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The Great Non-Doing


After a particularly difficult run the other day I was looking in the refrigerator and I was thinking about eating something less than healthy. Then I thought, “Why would I eat something unhealthy when I just went for a run?” All I had to do was “not do” in that moment. In addition, not doing would be easy right? Well, easier than running. There was no work involved. The running was physically difficult, the non-eating of the unhealthy food required no physical effort at all.

We have all been there, trying not do something we know in the long run is not going to be the best for us. Non-doing is an art really, and it might just be the key to a little something called happiness. This non-doing boils down to one simple skill and that skill is to “liberate” thought. To liberate a thought is to let it be, simply noticing it and allow it to move on without enhancing it further. All of our actions are based on thought. Non-doing is a choice made available by non-reaction. It is a state of allowing; even allowing all the thoughts, sensations and emotions associated with an action to arise and still choosing not to follow them. This opportunity comes up regularly in meditation. The body will have an itch for example, and one can be aware of the natural tendencies of mind and body to relieve the itching sensation. At the same time the option of non-doing is present because the mind is conscious, no longer blindly reacting.

Let’s say you are having a good day, things are going just fine, and then a thought comes up that, if given attention, can lead down the road to a negative mindset. Often times negative thoughts have a certain appeal to them; an attractive, almost magnetic quality. You like to entertain them, yet at the same time they don’t feel good. What if you did some sky meditation instead and just allowed that thought to drift on by, like a passing cloud? Then you may ask yourself, “What am I without this thought”?

The practice of non-doing takes practice and it takes courage; courage to be with what is arising and the courage to know that your very being-ness is enough. Nothing needs to be done, cultivated or manufactured. The spaciousness garnered by the simple noticing of thought without judgment is the space inhabited by peacefulness. In this space, if we were to abide there at length, we would find joy, contentment, and happiness in plentiful supply, patiently waiting there without any effort at all.

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