The Contradictory Art of Doing Nothing
by Guest
in Blogs

There is a lot of talk (from me especially) to get outside and play, or to build a practice, but what of doing nothing. Not yoga, not relaxing, not meditation, not sleeping…. nothing! Affectionately called 'ballas bak' by Afrikaans communities (I'll leave the translation up to you), doing nothing is something (is it?) we often don't even consider (can we consider no thing?) doing (can you do nothing?).

Perhaps not, but you can be. You can stop doing something and allow. We could call this stillness, we could call it mindfulness. But does it need a name? Perhaps that’s why we refer to it as nothing. There is something inside us that wants to rebel at nothing, because we have an idea that ‘something’ is more valuable, and that nothingness has no value. Yet it is from the powerful subtlety of doing nothing, that all things arise. Becoming aware and present to this is the power of mindfulness. The fluttering and fluctuations of the mind can become overwhelming. Trying to do too many things at once is an illness that we are all too afraid to admit we all suffer from. In a time of instantaneous gratification and results, taking a moment for yourself almost seems like a step in the ‘wrong’ direction.

Becoming aware of yourself is a frightening responsibility. You realise that you have created the situation you are in, the mental, emotional and physical attachments are all of your own doing; this is the moment where the real power comes in, your own power. Taking that moment to be mindful was not a step in any direction, but rather a zoom out of being in your drama to seeing it from a different, neutral, perspective. Seeing your story play out will make you want to change it, and the best part is that you can. You can create, shift and adapt as you need, not for anyone or anything else, except you. Stepping into your responsibility also reveals that which we cannot control, those things outside of ourselves that we spend so much time worrying about, but can do nothing about.

Becoming aware and mindful of yourself will be the difference between living the life you choose to live, or becoming a victim of your own mind. There is a difference between being selfish and being self-aware, and we only learn from our experience. It is wonderful to share in blogs and discuss these things, but it only becomes real when we face it for ourselves.

On a personal level, I have been struggling with my gut health ever since I got sick in India last year (what a cliche). The combination of continuous travelling, training and teaching, left no room for nothing. I was meditating, yoga-ing, relaxing, going for hikes, doing things I love doing, but leaving little room for nothing. This lead me to experiencing some interesting bouts with illness and a big part of getting better has come down to: doing nothing. It was not until my chiropractor looked at me and said; "when last did you do nothing? You know, ballas bak!" My response, predictably full of yogic irony, was something like; "well, I have been meditating, witnessing and observing my thoughts, words and actions, my practice is stronger than ever, I am consistent, as well as continuously challenging myself and exploring new things!" His reply, to the point as usual; "that's all great, but that's not nothing.”

And so my quest for nothing begun again. Without getting too philosophical or critical about the matter, it starts simply with lying in the sun for about 15 minutes, or sitting under a tree - that's it really. There is nothing more to it. What I have found is the natural reset button that brings one back to neutral, and from that neutral space we can live with much more ease. Consistency comes naturally, authenticity follows. Yes, focussing on the breath will do the same thing, or sitting in meditation, but this is almost more fun in a way - with less effort. I am just allowing, sometimes listening to the birds, or the wind. And, when I am done, I am done, and I carry on with the day.

To learn more about Dave Gardner, view his website

Dave share his expertise with us in Steps 9 and 10 of the 12 Steps to Wholesome Nutrition course.