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The Simplicity of Doing Nothing

Updated: Jan 11

Hustle and bustle is the hallmark of modern society it seems. Technology has made it possible to be working and interacting 24/7. We are exposed to so many possibilities and endeavors to pursue it can often feel overwhelming to choose between them. Media bombards us at a near constant rate. We can achieve and strive and succeed at higher levels than were ever thought possible in the past. It's truly amazing actually, but it comes at a high cost as well.

There is a toll taken on our minds and bodies when they are continually active, and not given the chance to rest. Physical exhaustion and mental fatigue ensue, and even anxiety and depression can result in extreme cases. I knew I was far too busy and needed to slow down, but I didn't realize the full extent of how severe it was until I actually tried to do it.

I decided to take a break one day and look through a stack of cooking magazines someone had given me. I couldn't recall the last time I had done something like that and thought it sounded relaxing and peaceful, to quietly and slowly flip through the pages with no agenda. And it should have been in theory. Except it wasn't. Not at all. Quite the contrary.

Within only a couple of pages I had already reached for my phone...just to check it...even though it had not rung, or beeped, or in any way indicated there was anything that needed checking. When I realized I had done that it bothered me, so I set the phone across the room, out of reach, and picked up the magazine again. A few more pages in I found my eyes darting around the room. I was alone in the house, so I have no idea what I was looking for or at? Determined to focus, I forced myself to keep turning pages, but instead of relaxing into the experience I felt intensely uncomfortable. My hands and legs got restless and fidgety. I couldn't shake a sense of urgency that I had something important to do, even though I didn't have anything in particular on the calendar that day. This battle went on for a bit, until only half way through one magazine I called it quits. I simply couldn't do it, and was feeling more anxious than eased. This experience unsettled me deeply, however. I tried this exercise a few more times over the next week with the same results, and recognized that something needed to change. I don't know when or how, but I had lost the ability to simply BE and I wanted it back.

This lead me to research and discover the power of meditation. I had, of course, heard of meditation before, although it had always sounded a little "woo woo" to me to be honest. But I figured I had nothing to lose giving it a try, so I downloaded some guided meditations online and dove in. How hard could it be to just sit there, right? But I soon realized sitting in silence was going even worse than magazine reading had. My brain kicked into massive overdrive to fill the void. My legs wouldn't hold still and I had an annoying itch on my shoulder that could not be ignored. Plus I felt a little silly, wondering what the heck good this was doing anyway. After 10 minutes I chalked it up overall as dumb and unhelpful. But the testimonials from others kept me intrigued enough to read more about it and try again. And again. And again.

It was somewhat discouraging at first that meditative bliss did not seem to be coming as naturally to me as it did to others. But that was all the more reason I knew I needed to keep at it. So for months I approached meditation like other goals in my life, with sheer force of will and tried so hard to learn how to do it well. I tried to master sitting still. I tried to remain calm and focused. I tried to clear my mind and heart. I tried to embrace the quiet and empty spaces. It did improve some. Eventually I could manage to hold relatively still for 15 minutes, and counting my breaths helped keep my mind somewhat on track. But still I recognized that I wasn't very "good" at it. I wasn't feeling transformed or having any significant breakthroughs spiritually. I felt more like I was going through the motions, and that maybe meditation just wasn't ever going to be "my thing." Until one day some wisdom flooded through me that totally changed my perspective.

Laura...stop trying so hard. Quit trying to force anything at all and just...breathe. When thoughts come, don't fight them. Envision yourself in a river of water and observe them softly floating on by. To achieve a fitness goal you can attack it with brute strength, but to connect with spirit is more about letting go. Releasing. Being present and surrendering to the now. Feel the sun on your face and the air in your lungs and just...simply...breathe. This doesn't need to be so hard. Rest and be. That is all.

And I cried. The pent up fears I carried. The exhaustion. The tension in my body. The frustration and shame over some life experiences I was embarrassed about. The worry for the future. All of it flowed out in tears as peace filled me with a sense of comfort that for this very moment in time all was well. And suddenly I understood what meditation was and why it was so valuable. It's not about DOING anything to attain peace and inspiration. It's about pausing and opening to allow them inside your heart and soul. They're always there. We just have to slow down enough to notice.

Like anything, meditation is a skill that takes practice. The more you are "in it" the more it can give to you in return. I get busy and move away from it sometimes and I can feel the difference when I do. If I go too long it feels almost like I am starting over in my ability to relax and connect. I have to remind myself to not over complicate it, or measure it or try to quantify it's success. If you have not yet implemented meditation in your life I would encourage you to. I started out using an app called "headspace" that I found extremely helpful in the beginning. These days I sit more on my own. And don't be discouraged if it feels awkward, even for many months. It's well worth staying with it and letting it slowly settle in, until one day you realize you finally "get" why so many people love this practice. The daily vacation for your spirit. Do less. The mastery lies in embracing the simplicity.

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