Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Doing Nothing in the Right Way

Last week, I got a brutal stomach bug. The symptoms were intense but lasted only an afternoon and evening. However, it wiped me out so thoroughly that for the next three days all I could do was lie in bed eating ice chips. Even after I was sort of upright again, doing the simplest things wore me out.

When I finally returned to martial arts class, my teacher told me to take it easy and just do what I could. After sitting down for a few minutes, I joined the class in a standing meditation. As soon as I got myself properly aligned and relaxed into the posture, energy bubbled up inside me and blossomed like a flower. It was like I had a low battery and someone had plugged me into the charger. By the time the meditation ended I felt as close to normal as I had in days.

Later I told the teacher what had happened. “Sometimes doing nothing in the right way is the best thing,” he replied.

That is a pretty amazing statement, especially in our “do, do more, do better” culture. It made me think about other times when doing nothing in the right way is the best thing. Like when a friend needs me to listen, just listen, without offering advice or trying to fix things. Or when someone is rude or trying to pick a fight. Or when a child needs to learn about consequences and how to solve a problem independently.

My body taught me that pushing through, soldering on, or forcing is not always what is called for. Aligning myself in stillness allowed the energy to expand and move freely. I felt refreshed and renewed.

Can you think of some other examples where doing nothing in the right way is the best thing?

Don’t just do something. Sit there! ~Sylvia Boorstein

18 thoughts on “Doing Nothing in the Right Way”

  1. No problem, Linda. Being full of energy is not inconsistent with this idea. This is giving us more awareness of how we generate energy (or allow energy) and how we choose to direct our energy. So it's all good. Thanks for commenting.

  2. When I was a rookie RN, two overdoses came into the emergency dept of the small rural hospital where I was employed. A colleague could see that I was unsure of the next step. She told me – "When you don't know what to do, do nothing. Stop & think. Always, there's only so many things to do. Then do them." I'll always remember that sage advice. To this day, when I don't know what to do, I do nothing (in regards to the situation). It's amazing how often it works itself out.

  3. What a great example of doing nothing in the right way, Mona! What a wise and experienced colleague you had to give you that advice. Now you pass it on to others. Thanks for commenting.

  4. My sister-in-law, Tammie, is a runner. She and her family live on a farm located a few miles from our farm, and she enjoys running on the country roads. A while back, when she was about half a mile from our place, a full-sized bobcat ran out from a cluster of trees. Tammie was shocked to see the cat, and stopped, immediately, and stared at the cat. After what seemed like an eternity, the bobcat turned around and ran back into the trees. When she told us this story, I asked her how she was able to stand there. She replied that she sure wasn't going to turn her back on that cat, and she was pretty sure the cat could outrun her. Yes, standing still is often the wisest option.

  5. I am trying so hard not to overdo as I recuperate from a bad fall. Although I didn't break anything, I couldn't sit or walk very well for weeks. Then I thought I was better and went out on a hike and had to barely be carried down the mountain. So I am getting better at "doing nothing" instead of plowing ahead. Tomorrow I'll find my own slow walk instead of going out with my Trailblazer buddies. It's really hard for me, but I'm learning. I needed to hear this today, Galen. Thank you. 🙂

  6. DJan, I'm sorry about your fall. Our bodies have their own wisdom and rhythm about how to heal. But so hard to listen to them sometimes! Doing nothing in the right way might mean giving your body a chance to rest and heal. I hope you are hopping up the trails soon like a mountain goat!

  7. Galen, I have a dear friend with a disability that sometimes keeps her from physically pushing through. I get the feeling that she feels a bit guilty on those days when rest is the order of the day. I'm going to share this post with her!
    Glad you are feeling better, and that you shared this most valuable lesson with us.

  8. Oh my dear friend, I did love this one. I really enjoyed reading this. I liked the comment of:"doing nothing in the right way. It's a great thought. I like all of your examples. I am going to think more on this because I often getting tied up in doing and need to relax more and do nothing in the right way.
    I am happy you are feeling better and that this activity brought you back to yourself. I had an illness similar a few months back and remember how it slowed me down; which was good in a way.
    Blessings and hugs!

  9. “Do you have the patience to wait
    Till your mud settles and the water is clear?
    Can you remain unmoving
    Till the right action arises by itself?”

    ― Lao tzu

    Life seems to be always teaching us. We live in this human condition that is limited, imperfect and finite. Thoughts come and go, life situations come and go. Often, doing nothing is the right response, allowing things to get settled and balanced allows thing to work out and heal naturally.

    Hope your feeling better, Galen


  10. What a great few lines from the Tao Te Ching above to connect with your post, Galen. I do struggle to do nothing, but some difficult situations recently to do with my volunteering were a perfect example of teaching me to leave well alone to allow conflicts to reach a point whereby help by others could be then 'invited in'. I don't know what's happened. I don't need to know. But I do know I was right to pull away and then do nothing. The mud needed stirring up further in this case to attract more attention for the better.

    Being in pain is a tricky one – doing nothing about it seems so alien to our nature. But if there isn't anything that can be done at that precise time, then doing nothing and accepting is the only way, and maybe that way we find a source of strength in ourselves that can surprise us and help us through.

    So much food for thought here, Galen. Thinking the take home point is to pause rather than react straight away and consider whether 'allowing' something to run its course is the better way to go. To allow that flow to take place by doing nothing to disturb it or knock it off course. Cheers for now!

  11. I know what you mean about pain. I'm learning to lean into emotional pain and not react so quickly to avoid it. But a headache? Give me the meds! The illness I had was different in that my body just shut down and would not allow me to do anything for several days. So acceptance was the only way to go in that case. But when I was still in the standing meditation, energy surged up. Go figure.

    You are right–all sorts of contexts to consider when applying this idea. Thanks for your comment, Lynne.

  12. I have learned this the hard way long ago! I used to stress over missing out on something. Of course I always prioritize, but nevertheless…you know how it is these days. We train more to be like headless chickens than to keep our heads and stay sane. 🙂 Fortunately I now know the value of doing nothing. I love that quote! And once wrote a post with that title. (and someone pointed to me that I got it wrong 😉 ).

  13. Vidya, you are the original energizer bunny. But there always seems to be value and substance in what you do, at least in what you write about. You take time to see things, go to beautiful places, appreciate the wonders all around you, to enjoy life.

    I see more and more people doing more and more in a frantic way, at least in this country. It's exhausting and they are never satisfied. I quit trying to keep up a long time ago!

    So good to hear from you. Thanks for commenting.

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