When I first came face to face with this question, I was a bit skeptical, to say the least. It seems like this approach goes against everything we know about productivity and success.
However, once you get the hang of it, the benefits will never cease to amaze you.
One of the first to study “the art of doing nothing” was Andy Pubbicombe, a guy who spent several years backpacking through Nepal, Burma, India and Tibet, learning everything there is to know about mindfulness and Buddhist meditation.
“Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
Today, Andy Pubbicombe has made a life purpose out of teaching average Joes like you and I the secrets of being more by doing less (or nothing).
How will doing less help us be more?
Since our common purpose here is to tap into our unexplored potential, let’s start by looking at what experts have to say about the gains of mindfulness practice.
Meditation comes with a huge amount of baggage. Most people have a lot of preconceptions if not misconceptions about it, but when you approach it in the right way it is the simplest thing in the world. And it’s a beautiful thing. A place of calm, of creativity, of clarity, and it’s within reach of everybody. – Andy Pubbicombe
This is truly encouraging news. To know that everyone can achieve a state of calm, clarity and creativity just by spending a few minutes doing absolutely nothing.
Luckily for us, this fruitful and straightforward practice can be acquired in three easy steps.
If that not enough to convince you, here’s what a study about the benefits of mindfulness, has concluded after studying 219 employees:
Results revealed that participants in the mindfulness intervention group experienced significantly less emotional exhaustion and more job satisfaction than participants in the control group.
To make a quick summary, mindfulness meditation can help us:
- Reach a state of calm, tranquility and awareness
- Explore our creative potential.
- Prevent emotional exhaustion.
- Find satisfaction in our day-to-day activities.
Step 1: Create the right atmosphere
Before you can start ‘doing nothing’, start by setting up your environment to allow your mind to enter a state of peace and quiet. Meditation is as much about the right atmosphere as it is about the right mindset.
Some people like to meditate in the comfort of their home, while others prefer the outdoors. It’s all up to you. In the end, the purpose is to feel as comfortable and non-restricted as possible.
As Andy Puddicombe puts it:
“I’m not asking you to get on the floor and sit in lotus position and to sit there ‘omming’ for an hour a day. It’s nothing like that.”
Step 2: Focus on something simple
Here’s what Jon Kabat-Zinn, the father of modern meditation and author of Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness meditation for everyday life, has to say about the practice of ‘here and now’:
“To find our way, we will need to pay more attention to this moment. It is the only time that we have in which to live, grow, feel, and change. We will need to become more aware of and take precautions against the incredible pull of the Scylla and Charybdis of past and future, and the dream world they offer us in place of our lives.”
The ‘here and now’ refers to a state in which your entire being is in the present moment. The past and future are set aside, and the only thing that matters is what happens at this very moment.
A simple way to do this is by using ‘anchors’.
For example, focus your attention on a certain object around you. Or maybe a sound.
Anything that exists in the present moment represents an anchor that can connect you to the ‘here and now’.
Step 3: Accept every thought and emotion as it is
Now we’ve finally reached the ‘juicy’ part of the exercise! Everything we’ve learned so far was meant to prepare us for this stage.
What many beginners find confusing about meditation is that if you focus too much on observing your thoughts and emotions, you won’t be able to relax. At the same time, if you’re too relaxed, you won’t be able to notice what takes place inside your head (or you’ll fall asleep).
The key is to find a balance between focus and relaxation, and this is what mindfulness can help us with.
Take a step back (mentally) to observe your thoughts and emotions as they come and go. Be the outside observer who’s only trying to notice what’s going on inside his head. Good or bad, positive or negative, you accept every thought and emotion as it is.
In his book titled The Headspace Guide to… Mindfulness & Meditation, Andy Puddicombe claims that ten minutes of mindfulness meditation a day is all it takes to improve your mood significantly. You can also watch his brief lecture about the incredible benefits of his 10-minute mindfulness routine.
To sum up:
- Create a nice space where peace and serenity can take root.
- Focus on something simple.
- Notice, explore and accept your thoughts and emotions, good and bad.