Mind the gap is a familiar warning. Mine to you would be make the gap. Find the gap.
The interval; the interlude; the break; the empty space.
Create space; find time; in between…
Ensure that there is a space between arrival and departure, between one thing and the next, between one zone and another.
Be aware of those moments, those transitions and transactions. Find those un-named, ill-defined places without purpose. Relish their vacuum and step into them. They are opportunities for respite, reflection and rest. For being without mission or requirement or determination.
Don’t avoid them or rush to fill them and make them safe.
Andy Puddicombe opens his TED talk on meditation by asking the question “when did you last do nothing”? He then qualifies this by saying: not talking, not eating, not watching TV… Nothing means nothing. Absence of activity or purpose. And distraction. When there is nothing, we often fill that gap with distraction. Purposeful distraction; we do something in order to distract from nothing and often in order to distract ourselves from our self. In doing so, we distract ourselves from being able to be in the present moment.
Andy’s point about doing nothing is that we are rarely able to be in the present moment as, in terms of mindfulness, we continue to allow our mind to distract us by filling up the present space with thoughts; of the past, of the future, of the things we should be doing, in order to distract us from being where we are, right now. And so we fail to appreciate the gap, the pause, the breath we could allow ourselves.
Doing nothing is actually being present.
With so much social pressure and expectation to be busy since it is often equated to the values of achievement, self-application, progress and productivity, we may feel that doing nothing is being lazy and wasting time. But what happens when we reframe doing nothing as a deliberate way of being in presence and appreciation?
Without distraction, doing nothing is a conscious act of being who we are. It is an act of awareness.
With awareness comes acknowledgement. About how things really are for us. About how we really feel.
We can give ourselves the space, to stop rush, activity and allow.
Acceptance can be harder than resistance. Stopping harder than running.
We may think we feel better if we are being proactive because we feel like we should be able to get everything under control and make things happen, and so feel more positive and less stressed. As if not doing anything is giving up.
But doing nothing does not mean lacking motivation. It means cultivating a capacity to be, in emptiness.
You’ll know if you’ve had long periods of time free to yourself how paradoxically paralysing freedom can be; mainly because we are with our self, without distraction, and so we have to accept ourselves as we are in that present moment in order to move forward and live freely and simply in contentment, without expectation or distraction. It’s hard. But we become more connected that way; in relationship to our self and surroundings.
So congratulate yourself when you do nothing, for you are allowing things to be in their natural state. It’s a proactive decision to do so.
Wu Wei is a central concept in Taoism which means non-doing, or non acting. However a better way of thinking of it is the action of non action. Doing nothing in order to do something.
Know the nature of something and direct your energies accordingly. It’s setting the goal, setting the intention, then letting it go.
Non-action is not passive. Lao-Tzu said do non-doing and strive for non-striving. It is a state of awareness, a way of being in the world which responds to and respects natural change through a spirit of acceptance. It’s important to realise where our use of energy is not serving us and to look at our mental state or stress as a result. Most body work is about un-blocking and releasing the physical results of our attempt to mentally control; the unhealthy manifestations and expressions of what we hold onto or push down or ignore; the struggles and resistances that block us being who we are, the controls we put in place that stop us being as we are and so prevent the ebb and flow of our natural being and feeling state.
We can chose to observe, allow and accept rather than intervene. We can let the mind and body rest.
We can give attention to where we are now. And what is around us in the world, rather than in our mental version of the world.
Climb into a ten minute gap. Enjoy.