Living in a “do more in less time world,” we think we can’t afford to slow down, relax, and do nothing. In constant motion, we rush to make things happen. Time seems to be running out as we rush along. We have become a culture addicted to doing.
For many of us doing has become more important than being. Even though we long for rest and relaxation, these are needs we tend to ignore. We have to talk ourselves into the practice of slowing down and being still. Have you ever noticed that no matter how lovingly suggested, whenever someone recommends that we unwind, relax, take a deep breath, or slow down, we almost always resist? “It takes too much time to slow down,” we protest. A culture of doers, we have places to go, people to meet, things to do. The only thing we think we can’t do is nothing.
Feeling frazzled from all the activity, we become increasingly impatient, and begin to feel as though even instant gratification takes too long. It’s no wonder that peace of mind eludes us.
By intentionally practicing the art of stillness, aka “doing nothing,” you can cultivate serenity and experience it in your daily life: In the middle of a traffic jam, rushing to catch a plane, or trying to meet a deadline. Peace of mind can be found wherever you are no matter what you’re doing. You don’t have to go anywhere to find it. It comes from within. Peace of mind is as close to us as breathing, but unlike breathing, we have to practice it.
Ray never welcomed the experience of slowing down. He was caught up in the game of playing Beat the Clock. Always trying to be one step ahead of time, he was certain he was running out of it. Being in a state of non-doing was unimaginable to him, the ultimate luxury, the impossible dream. He longed for serenity and peace of mind, but never took the time for it.
Through counseling and the practice of yoga and meditation, Ray became more aware of his habitual internal monologues. Speeding through traffic, ““#*^&”, I’m going to be late,” he’d get a traffic ticket. Waiting in line, “ I don’t have time for this,” he’d switch lines in a huff, and end up in a slower one. Frustrated by delays and impatient to get on to the next task on his list, “I’ll never get this done,” he’d make a mistake and have to redo the whole thing. Eventually he began to notice the unnecessary delays his thinking caused, and the imprinted emotions these thoughts created in his body: anxiety, impatience, and anger.
Being still allowed him to notice what he was thinking and feeling in the present moment without getting caught up in his thoughts and feelings. He was still impatient for time to hurry up, but through the practice of stillness he was developing awareness. His awareness taught him to be still in the face of uncomfortable emotions without having to do anything about them. He became more reflective, less reactive, more effective, and more likeable, too.
Pausing gives you a chance to pay attention to the space between your awareness, your thoughts, and your feelings. You become more aware of the part of you that just notices. It’s called the “witness consciousness.” It is the part of you that is capable of calmly watching thoughts and emotions, even the most turbulent ones, come and go. The more you identify with this internal observer, the more the “witness consciousness” grows in you; the less reactive, more playful, trusting, loving, and happier you become.
When you become aware of tight places in your body, you can find out what it needs to heal. When you become aware of your thoughts, what has been unconscious becomes conscious and allows you to make different choices. “I’m running out of time” becomes “Slow down, you move too fast. I have all the time in the world.” You discover that even when you’re late, you can stop rushing.
You can practice doing “nothing” wherever you are. Consider these suggestions.
- Instead of trying so hard, on occasion no matter what you’re doing, allow yourself to meander. Like a lazy river, take the path of least resistance.
- Pick any day and for one hour allow yourself to procrastinate. (Warning! One hour might become two or three…or more.)
- Instead of waiting for the weekend take a risk, waste some time on Wednesday or Thursday.
- When you feel an urge to act, wait. Don’t just do something. Sit there. Wait until the feeling passes then, if it still seems like a good idea, do it.
Stop doing so much and live a little. You just might discover that being is actually more rewarding.