Permission to Non-Do


“What did you do today?” This is a question that has always irked me, especially on my days at home. It's the word "do". As panic sets in, my mind starts to question my self: What did I do? Did I do enough to please this person? Will they think I made any difference? Does eating leftovers count? Can I make my errands sound more time consuming or difficult than they actually were? I should have... blah blah blah.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had interactions that reminded me to check in with the pressure I tend to put on myself to always be doing things, fast things, busy things, things that influence or change some external thing. As humans with responsibilities, dreams, and perceived expectations we can get caught up in our state of doing and forget about our state of being, our internal wellness.

In his National Bestselling book, Wherever You Go There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes about meditation as an act of non-doing, “purposefully making a time for stopping all outward activity and cultivating stillness, with no agenda other than being fully present in each moment.” When we create this sacred space for ourselves to feel and be present, we are caring for our internal state of being. This is non-doing, but not doing nothing.

Do you need permission, like I do sometimes, to stop and just be? To watch a cloud move through the sky? To sit and count your breaths or feel your muscles move? Permission to non-do? Consider this your invitation.

Try this at home (adapted from Wherever You Go There You Are):

Stop where you are and find a window to the outdoors. Look out and realize that the world around you is moving, changing, going, doing. Relax your shoulders, jaw and stomach. Maybe you see cars, people, or plants. But you are here and you are enough. You are living, being, breathing, and feeling. Sit this way for 5-10 rounds of breath and simply dwell in your stillness, attentiveness, presentness, nothing to fix or question, nothing to do or say.

When someone asks you what you did today, maybe you can answer: “I was being alive.” And that might be more useful than all the things you actually did.