of time, money, and energy into learning to live the opposite: present, relaxed, and peaceful. Yoga has taught me how to connect, care for, and listen to my body. Meditation has taught me how to slow down, quiet the mind, and keep coming back to the present moment. Therapy and energy healing have taught me how to work with my default busy mind and channel that energy in a healthy way.

And, even with all of these amazing tools as well as teaching these practices to others—which adds a layer of accountability for me—I still periodically wind up back in the “over-syndrome.” Overdoing, overanalyzing, overscheduling, and flat-out overliving.

A few months ago, I got a strange flu-like sickness that only lasted for two days and hit me hard, but left just as quickly as it came without a trace. For those two days, even though I had work and other plans scheduled, I had to pause my life. And I had this wonderful opportunity to play with this concept that had been rolling around in my head: really doing nothing.

I had heard on an interview about the importance of doing nothing, and by nothing, he did not mean relax and read a book or listen to music, or watch TV. He meant nothing. Taking 30 minutes to just lie on the bed, stare or not stare at the wall, and simply be—literally do nothing. 

So I did this. When I would have normally turned on music, a podcast, or an educational interview, I laid in silence. When I might have watched a TV show or documentary, I stared at the whiteness of the walls. When I might have snacked or drank tea, I rested with nothing stimulating my taste buds. When I might have taken some medication to feel better (although this is rare for me), I didn’t. I just felt what I felt, noticed what I noticed, let it pass, and continued with my nothingness.

It was phenomenal! Granted, being sick made it easier to do nothing, to not work, to not reach for stimuli, and to slow down in general. My body and mind needed to rest and I was giving myself the appropriate treatment. But, it was still an active choice. I could have numbed out what I was going through by watching 10 hours of movies or by medicating myself and trying to go about my usual routine. But, this was an opportunity, and I wanted to seize it.

Even at the peak of the sickness, and I was a bit worried I wouldn’t be healthy again soon enough, I was so grateful for this time. I got to spend two days in my bed doing things I wanted in a slow, mindful way, and most importantly, I got to do nothing.

At this point, you may be wondering what the difference is between what I am describing and meditation. Good question! Some meditations are purposefully doing nothing. However, most meditations have some point of focus, whether it be the breath, a hand position, repeating a mantra, staring at an object, or a person’s voice on a guided meditation. The practice involves some discipline. We may be instructed to sit upright and have good posture or practice some technique that inherently has somethingness built in. By doing nothing, I mean letting all that methodology go. Simply do as little as possible in whatever way your body or mind can find.

After this experience while I was sick, I knew I had to integrate this nothingness into my daily life. I needed to give myself that turning off, that release of all stimuli into nothingness. So now, every day when I get in bed at night, I take at least two to five minutes to do nothing.

Before, I would have continued listening to my audiobook as I got in bed, or picked up a book to read right as I was getting into bed, or turned on a show. Now, before any of that, I get into bed in silence and do nothing. No specific meditation, no plan, no guidelines, no expectations, just do nothing. Sometimes my eyes are open, sometimes they are shut, sometimes my mouth falls open, sometimes I stretch and roll over.

Two to five minutes isn’t much, and on any given day if I want longer, I do longer. But, it’s much more than I was doing before, and keeping it short makes committing to the practice doable each day. There are no excuses or justifications for skipping it because it requires so little time. And, just like a daily meditation practice, the benefits compound and become more and more obvious over time.

It is this quiet, relaxing nothingness that our world needs more of. It is so good and healing for the body, mind, and soul.

Amongst your awesome, busy, beautiful, full life, please take a bit of time for nothingness.

It’s worth the hype.

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