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The Art of Doing Nothing

For centuries yogis have known the benefit of doing nothing. In fact there are entire schools of practice devoted to not doing and reams of treatises, sutras, and verses that elaborate in great detail the “practice” of doing nothing. Take for example this well known verse from the Heart Sutra, “Because there is no attainment, yogis have no obstacles for their minds, liberating themselves forever from delusion”. Today, there are numerous scholarly publications on the subject. Take Jenny Odell’s “How to Do Nothing” and Sheila Liming’s new book “Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time.” Unquestionably we live in an era preoccupied with getting things done. We live by the assumption that by doing more we are better off. As a result, we are each prone to the malaise of “busy brain”.

The Art of Doing Nothing: A Yogic Perspective

However in yogic meditation, surprisingly, confoundingly, it is just the opposite. It takes many years to realize that by doing less you are better off. Doing nothing gives you time and space to just be. For instance, you could do nothing on your walk and when you drive just drive, when you wash the dishes only wash. However for most of us, every single second gets gobbled up by doing –checking messages, listening to podcasts, texting friends, surfing the internet, eating while talking on the phone. Doing nothing is not only necessary for our mental health but likely necessary for our very survival as a species. So in the midst of your busy day, spend time not doing anything. Stand idle in your kitchen looking out the window, stand with open attention waiting in the grocery line, lay low with your feline or canine friend. Suspend time, linger long. Go off the calendar, hang out with no agenda. As it is said in the Tao te Ching, “by not doing, you achieve all things”

Alchemy + Aim