Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Art of Non-Doing

Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves and for those we love is put down the to-do list and let go a little.  For many of us, the results-driven world makes that a difficult task.  One place I can usually cultivate a little mindful non-doing is in the tub.  The bubbles, the warmth, the calm of the water all have a way of restoring balance.  Yesterday's art project taught me that we don't even need to get our whole body in the tub to reap the benefits.  

We began with an afternoon walk and collected stones that were round, semi-flat, and stacked easily.  We brought the stones home, washed them, and then I filled the tub with warm, soapy water.  The girls wrapped their stones tightly with wool, then dipped them in the bubbly tub.  When wet, the wool shrinks around the stones.  The process of dipping, squeezing, and swirling the wool-covered stones in warm soapy water might calm even the most cantankerous kid.  It didn't take long before the girls were immersed fully in the moment.  Anything can be an exercise in mindfulness.  

We started with solid colors.  Then we went back and added little wisps of additional color.  I reminded the girls that this project was about the process more than it was about the end result.  As they worked, they learned that they couldn't force the wool to take the shape they wanted nor could they try to create too specific a design with the colors.  The best results came from letting go and allowing the result to manifest in its own time.  This is the art of non-doing.  When we let go of our attachment to the results, we are free to enjoy the process.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn writes in, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, "Non-doing doesn't have to be threatening to people who feel they always have to get things done.  They might find they get even more "done," and done better, by practicing non-doing."  

Too often, we sacrifice the joy of this moment for some distant objective.  We are already half way into the next moment before this moment ends.  Yet, enjoying our life requires that we are present for it.  Our striving, our constant doing, stands between us and our joy.  Non-doing may be a lost art in today's world; nevertheless, it's an art this home-educator intends to keep in the classroom.

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