What, I can experience an entire trip to the mall without sighing, grimacing or silently cursing? I can sit through an entire red light without fidgeting? I can make (or miss) my connecting flight without losing my shit even once? Can I live my whole life this way?~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2016/07/how-to-be-patient/
We can, if we’re willing to give time, as a habit. Nothing else makes sense really—it’s just experimenting with a willingness to live in reality as though there’s nowhere else to be. (Not that there ever was.)
Occassionally I get the urge to attend a week-long, silent meditation retreat. (For example, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassanā retreats.)
Because sometimes I experience small periods of blissful serenity. I’d particularly like to be able to go there on a more regular basis. It seems to me that spending about 10 days doing nothing but meditating in silence would be a delightfully mind-altering experience.
Rarely, but with increasing frequency, I find myself enjoying sitting pefectly still. Doing perfectly nothing. Paying attention to the moment instead of being completely obliterated by an endless torrent of thoughts. Eventually a thought which I deem worthy enough arises urging me to go do this, or check on that, and I rise from my glimpse of serenity.
I always wonder what would happen if I just kept thinking: That’s not quite worth getting up for just now, I’ll wait for the next thought.
Blaise Pascal famously said that all human miseries arise from our inability to do this. But I think it’s really just an unwillingness. He’s right about the arising miseries though—not knowing how to deliberately do nothing is a crippling disease that leads to bizarre, self-defeating phenomena like workaholism, cigarette smoking, rude smartphone behavior (see below) and eventually war and pestilence.~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2016/03/4-absurdly-easy-things/
Not to be confused with, “doing something that doesn’t advance you towards a goal.” That’s still doing something. A lot of people spend a lot time doing all sorts of that busy-nothing; I see you on the street, in your car, at the cafe, the glow of the TV in your homes, and I can tell by the words that I overhear that all that stuff is important to you. There’s a good book, What Makes Your Brain Happy: And Why You Should Do the Opposite, which I offer for your consideration.
No, I’m asking about “doing nothing” as in sitting, or perhaps lying down, and being fully aware of the reality around you. For many years, I ran in terror from doing nothing. I ran to my todo lists or my goals or my habits designed to improve my life or my TV or my fiction books…
I started by intentionally setting out—if even for a few minutes—to do nothing. I’ve gotten pretty darn good at it these days. What I’m currently practicing is learning that doing nothing is the good stuff I should not feel guilty about.
Why not go do nothing right now?
We usually (though not always) recognize the absurdity in blaming animals, inanimate objects, or the weather for the annoyances they cause us. Shit happens, and most reasonable people can accept that. But somehow, if we can in any way pin the inconveniences in our lives on a failing of another human being, we are quick to do it.
~ David Cain
Replace every instance of we with I in the above quote and it once fit me perfectly. I sometime mention the fundamental attribution error and that is a significant part of what he’s talking about. But there’s more to it than just that error.
This is something I’ve managed to transform into a snide condescnesion; for example, when driving, I often think, “…aaaaaand, cut me off,” just before drivers do so. I recall how I used to get angry in such situations. Really angry. Fortunately, more than a decade ago, after a lot of meditation, I learned to first witness the anger, then to know when to expect it, and finally to not bother creating it.
Witness the condescention. Learn to expect the condescension.
Slowly add mindfulness bells. A mindfulness bell can be anything in your environment. Thich Nhat Hanh suggested using traffic lights as a mindfulness bell — when you see one, instead of getting caught up in the stress of driving, allow yourself to become present. You can slowly find other mindfulness bells — your daughter’s face, opening your computer, having your first cup of coffee, hearing a train going by.
~ Leo Babauta
Finding ways to trigger making conscious decisions is the key to increasing the amount of time you are mindful. The possibilities are endless!
People who haven’t tried to meditate have very little sense that their minds are noisy at all. And when you tell them that they’re thinking every second of the day, it generally doesn’t mean anything to them. It certainly doesn’t strike most of them as pathological. When these people try to meditate, they have one of two reactions: Some are so restless and besieged by doubts that they can hardly attempt the exercise. “What am I doing sitting here with my eyes closed? What is the point of paying attention to the breath?” And, strangely, their resistance isn’t remotely interesting to them. They come away, after only a few minutes, thinking that the act of paying close attention to their experience is pointless.
~ Sam Harris
I don’t consider myself “very good” at meditating. Beginning in ’98, through 15 years of Aikido practice and beyond, I have spent “some” time sitting in seiza, meditating and breathing. It was only after many years that I realized how wonderful the sitting, meditation, and breathing was for me personally.
There’re approximately 10 gazillion intros and primers on meditation and breathing on the Internet, so I’m not even going to give a hand-waving explanation. I’ll just say: Yes! Do! You can mail me a Thank-you card later!
…and I suppose also: If we meet in person, strike up a conversation and I’d love to talk shop.
How, then, can we find and embrace emptiness in the sea of digital activity we swim through every day? The possibility of constant communication and information can make us allergic to absence. It’s not just that the technology is ubiquitous, invasive, and addicting. Its presence in our lives belies the deeper issue that the Wilson study touched upon: the ability to sit still with ourselves.
~ Susan Cain