Being... Not Doing
Have you ever experienced a time in life when all you could do was wait? This seems to be a time in my life of waiting, which has caused me to think deeply about the meaning of “waiting” in our lives. I keep asking myself, “What is it I need to do at this time in my life?” And the answer I keep getting is, “Do Nothing. Learn to be comfortable with Not-Doing.”
I believe this is actually the foundation of all success, as ironic as that may sound. It's like how they say, “You cannot truly and authentically say 'yes' until you can truly and authentically say 'no'.” That is so true. Well, it's also true that you cannot take the most productive, authentic, and inspired action until you are comfortable with “Not-Doing”.
In Non-Violent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg said, “Don't just do something; stand there!”
He understood the value in doing nothing, a teaching presented by many spiritual leaders who say, “Be Here Now.” Just Being is often the best course of action. And it's more than just Being. It's Being with Presence. It's Being with Acceptance.
If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable, then Be Present with your discomfort. Accept your discomfort. Embrace it. Listen to it. First listen to what it's needing and wanting on the surface, and then continue to Be Present with it and listen even more deeply and empathetically to what's below those surface needs.
As I've done this myself, I noticed feelings of agitation, boredom, frustration, and apathy on the surface. The needs that were calling to be met were for excitement, adventure, progress, productivity, and yet I found myself unable to meet those needs for a variety of reasons. Although it might be possible to force the action, even though the timing didn't feel quite right, I could choose to force it anyway.
Instead I decided to Be Present with that craving, that desire to force things to move forward, and see if I could hear what was below that desire. As I continued to stay present, listening more deeply, I discovered feelings of guilt, shame, and unworthiness, which I knew were arising from self-judgments.
The agitation was actually in response to my self-judgments. If these judgments could speak, they might say something like, “How can I just stand here, sit here, be here, doing nothing? Surely I should DO something, fix something, change something?”
I began to realize why it's so difficult for many of us to just Be Present for any significant length of time. It's the same reason why it's difficult for us to Be Fully Present with another's pain and discomfort without either leaning forward in an attempt to fix it or leaning back in revulsion.
In our culture, we grow up learning that some things are “wrong” and we must make them “right.” This judgment makes it difficult to just Be Present with what IS at any given moment. We judge the situation as “wrong” and if we don't do something to make it “right,” then we judge ourselves as “wrong” too.
If you've ever been in a situation where you shared your pain and discomfort with someone and they immediately tried to “fix” you in some way, to talk you out of your feelings, rather than honoring them by treating them as valid, and being present with them, just listening and perhaps reflecting or empathizing, then you know how disappointing that can be. It's like pain on top of pain.
They may be so uncomfortable just Being Present with you that they've judged you and your feelings. All of a sudden what was initially painful becomes unbearable, and you may not be able to stay present with it yourself.
Well, we do that to our own selves when we attempt to run away from our own discomfort. As difficult as it was, I chose to sit with my feelings of aggravation, boredom, frustration, apathy, and craving. I just stayed still and Present and listened more deeply.
When I discovered the deeper feelings of guilt, shame, and unworthiness -- all feelings born out of fear and self-judgment -- I continued to Be Present with that as well and discovered the needs below the needs, the deeper needs below the surface needs.
They were needs for self-love, self-acceptance, self-care, to value and honor myself, to know myself intimately, needs for self-connection, a commitment to my authentic self, not to the image or persona I present to the world in the form of accolades, accomplishments, material wealth, prestige, productivity, etc., but to the spiritual and eternal Self, the one who exists, the one who is the I AM, beyond anything I do or have.
And the truth is, until I can fully love, embrace, accept, and honor that Self, the I AM, for no other reason than the simple fact that I exist, then I may never truly be able to love and appreciate the one who takes action, the one who Does things and Has things because that love would never be unconditional; it would always be based on whether I was “good enough”. It would always be based on a judgment of “rightness” or “wrongness.”
That judgmental part of myself would ask, “Did I behave 'rightly'? Was I 'good enough'? Did I 'fail'? Was I 'bad'?”
What if I were able to love and accept myself regardless of my actions? Regardless of the outcomes? Regardless of what I do or don't do, regardless of what I have or don't have? What if I could love myself unconditionally while doing absolutely nothing?
For me, it is so incredibly liberating and empowering, so healing and transformative, I cannot even find the words to describe it, but I feel a welling up of emotion, mostly mourning for all the moments, all the years when I judged myself instead of just Being, Loving, and Accepting myself for no other reason that because I AM.
So, I'm inviting you to try this too. In this time of spring, when you too may be feeling Spring Fever, remember what's happening underground, what's taking root and germinating. If you try to force it, leaning forward, digging up the seed or cracking open the unborn chicks, they will die before they even have a chance.
Can we see that they are perfect exactly as they are for no other reason than because they ARE? That they don't need to do anything in order to Be loved, to Be Valued. They can just Be. We too can just Be and Do Nothing. And that could lead to the deepest, most unconditional love, flowing through us and into the world. From Not-Doing can emerge a much more inspired and authentic action.