The Importance of Doing Nothing

The Importance of Doing Nothing
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(Originally printed in the July 2019 Masterpiece Living Mosaic. Reprinted with permission of Masterpiece)

“I can’t meditate because I can’t shut my mind off.” 

In leading meditation groups over the years, this is – by far – the statement I hear most often. Someone will try meditation once or twice and give up – as if they have failed. But the truth is, if someone were to attempt to learn to play a musical instrument or learn a new language, they understand that it takes time and practice. Never would someone say after a single piano lesson, “I can’t play the piano because after one hour, I am still unable to play Pachelbel’s Canon in D.” Like most valuable pursuits – it takes time.

I believe some of the frustration comes from the fact that we are a culture that values doing something … all … the … time. And meditation involves un-doing. It is finding stillness, quieting the mind and being present. Therefore, when people cannot successfully “do nothing,” they
feel as if they have failed.

And yet, we know the value of meditation: less stress, a healthier immune system, an increased sense of well-being, better memory and concentration, and greater emotional stability – just to name a few. With that in mind, I’d like to offer a simple meditation that, with practice, will become easier. It will give you a “something” tool to work toward doing “nothing.”

5-Minute Mindful Meditation

  1. Find a quiet place where you can sit or lie down, undisturbed, for at least five minutes. Get comfortable, and close your eyes.
  2. Take a slow, deep breath. As you do so, imagine with your mind’s eye that you are actually watching your breath as you draw the air in through your nose, into your chest and down to your belly (for some, it is helpful to imagine that their breath has color). Pause at the top of that breath with your lungs full. Then, slowly exhale, “watching” as you breathe out through your nose. Pause at the bottom of the breath. Repeat this several times. *
  3. Now, take a deep breath, and focus on the feeling of the air as it passes by the back of your throat and down into your belly. Feel the rib cage expand on the inhale and compress on the exhale. Continue to pause at the top and bottom of the breath. Repeat this several times.
  4. If thoughts surface, observe them briefly, without judgment. Gently imagine them turning into clouds and watch them float by. If they re-surface, simply allow them to float by again. Then, return to your breath.
  5. Slowly allow your breath to return to normal. And, when you are ready, open your eyes. *If you experience lightheadedness, allow your breathing to return to normal (without controlling it in any way).

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