How To Do Nothing When There's Nothing To Do

The hardest lesson in my new spiritual life has been to learn how to not do anything. After decades of believing in hard work, it has been very difficult to train myself to let go of doing and focus on being, even though, truth be told, working hard never got me anywhere much. But how to not do anything when there is so much to do?

Idle hands are evil hands, they say, but my experience tells the opposite. Idleness, I have learned, is the creative state, where magical things incubate, to be manifested when the time is right.

When my marriage started crumbling I did what I was socialized to do: I tried to save it. I did not know what I know now which is that marriages cannot be saved. Only people can. Marriage is a legal contract between two people and has no life in itself. Without knowing this I went to see a priest, who also happened to be a marriage counsellor. He was a very wise man and gave me the piece of advice that turned out to be a total game-changer in my life, although I did not understand it back then.

If you don't know what to do, don't do anything.

This was way before I got into spirituality and meditation and Taoism and Martha Beck, which explains why I did not quite grasp how deeply meaningful the advice was. But the minute I heard it, I knew that the priest was right. A huge wave of relief swept over me. It was liberating to finally hear that instead of doing something, I could just be. I did not have to do a thing, which was just as well because I had absolutely no idea what that thing might have been.

Martha Beck, the life coach extraordinaire whom I just adore for her deep understanding of, well, everything, wrote in one of her O-magazine columns of a friend who wears a t-shirt with the text: DO NOTHING WHEN NOTHING WORKS. In the same article she mentioned Dan Howards, who teaches people the ancient art of resting. Yup, resting. Why would we need to learn how to rest, you may ask. Isn´t that something even babies can do? The answer is: Yes, babies can do it but seems like we cannot anymore. We can take an occasional nap, sure, but we cannot rest like the lions do, like we meant it, as Martha puts it.

And that's the only way to do it properly. Dan Howard talks about intentional resting, as a way to reach the kind of homeostasis needed to put our hyped up minds at ease and heal our bodies.

When you rest, you automatically put the things you worry about to rest, too.

When I was introduced to Taoism, I learned, much to my delight, that not only could I let things rest to give myself a break, resting was probably the best way to get them solved, too. Here's another fact of life I keep constantly reminding myself of:

You cannot fix life. It's life that fixes you.

One of the biggest and probably most dangerous myths of our civilization is the illusion of control. We are educated to think, that a prosperous and responsible person holds the steering wheel of the vehicle of Life firmly with her both hands. But here's the thing: we never hold the steering wheel of Life because there is no such thing. We are never in the kind of control we think we are. Yes we have a free will and yes we can send our desires out to the Universe but when, where, how and even what exactly will be manifested, is way beyond our control.

Here's another thing: Resting like you mean it does not mean you never take any action. Quite the opposite. We are programmed to act. Our survival depends on action. Also, life without any action would be utterly boring. One should, however, only do something when one is inspired to do something.

We have been told that artists would never get any work done if they just sat waiting for a creative insight, like the Buddha under the Bodhi Tree. My own life experience has shown this belief to be incorrect. I am sure that if you slave away like a dutiful ant, you do sometimes get things done -- but surprisingly often you don't. Busy does not equal efficient. Also, what kind of things you usually get done when you fuss over them? Would the things be even better, if you did not start with effort but with ease?

Would things rock and roll if you let them roll more than rock?

After her awakening, Byron Katie says she discovered, to her great surprise, that she did not breathe. She was breathed. She did not live. She was lived. She did not think. She was thought. As weird as this may sound, Byron Katie's discovery is in line with science. It is our sub-conscious mind that is mainly responsible for our actions. Our brains receive the command to, say, lift a coffee cup seconds before we actually do it. We go on autopilot much more than we know.

Whenever you find yourself in a tricky situation, take a rest. It may feel hard at first but with practice you will eventually master the art of resting like any other skill. Just lie down on the couch, close your eyes and let your sub-conscious mind take the charge. Don't expect anything. Let the answers to your questions come to you at their own pace. Trust the process. It helps if you are able to call this inner wisdom of yours as your Higher Consciousness or Higher Power but even if you aren't it's okay. It is the trusting that counts. It's good to your brain and it feels totally amazing, too.

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