The "Do-Nothing" Meditation Technique
Updated: Apr 7
In this post I would like to introduce to you the important practice of meditation. Although more influential books can be found about this topic, here I would like to describe my personal experience about how meditation has changed my life and how I have been using it to get important insights about the nature of myself and the reality I live.
“To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still.”
– Jiddu Krishnamurti -
“Your goal is not to battle with the mind, but to witness the mind.”
– Swami Muktananda -
Which is the most challenging thing to do for most humans? Doing nothing. We simply cannot help doing something either mentally or physically. We get crazy by the idea of spending an entire day by doing nothing. By doing nothing I do not mean laying on the sofa, watching TV and eating snacks. By doing nothing I do not mean reading a book. By doing nothing I do not mean listening music. I mean literally doing nothing.
The reason why it is so hard for us stopping engaging our self in doing stuffs is that our own identity, whatever we think to be, depends on those activities that help us sustaining and maintaining that idea that we have about our self. A person that identify itself in being sportive would feel dying by thinking to spend an entire week locked in the house, whereas an intellectual person could not even think to leave his loved library to get some fresh air. Each of us has some specific ideas about who we are and everyday we spend a lot of energy by keeping that idea alive.
One of the main difficulty in doing consciousnesses work resides in our tendency to constantly being bombarded and being distracted by external inputs, by our inability to self reflect, by the constant urge to feel busy. We are unable to look within us and by not doing so we miss the opportunity to discover the magic of existence. It is incredible how much you could benefit by doing something that does not require a single movement on your side and that is completely free.
Think about that. Anything you want to achieve requires a sort of engagement, some activity, some action in order to be finished. And, if you have not noticed it yet, the results are going to be transitory and not completely fulfilling. Have you finished reading a book? You move to the next one. Have you completed your first marathon? You are already thinking to the next one. Have you been in Asia? You are planning to go in Africa. It is a constant chase in order to obtain something of which we have no clear idea what it might represent. Happiness? Feeling fulfilled and satisfied? Mah, who knows.
Do not get me wrong: you are free to enjoy reading as many books as you want and travelling the whole world but at least be clear on behalf of who. It is likely that most of the activities you are engaging into are the result of a hidden sense of uneasiness that keeps you constantly busy physically, mentally and emotionally.
The irony of this work is that lasting happiness and personal satisfaction are obtainable by doing nothing at all. Simply by looking within.
Within us there is an hidden treasure that can change our life in a radical way. Unlike other living organisms, human beings have the possibility to become directly conscious of the truth about themselves and about the reality they live into. Nevertheless, the key to liberation has been artfully hidden and it is our goal to find it. Many people have already accessed to this treasure and meditation has revealed to be a powerful tool to unveil this secret.
Most of us are not aware how much our mind is responsible for our own suffering and by not seeing it we are meant to live a miserable life. The turning point in living a more joyful life is realizing that we are creating our own reality and that problems and suffering are not out there waiting for us but rather the consequence of our own ignorance about our fundamental nature. Mind is an amazing tool that allows human beings achieving unthinkable goals but it can turn into a bomb ready to make serious damages.
Most of us conduct a frenetic and stressful life in which silence does not find much space in our life. Since we feel incomplete and unsatisfied, we have the need to fill our days with hundreds of small activities and experiences to not perceive the loneliness within us. Being in silence and spending time alone is seen as a negative practice, something boring and few people can stand their own presence for more than few hours without feeling the need for external inputs. Real change comes by facing our own fears and assumptions and the only way by doing it is to stop blaming and judging others for the situation we find our self and do the work.
There are many different meditation techniques available but the one I like the most and probably the most challenging one is the "do-nothing" technique.
Any other meditation technique tries to quiet and calm down our busy mind either by focusing on a specific object or by chanting a mantra or a sound. Though efficient, these techniques involve an activity and they do not challenge mind as much as the "do-nothing" technique does.
All you need to do is to find a comfortable place where to sit and literally do nothing: reading, listening music, watching outside the window are not allowed. The aim of this technique is to be bored to hell and observe how your mind starts to find any possible excuses to get out of it. You might think that it is going to be easy to stay 1 hour sitting in your room without moving, but you will discover soon your own weaknesses.
Your only job is observing any thought, image, feeling, emotion that arise within your body without reacting to them. Do not try to change your thoughts, do not try to suppress them, do not judge them, simply observe them. Observe how the mind will sneakily trick you in making you move, changing position, in convincing you are wasting your time, in doing something.
The very function of mind is to constantly move and create new things and any attempt in stopping the mind in doing what it has been designed to do will be worthless. It is like asking to the wind to stop blowing or to the fire to stop burning. They cannot do it because that is their function. The aim of this technique is not trying to stop mind but to observe it. But since most of people are identified with the mind this exercise is going to be very hard to do: you are bound to move without being able to self reflect and become aware that mind is an activity you do, rather than what you are.
Meditation is not a competition to see who is going to resist more in a sitting position. The point of this technique is to understand how your mind works and how it runs your life. It is important to get to know this amazing tool as much as you can. Mind at the moment is your worst enemy, but through observation it can become your best friend. The best way to get to know your mind is by doing nothing and simply observing its nature and functioning.
I would like to share with you some insights I personally had by doing this exercise for some years.
Become deeply aware that, as anything else within reality, mind activities (thoughts, images, inner dialogue, emotions, feeling, sensations, memories, future projections) come and go and do not last forever: they appear and disappear. Try to track the moment in which they arise and the moment in which they disappear.
Notice that whoever you think you are, you are always present in observing these activities, appearing and disappearing. In other words, you are something different than your mind and your existence do not depend on it. Most of us fall into the trap in identifying our self with the movement of mind. This exercise shows you how to keep distance from anything happening in your mind by simply observing the content of mind.
Whatever arises and then disappears cannot be you. You must be that which is aware of all these movements. If a negative thoughts arises, do not get trapped in believing that you are that negative thought. You are that which can observe it.
Thoughts are intertwined with emotions and together make us react in an automatic and predictable way. We become puppets. Observe carefully how specific thoughts appearing in your mind are charged with anger, fear, frustration and how other thoughts have less grip on you. Your goal is not understanding why a specific thought comes together with a specific set of emotions but only observing these movements appearing and disappearing. Watch them as a movie without getting involved.
At a higher level of awareness, you will realize that these thought-emotion movements do not really touch you in any way unless you decide to identify with it. Your true nature is like the sky that does not change its nature when a cloud appear or disappear.
Notice how powerful your mind is in tempting you to get out from this exercise. Mind feels threaten by it because it is not anymore in control, it feels exposed. Be really careful about any thoughts appearing in your head and how easily you will fall into the trap of identification. For instance, the thought: “I will not let mind distract me” is already the mind that has distracted you!
This is a critical point: any inner voice, dialogue, thought, image represent mind activities and not your true nature. Whatever you can perceive or be aware of, it is not you.
Like thoughts, also any bodily sensation comes and goes. You might feel at some point some pain or muscular discomfort. Try not to react to it but just observe it and notice that at some point it will disappear. Again, this will show you experientially that you are not any bodily sensations but that which is aware of.
For how obvious it might sound, you will become aware that you can create your own thoughts! You are that which has the power to create positive thoughts 24/7 but we simply have learnt to make the opposite. According to what we have identified our self with we have created pattern of thoughts that are keeping our identity alive. Needless to say, if our identity is dysfunctional also our thoughts will be made out of the same nature. Nothing prevents us to erase all of them to construct a new pattern of thoughts, more beneficial for our life.
The aim of mind is to make survive the character you decide to create and the content of mind will be aligned with your own creation. Stop playing the victim and create the reality you want to live. It is your own responsibility.
At the beginning this exercise will challenge you enormously: it will feel boring, a waste of time, pointless. Do not get discourage because this is only the mind trying to distract you from the work and to get back its control over you.
Once you will be able to observe any thought and emotion happening within you without reacting by sitting on a comfy sofa, you will have to apply in your daily life what you just have learnt. Meditating in a quiet room where nothing and no one can bother you is only the first step to learn how mind and emotions work together to keep you chained. This exercise is like a gym where you can train and get some muscle to get ready for the real challenge.
Sometimes people, hearing what I have just explained, react saying that they do not want to become a human being unable to feel emotions towards other humans or being incapable of acting when needed. The "do-nothing" technique does not teach you to become a cold machine. Learning to observe how your body and mind work does not mean that you will not be able to take action or to feel emotions towards others but rather being able to behave as a human rather than an animal. The utility of this exercise will be visible when you will be able to respond (and not to react) to any external events in a more productive and positive way.
It is more likely that the current condition you find yourself into leads you in reacting, fighting, naming, blaming, judging and hurting others and yourself, all activities that show low consciousness and a low understanding of how the human body functions and what is your true nature.
The body-mind structure wants only one thing, that is, to survive and as humans we need to elevate our consciousness to aim to something higher than pure surviving. Meditation can help you enormously to become a proper vehicle to express your true potential.
Thanks for reading.