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The Center for Work Addiction Recovery

An Exercise In Doing Nothing

How do you do less than nothing? Practice non-doing! Arising as far back as the fifth century B.C. in the ancient Chinese Taoist practice of "wu wei", non-doing is a powerful technique for recovering our spontaneous and flowing inner self. When mastered, non-doing provides an ever present gateway to the Power of Being.

When we are doing nothing the implication is that we are still making an effort. We are still working at, or accomplishing something. Non-doing implies that we are not even trying to "do nothing" but rather effortlessly "just being". In non-doing we allow life to be just as it is and give ourselves permission to exist just as we are.

In order to practice non-doing find a comfortable place to just be. Often the best place is right where you are now (so that you don't try to control, or fix, or arrange things too much). It is important to have a place, however, with as few distractions as possible. When you are non-doing this means not reading, listening to music, opening mail, making plans on your calendar, watching television, talking with someone, reading, or "doing" any other "activity". Just BE and allow whatever arises within you to occur. Notice how you feel physically and if your body is tense in any area. Notice what sort of emotions you may be experiencing at the moment. Notice what thoughts you have and if your mind is racing. Notice these things and simply say "I am here. It is okay to just be and open up to the world. I have the right to exist. Now I accept this." Most importantly... keep practicing.

Although this exercise may sound simple it is anything but easy. Like the Zen Buddhist technique of "base attention" it is thought of as, paradoxically, one of the most challenging forms of meditation. This is particularly the case if we tend to have an addictive personality. Addictions and compulsions are roles, or ways that we have learned to avoid, or defend against uncomfortable feelings, experiences, and ideas.

When we practice non-doing we initially are likely to become aware of whatever we have been avoiding, or defending against (e.g., guilt, anxiety, fear, self-intimacy anger, sadness, etc.). It is important to see these as passing phenomena and not get "stuck" in them. Just maintain an open and accepting attitude and keep non-doing.

It is good to practice non-doing on a daily basis. For some who tend to be compulsive doers, or workaholics it may take several hours to experience much of a sense of beingness. In fact, most religious leaders (e.g. Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi) would "withdraw" and meditate more than once a day. If you think about it, since we live in a doing-oriented world, how can we expect to be in touch with our being side if we do not practice? As our ability to be grows stronger we will instinctively fall into non-doing when we sense that our life is becoming overly compulsive, hectic, demanding, or "should" driven.

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