The Art of NOT Doing

Photo by Louis Arevalo

Photo by Louis Arevalo

What is the art of not doing? Seriously. Not as an excuse for getting out of work, but rather in a cultural climate that values production almost above anything else, how do we practice not doing? This a perfect topic for the Labor Day weekend we just had. 

There are a couple of components I'm thinking about here. First, it's worth practicing relaxation. Like anything you don't do regularly, if you don't relax regularly you might find yourself completely inept at the ability to relax. Have you seen the Mickey Mouse cartoon, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Where Mickey is the magician's apprentice whose master goes out (to play poker, I think) and comes back to find that Mickey has found his magic hat and wand and in an effort to make his chores more efficient and easier, created a the chaotic army of self-operated mops and rivers of mop water? In an effort to make life easier, Mickey forgot to discover where the off button was and consequentially instead of creating ease for himself, he literally made and ocean of chaos. Ever feel like Mickey, like your life doesn't have an off button? Gentle practices like Restore Yoga and Yoga Nidra are all about discovering the off button, not as a way of tuning out but as a way of replenishing the source.

soft pink morning light.jpeg

Try coming home from work and dedicating 20 minutes to relaxing before you take on anything else. Your family will get used to this ritual and may even join in. Turn off the phone, dim the lights, lay down with your legs up the wall (the yoga pose Viprita Karani) put on some Kenny G, or Lionel Richie and practice resting, like a savasana at the end of the work day. The mall jazz or soft rock  is optional. Wouldn't that be cool if there were a mandatory 15 minutes of savasana to end the work day? Welcome to my world. With a facility and familiarity with rest, we actually become more effective at what we do because we have taken a moment to replenish the source and clarified perhaps the reasons we do all that we do.

Another component in the art of not doing is very skillfully holding steady and not reacting to a situation. Sometimes, we simply need to hold our ground and see how the situation matures. Often, this is the harder practice. In yoga there is a principle called Ishvarapranidhana. Yeah, sounds serious. It literally means "to lay it down at the feet of God," to let go of the reins of apparent control and allow God, or the Universe, or the World to make its move. Sometimes, it's allowing your children to go out into the world and face the hazards of life to learn. Sometimes it's building something and handing over control to someone or something else and walk away decisively, not beaten or defeated, but as a powerful choice. Letting go can be a very difficult practice but one that ultimately can lead you to understand your own inner character and true being.

In some way or other I invite you to practice not doing this week. If you're in New York or Brooklyn, join me Wednesday at 7:00 pm at Area Yoga for my Yoga Nidra class where we will practice some Restore Yoga and then a very relaxing Yoga Nidra practice. Maybe this week is the perfect opportunity to try one of my free Yoga Nidra (guided meditation) recordings. And if not by a yoga class, discover a way of consciously resting on a regular basis. Or maybe look at those opportunities in life to decisively not act.