The Struggle of Not-Doing

Recently I spent several days on the couch. Lying flat. Not because I wanted to, but because an old lower back injury had came back in full force. My doctor said it might not heal if I didn’t take complete rest.

I love resting and taking naps, not when I have to however. I also love to move and get really anxious when I can’t – eating disorder trigger, but that’s a different story. It feels like so much has been put on my plate lately: Paula passing away, my husband’s health scare (he’s ok now), my dad’s health scare, and now this. I tried to make meaning out of it. What’s the lesson? What is the Universe trying to tell me? What am I missing? My teacher Sarah Powers reminded me that we can also rest in the not-knowing. We do not always have to figure everything out. We do not always have all the answers. Can I relax into the unknown?  So that is what I tried to do.

As I was resting, more questions came up: Why is it that I need to feel productive all the time? Why do I feel that I have to be “doing” something all the time to make the day count, to make me feel worthy, to make me feel like I’m contributing to the world, that I’m making progress on my path to I don’t know where…?
Why is it so challenging to simply rest? Not even in a yoga pose (which is deemed productive by my mind) but on the couch, flat on my back with a pillow propped under my knees to ease my back pain and the aches in my psoas?
Why can I not simply let go? Allow myself to rest and heal (not only physically but also emotionally)?

The next day I had a revelation: doing nothing comes with wisdom. Wisdom comes from experience, not from reading books or from listening to other people. Just like you cannot learn the practice of yoga from a book. You need to experience it by engaging in the practice to reap the benefits of it. Therefore we cannot know the benefits of rest, of letting go of the need to be productive, from simply telling ourselves: “rest is good”. We need to actually stop doing, daring to take the risk to not be “on”, in order to experience that we will be ok. That we will be more than ok. That we have so much more to offer if we become still enough to listen to our inner voice. That voice of wisdom that whispers: “It’s ok. Just rest. There is nothing you need to do right now.” So I continued to rest, and started to enjoy it.

Then another realization came to me: the difficulty of taking rest is not so much the physical aspect of not moving (although there is that too). I was noticing that it is my mind that is the biggest challenger of non-doing. The fear in my mind is real: what would happen if I stopped being productive? Who am I if I’m not busy?
What I realized is that the world (read: “my” world) was not falling apart when I was not constantly trying to produce something (whatever that may be). People (read: my friends and family) still loved me – and those who don’t understand don’t matter. Can we just stop the glorification of “busy”? (I actually wrote this blog about that a few years back.)

Now only the big question remains: what would happen if my world did fall apart?

– to be continued….