“Do nothing, and leave nothing undone” ~unknown
After spending 30 days in the Wudang (aka Wutang) Mountains I had the time and space to think about things. My intention for going to the mountain was two fold:
- To fulfill a childhood dream of learning some kung fu in the mountains
- To practice presence
I came away with a few lessons. I want to dive into the idea of doing nothing.
Most people interpret the words of doing nothing as living an idle, inactive life. Almost the same way we check out in the middle of a boring lecture. If that were the case, the quote above would not make sense at all unless one had absolutely nothing to do. We know that is not the case.
Living our lives gives us more than we can handle in a 24 hour period of time. We live in a day and age where are work is demanding more and paying less. I won’t get on a soapbox. I will say that something has pushed us to the extreme end of activity. The idea of being idle and doing nothing for once has an appeal, right?
The daoist lesson of doing nothing and leaving nothing undone has reminded me that we need to work with balance and presence. It’s not easy.
What doing nothing means for me:
Being present. The act of doing nothing yields a certain level of presence in wherever we are so that we are only focused on the moment at hand, the task at hand. There is an effortlessness in doing something with full present attention.
Eliminating unnecessary thoughts (& tasks). Adding to the idea of doing nothing comes with the act of elimination, where some things – most things – will be left not done. The choice in doing your one most important things allows you to focus.
Leaving nothing undone. We will be able to stay in that present moment, acting in flow and finishing when we finish. The action of breaking a task down to such simplicity that it can feel effortless and when you are done, you know it.
So when your boss comes over to distract you from being present in your work. Will you be comfortable telling him that you are doing nothing?
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