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The Art Of Not Doing

The Art Of Not Doing

When I sit down to meditate, my inner experience can best be described by what I am not doing: I am not focusing my mind or contemplating any idea. I am not in an introspective or spiritual mood. I do not count, time, or control my breaths. No effort is being made to cause certain thoughts to come or go. There is no particular feeling I try to either induce or avoid. I do not pay attention to my body in a special way or attempt to relax any part of it. If I start to fall asleep, I do not resist the impulse.

What am I doing, then? The best answer is that I am just not doing; I am engaged in getting the normal activity of the mind to turn into silence, but without coercing it to do so. I am getting past the inner noise of thoughts and feelings in order to reveal what the silent witness inside me is really like. This is how the mind naturally opens to itself and heals.

“Not doing” sounds like doing nothing at all, but there is a subtle difference. The thinking, feeling mind is in constant motion. If is has the thought “Slow down, be silent,” that is a movement, too, and will not make the mind stop. No thought can make it stop.

One might try just sitting, waiting for the mind to stop of its own accord. There are meditations of this sort in the vast tradition of Indian and Zen practice, but most novices who try this method find it extremely exhausting and unproductive.

A mind left to its own devices tends to run here and there like a drunken monkey, as the Indian scriptures say. To watch one’s mind reel around for an hour can be intensely disturbing. Moreover, there is no reason why the mind should reach silence during the vigil.

Adapted from Unconditional Life: Discovering the Power to Fulfill Your Dreams, by Deepak Chopra (A Bantam Book, 1991).

Read more: Deepak Chopra's Tips, Spirit, , ,

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Deepak Chopra

Acknowledged as one of the world's greatest leaders in the field of mind body medicine, Deepak Chopra, M.D. continues to transform our understanding of the meaning of health. Chopra is known as a prolific author of over 49 books with 12 best sellers on mind-body health, quantum mechanics, spirituality, and peace. A global force in the field of human empowerment, Dr. Chopra's books have been published in more than 35 languages with more than 20 million copies in print.

115 comments

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4:24AM PDT on Jun 26, 2013

It's better to know when to stop

1:36PM PDT on May 24, 2013

I'm not sure I meditate as you describe here, but do feel at times I come fairly close. Thank you.

1:19PM PDT on May 24, 2013

I don't think I could "not do".. The nearest iswhen praying for something very, very important, such as someone very ill...then I can focus on the prayer... but to do nothing..no.

3:03AM PDT on May 13, 2013

TY

7:43PM PDT on Oct 14, 2011

Interesting. Thanks.

8:21AM PDT on Jun 20, 2011

thanks

11:27AM PDT on Jun 1, 2011

I fear I haven't quite understood how to "not do". If your mind goes around like a crazy monkey and you just let it do that, then how do you not do?

12:47AM PDT on May 30, 2011

Thank you for sharing

3:29PM PDT on May 29, 2011

The art of not doing is, for me, just that-an art! My waking hours are usually so full of doing that it can be very difficult to not do...but it is worth it and many times is attainable for me if I give it more than a few minutes andusually not more than once a day...being still while your mind wants to race can be a bit scary otherwise!

12:30PM PDT on May 29, 2011

thank you.

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