When Doing Nothing Is The Only Kind Thing to Do

Sometimes the most compassionate choice we can make is not immediately acting on our desire to do something, writes editor-in-chief Heather Hurlock.

Adobe Stock/ taramara78

Lately, I’ve been practicing what I call “active non-doing.” It’s a liminal way of being where I observe the things I’m “supposed” to do—as a mother, a wife, the caretaker of my dying father, a manager, an editor, a friend, a homemaker, even a musician. I notice all the deeply ingrained ways I believe I’m supposed to show up. And rather than immediately acting on my inclinations, I’ve been just not doing anything for a little while and seeing what happens.

This practice doesn’t come naturally to me. By nature, I’m a doer. For me, the pull to act is a whole-body sensation: tension in my chest, flush cheeks, hot hands, as well as a rush to judgment and immediate problem-solving. My whole being doesn’t just scream “do something”; it insists “here’s how!” I try to pause, relax my (probably) tensed-up shoulders, and breathe until the feeling passes, noticing the swirling eddies of ideas, emotions, and physical sensations my halting leaves in its wake.

This “active non-doing” practice didn’t come my way by choice. I resisted fervently, choosing instead to barrel into situations with ideas, projects, answers, and solutions. It’s only been through my most difficult pain point, caring for my father, that I have been able to see active non-doing is sometimes the most compassionate action to take.

I’ve been getting in my own way for so long that I missed the magic of allowing. The beauty and grace of it. The compassion and joy that’s always there, waiting for us to gently tap in.

And honestly, I don’t like it. At all. I would much rather jump in and do something. But I’ve discovered through this practice that welcoming everything—the discomfort, the heat, the disappointment in myself, the judgment—and letting it be (even when wanting to act feels like a blazing fire) opens up options that I never would have thought of, but are often the perfect next thing to happen. I’ve been getting in my own way for so long that I missed the magic of allowing. The beauty and grace of it. The compassion and joy that’s always there, waiting for us to gently tap in.

So, to celebrate 50 issues of Mindful magazine, and welcome a new year, our team gathered stories and practices that offer you the opportunity to welcome it all, not just in your mind, but with your whole body, your whole heart. So you can meet your stresses, your challenges, your difficult conversations, your joys, and your celebrations with a bit of ease, a bit of trust in yourself. So you can take a breath, lower your shoulders, and know that you have everything you need in this one beautiful moment, in this one beautiful life.

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  • Mindful Staff
  • November 13, 2021
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