Non-Doing an article by Benjamin Dean

 How to Meditate, Article – April 16, 2010


How to Meditate for Power

With Bob Newhart's "Bob Hartley" / Sculpture at Navy Pier, Chicago 2013


One of my challenges in meditation has been to drop desire. This challenge arises even at the outset of meditation, as most meditation practices require stillness. To be still, one must let go of the pressures from the mind to do something instead of just sit there. Once comfortable with simply sitting (walking, standing, breathing, bowing), there comes a new understanding of non-doing.

Non-doing is full of contradiction and successful practice relies on a reconciliation of opposites. Out of this reconciliation of opposites arises a greater truth. Life has its many teachers, both consciously sought out and those we encounter by "chance". Of those more formal teachers, a good teacher is one who will make it abundantly clear that in the end "what is real and true" is something we finally simply experience for ourselves.

Given this, diving in and exploring the art of non-doing by oneself is essential. Having had some experience working with it myself, I would like to offer my insights as well as a few words of encouragement. To start with non-doing is something we are all naturally quite good at. We practice it constantly. The greater part of our being engages in it automatically and biologically. It is the tip of the iceberg that creates the problem. I refer to ego, mind, and our seemingly endless materially-focused thinking processes.

Nature is already perfectly engaged in the art of non-doing. Can you on a whim prevent your heart from beating or your blood from pumping? I think not. It is impossible for us to stop or alter in any significant way the workings of our bodies. I am not suggesting that our bodies are completely beyond our reach, but we must recognize that 99.9% of our workings fall under the miraculous care and wisdom of Mother Nature.

Are we not individuals with our own distinct choices? What of our free will? This question reminds me of a book called "Right Use of Will- Healing and Evolving the Emotional Body" by Ceanne DeRohan. In this book Ceanne writes that "free will" and "destiny" are the same- the argument being that what a person chooses (free will) is absolutely in line with one's nature (destiny). We cannot be other than ourselves and yet who we are in terms of expression will constantly change.

Our true nature is what we seek to express above all, but is this really something we can manifest on our own and on cue? "Just be yourself." What does that mean? We carry ideas and concepts around-explanations of what we do now and who we are to become, but life has a way of showing us different. Circumstances and challenges surprise us. The shape and quality of our lives pale in the face of our accumulated ideals.

We dream of greater fulfillment and further expression and yet our dreams-our concoctions of ideals and values prevent us from accepting ourselves as we are. Part of this is due to the fact that we live in the shadow of a hand-me-down morality. We believe we have to consciously choose good over evil, failing to recognize that nature when left to itself is inherently moral. We have come to believe that if we don't carry around a clear sense of what is okay or not okay for us to do, we will live life as an abomination.

Is your cat morally sound? Is the tree in your backyard capable of evil? Yes and No. Nature is beautiful. Good and evil are polarities. We are seeking something beyond both- life. How do we get out of our own way? The answer is to get out of our heads. We must come to terms with who we are. We must get in touch with our core being-beyond identity. The answer lies in letting go and allowing oneself to be the instrument of the one creator. We must drop the ego.

This is not a shutting down of the self, but a shutting down of the ego. It can get confusing. The key is to stay alert and affirm life-affirm the life that is radiating out from within. If you mistakenly send the message of annihilation to the self you can inadvertently trigger emergency systems in the body. This is something that I managed poorly my first go round and temporarily burned out my adrenal glands. Remember that we are not trying to drop awareness, only the prevailing pathos that thinks obsessively.

There is a tremendous freedom dwelling deep in us all. We are in a habit of expressing that freedom by identifying with our choices. However, it is not freedom at all if we are doing it habitually and unconsciously. Still, our identities (ego) WILL put up a good fight. Just toying with the idea of "non-doing" can have us stand up in defiance and shout- "Come on! You mean just sit around like a pinball in a pinball machine? We need to fight like hell for what we want! I'm not just waiting around for some destiny! I have responsibilities! There are things to do!"

This is where the paradox lies. If we take a closer look we see that these defiant statements above are all future-based and consequently fear-based. The truth is that when it comes time for us to fight we will not be thinking about it-we will be fighting. There will be no stopping us. It needn't be planned. Life is a kind of martial art that way. We will need to learn how to trust our awareness in the moment-each moment.

Non-doing is in our hearts. The heart is naturally non-doing. It is an involuntary muscle. When it comes to the heart we cannot help ourselves-which is a good thing. Are we in our hearts or in our heads? When we are in our heads we dull life down, dragging the baggage of identity into every life circumstance. The result is a narrowed responsiveness. If we can instead manage without expectation, we remain in readiness-aware and alert.

One of the easiest ways to learn the art of non-doing is to try and not do anything. There is a simple breathing meditation which is to try and not breathe. This does not mean hold your breath. Just try and not be the one that is breathing. Trust that life will breathe for you. Know that this meditation practice may bring up some issues- especially any suppression of energies in the lower chakras. If this is the case, this is good a time as any to start processing whatever that may be.

Try meditation. Meditation works wonders. When doing sitting meditation simply encounter the idea of not doing anything-to not be the one doing- whether it is breathing or anything else. It will soon be obvious to you that "trying to not do" is still doing. This is not something that can be resolved by the mind. The mind will simply flip-flop back and forth and will always be up to something (doing). Relaxing the will helps. This automatically slows the parade of thoughts.

Breathe. We are seeking balance. There are seven major chakras. The heart chakra is in the center and it is the balancer. It oxygenates the blood. The blood is connected to the will and oxygen with consciousness. If we look at a cross (any cross) and liken it to the body, we see a vertical line and a horizontal line. Our will is the horizontal line while the vertical line is our attention to the moment. The two lines meet in the here and now. All ideas are sacrificed on the cross of what matters-the heart.

There is a wonderful book by Esther and Jerry Hicks entitled "The Astonishing Power of Emotions" that goes far in dealing with the practice of non-doing. Interesting that both these books I have made reference to have been channeled (non-doing). This book is about The Law of Attraction and The Art of Allowing. The Art of Allowing is the same as the art of non-doing. Our feelings are indeed our true means of navigation. We "feel" our way through life.

Many who wish to learn non-doing are crossing from an individuated state to a spiritual state and fear the loss of their individuality. Know that individuality only increases. Look at the difference between Krishna and Buddha-one is sitting and one is dancing. Individuality is not lost through non-doing but emphasized. Our spontaneity naturally reveals us to ourselves. We ARE diverse. Nature IS diverse. Diversity arises out of liberation (as opposed to de-liberation).

You may have noticed that those who have mastered the art of allowing and embrace their true nature radiate a distinct beauty. This is because beauty is the energetic side of truth. Beauty is how truth manifests. A person of truth is compelling. We want to be close. We want to become this truth. We are attracted because we want more of it for ourselves. We want to live with that kind of freedom. We want to live with that level of relaxation-yes, relaxation.

Non-doing is effortless. It is relaxing. Look at how beautiful people are when they are sleeping soundly. It is truth-just lying there breathing. The doing is all taken care of. In the state of non-doing we are as light as a feather. Our energy is boundless for we are not in conflict. It is our lack of inspiration that makes things so difficult and heavy. When we are inspired, we are simply following our excitement. We "find" ourselves doing things. We are not forcing it. We simply witness it.

This is why meditation practice can work so well as a way to get to know non-doing. We practice it while we are doing very little to begin with- just sitting there breathing- on our bums for hours. Experiment with relaxation. Work on slowing down the parade of mental traffic. The more we slow the traffic of the mind, the greater the relaxation.

It is not a matter of having to empty the mind of mental traffic completely before one starts experiencing results. Slowing the internal dialogue occurs by degrees. The traffic slows little by little. As the traffic slows our thoughts become more transparent. We can readily see to what degree we are triggered by them. It becomes clear whether our lives are being run by our habitual thoughts or by our present-tense awareness.

With this recovered freedom from our habitual thoughts we feel joy-the joy of possibility. This is how we always know we are on the right track. If we feel relaxed and joyful then we are doing the right thing. The tree in your backyard is expressing pure joy. The sun as it rises expresses pure joy. It is not concerned about what the neighbors think. It does not amp up its expression in the face of judgment. It does not perform. It answers only to itself and its joy.

Imagine the simple joy you see in young children-a joy that comes from innocence and wonder-the innocence and wonder of one who trusts without having any proof of anything or feeling the need to prove anything. How can they trust so implicitly? Where does this trust come from? The answer is simple. It is ourselves that we are trusting when we trust.

In meditation, deep within the core of our being, we come to realize clearly that there is but one being. We all are this one being-and this one being seeks nothing more but to know itself as one trust and one love. How can it be otherwise? As all beings are one, then all beings carry this same understanding deep within. Some may be in touch with it and some may need a reminder. We teach by modeling. We learn by example. Be joy. Be love. Be trust.