Don’t just do something, sit there.

For some of us, sitting in stillness can be the most challenging part of practicing yoga.  Or of daily life.  I know it’s hard for me.  I often get stuck in a cycle of believing I must be constantly doing to feel valuable and productive.  Then, because I am doing so much, I feel stressed and overwhelmed.  Or conversely, if my to-do list slows down, I don’t know what to do with myself and feel sad or empty.  The life coach I am working with tells me I am “addicted to busyness.”  (Remember that amazing Handel Group Design Your Life Weekend I blogged about a couple of months ago, here?  I’m continuing that work with one of their coaches.  I highly recommend the Handel weekend – they are coming back to Cleveland in May btw).

Much of the Handel work involves making promises and consequences to make positive impact in our lives.  So my coach came up with the most brilliant (and difficult) “promise” for me.  Every day, I am to sit for fifteen minutes, doing nothing.  Mind you, this is on top of the daily meditation practice that I instituted at the beginning of the year.  For a busyness junkie like me, this sounds like torture.

When she first broached the idea with me, I said I don’t understand.  What does that even look like?  She replied “do you ever go for a walk in the park?”  I excitedly replied “yes,” thinking if that’s what this promise entails, I can so do this.  But she continued.  “Do you ever see older people just sitting on a bench?”  “Yes,” I replied, my skepticism creeping in.  “That’s what I want you to do.”  For 15 minutes.  Every day.

So I’ve been doing that for a little over a week.  Or rather, I’ve been doing nothing.  Just sitting.  If it’s nice enough, I sit outside.  Otherwise, I find a comfy perch in my home office and settle in.  What I’ve noticed is that my breathing immediately slows down.  My awareness lands on my breath, maybe for the first time since my morning meditation.  I actually like just sitting in stillness (even though I encounter internal resistance every day).  Immersed in nature or witnessing it from my office window.  I feel grounded and centered when my timer goes off.   I actually have more focus when I return to the busyness that is often required in my daily life.  Who knew?

Yoga tells us to embrace our discomforts so we can experience true growth.  So if something is really hard for you to do – like sitting still and doing nothing is for me – you probably need to go there.