Andy's Headspace: Not doing
Posted on:26/04/2012 13:15:00
I am often asked whether meditation is just for lazy people. After all, it’s just sitting around on your backside right, not really doing anything? But is that really true? Whilst I wouldn’t want to get lost in the world of semantics, there is a really is a (albeit subtle) distinction to make between ‘doing nothing’ and ‘not doing’. And if you fully understand this distinction, then meditation will never be the same again.
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Sometimes it’s nice to do nothing. We might sit around at home and do nothing. We might go to the local park to do nothing. We might even travel to the other side of the world to do nothing. But this kind of ‘doing nothing’ will never bring us a sense of lasting happiness or contentment. And I can vouch for this having done a great deal of doing nothing when I was younger.
At the very best it will bring a brief spell of calm and a temporary sense of relief, but often it doesn’t even bring that (hands up all those people who’ve sat on the beach on holiday thinking of work).
So, assuming there is no kind of mind training involved, no attempt to tame the mind in any way, it is quite accurate to describe ‘doing nothing’ as quite lazy and unproductive. That doesn’t make it a bad thing of course, and please don’t let that put you off doing it once in a while! But it’s important to acknowledge that this kind of ‘doing nothing’ is quite different from meditation, or ‘not-doing’.
And that’s because “not doing” is a thing of beauty. It requires a gentle mind, with the intention to remain with whatever is happening in the moment. It requires a kind mind, with the willingness to sit and observe thoughts and feelings, free from judgment and criticism. It requires a steady mind, with the balance to neither push too hard or ease off too much. And it requires a stable mind, a mind which is not swept away by interesting thoughts or distracting emotions.
Of course, we don’t begin meditation with these skills already in place and they don’t come about through doing nothing. In fact in many ways, developing these aspects of mind, this way of being, is in fact the journey of meditation itself. It is moving from a place of ‘doing’ to a place of ‘not-doing’. Funnily enough I’m thinking this might be the theme of my talk this weekend at an event in Wales. Somewhat ironically though, the event is called “The Do Lectures’!