This I Believe
I believe in doing nothing. I make a point of doing nothing every day. In fact, nothing doing is so important to me that I do it before I do anything else, except brush my teeth. I practice good dental hygiene and good mental hygiene, which is what the nothing doing is about.
I didn’t always do nothing every day. In fact, for about half my life I was doing something all the time. Like many people, I was a human doing more than a human being. My life was chaotic and fearful; I was worried and insecure. Eventually I got seriously ill and scared my wife Linda half to death.
That’s when I started meditating. I took classes and eventually got involved with a group that had a guru and I began learning meditation techniques. I was initiated into increasingly complicated ways of meditating, which were like merit badges on my meditation resume. Eventually Linda and I left the guru, and without the group, the techniques were too much work to sustain.
That’s when a book titled Meditation came into our lives in a mysterious way and stayed for only a few minutes, but it changed everything. It was a used book in a new-book bookstore. Its author said that in his native language there was no verb “to meditate,” there was only the noun “meditation.” His point was that meditation is not something that you do, it’s doing nothing. This simple reframe took all the work out of meditation: Overnight meditation went from the realm of complicated techniques – the quintessence of doing something – to doing nothing. It went from something that I should do to something that I wanted to do.
Doing nothing had profound consequences in my life. Immediately the time spent in meditation became rich and fulfilling. I became patient and calm. I stopped being an aggressive driver; in fact, my whole relationship with traffic changed – wherever I am traffic is flowing. I started teaching the nothing-doing style of meditation in my wellness classes at the university, and then Linda and I started teaching meditation classes in our community. Our first class, scheduled months before, was September 12, 2001.
Since then we have taught hundreds and hundreds of people to do nothing. In our classes and on our Web site, we emphasize that it is the practice of meditation that changes your life. Knowing how to do nothing is not enough, you actually have to do nothing every day. It is the every-day-ness of meditation that is the secret.
By visiting the quiet every day, I put my conditioned mind into high relief, and none of those thoughts gets out of control for more than 24 hours. Over time I have heard the cacophony of my limiting thoughts, and I began to get control of them – to cut them off before they cut me off. I stopped beating myself up, and I stopped being controlled by other people. I made peace with my mind, and the result is that I have peace of mind. I heard the still, small voice, and it said, “I love you, love yourself.”
I believe in doing nothing because doing nothing does something that nothing else can do.
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