The Power of Doing Nothing
Welcome to my spiritual development. Or insanity. And desire to slam my head into a wall. Here’s how a conversation went last week with one of my favorite mentors:
Me: “What should I actually do, though?”
Him: “Do nothing.”
Me: “I’ll ask the question again since you’re either:
A) a completely deaf asshole (some of this may be embellished – I don’t speak that way since I’m uber patient when frustrated) or…
B) just didn’t hear me
What should I do?
Him again: “You are doing something. You’re ‘doing’ nothing.”
Head meet wall. Wall meet head. Tantrum mode activated. But though I hate to admit it, there was deep knowledge in what I was being told and directed to do. The difference between understanding the concept and embracing the decision to actively do nothing was simply a matter of reframing.
DOING NOTHING IS DOING SOMETHING
I needed to reframe the situation and my plan in a way that let me see the course of action I had consciously chosen was “to do nothing.” That turned doing nothing from sitting on the sidelines while the universe slowly butt-fucked me for being idle into an act of power. I was taking action. I was doing something. I wasn’t just sitting by. I wasn’t passive. I wasn’t a bystander. I am a golden god who does whatever is best in any given moment.
Who was doing nothing? Not even sulking. Even though I could have.
Legally I can’t go into the details, but my mentor was wise enough to see that the situation I was in hadn’t unfolded enough to warrant an action other than doing nothing. I didn’t have enough information yet. He didn’t have enough information yet. We didn’t have enough information to put together a plan. At this point, any external pressure that I would have inserted into the situation would have guaranteed an outcome. One not favorable for me. It was just too early for any action to have been beneficial. Awesome, I love purgatory.
DON’T BE A HOSTAGE TO YOUR SITUATION
So often we feel like we’re hostages to our life situations. To jobs we don’t like, to relationships that may go one way or another, to decisions that keep us up at night. We want to “do.” We want to force an outcome, to force our influence onto things, to feel powerful and not out of control or at the mercy of the cosmos.
Unfortunately for type-A people, there is a natural order to the world. You can’t make flowers grow faster than they want to, you can’t speed up time, and there are times when the information needed to make an educated decision just hasn’t had a chance to marinate and float to the surface to where you can view it. It happens. It sucks, but it happens.
Rather than busy ourselves – exhausting ourselves so that when the time actually is right we’re a fried, frantic, obliterated hot mess – why not breathe? Why not trust that when the timing is right, the timing will be right?
Try pulling that loaf of gluten-free bread out of the oven after five minutes and yelling at it to rise! Go for it. No seriously, go for it. Scream your lungs out at it, it’s listening.
Or sit on the couch, have a glass of wine, take a number of deep cleansing breaths, and calm your sweet self down. All will be revealed in time, right?
IGNORE NIKE – JUST DON’T DO IT
Doing nothing is an activity. It checks the “I’m doing something right?” box. It’s often the best thing you can do, the healthiest thing you can do, and the right thing to do. Part of getting stronger is knowing when to push and when to hold back. When to reap and when to sow. When to meditate in the corner and when to kick the doors down.
Try this as an exercise:
Think of a situation in which you find yourself stressed.
Stop thinking about it.
Give it to your higher power – God, Buddha, Allah, Oprah – and just breathe.
Trust in the wisdom of the world and let it, whatever “it” is, be for just one day. You can pick it back up and start stressing about it again tomorrow, I promise. Pinky swear.
But for today, do nothing, you golden god, you!
One Day Stronger Action Steps:
1. For the next five minutes, turn off all distractions and just breathe. Don’t “try” to meditate, don’t count your breaths, do anything productive, or judge yourself in any way. You’re literally going to do nothing for five minutes. I know, it’s going to be awful.
2. List any situation in your life that is pressing, pending, or weighing on you. If you’re stuck between making a decision one way or another, all the better. Write this out on paper.
2. Now, ask yourself what the worst case scenario is if you literally do nothing for a period of time. Give yourself a set timeframe – a week perhaps. What’s the worst thing that will happen if you let sleeping dogs lie for seven days. Are you comfortable with that outcome, if so, kick back and relax – the Universe has you covered for the week.