Don't Just Do Something, Sit There!

by Dr. Keith Jeffery

I love this concept. We are a civilization of "human doings" not "human beings". Don't get me wrong I do as much as the next guy. But as I approach 50, I am more and more interested in slowing time, in enjoying each precious moment. In appreciating all that is profound in its simplicity. I still set goals by visualizing exactly what I want, but I'm not assuming that my peace and contentment is dependent on the achievement of those goals.

In fact, more and more I am finding ways to enjoy the journey toward the goal. Here are some ways that may help you be present. Methods to pull yourself out of the past and future, places of residences preferred by the mind.

1. Each day, spend some time alone
Time in prayer, meditation, yoga or tai chi. Time just sitting. Not reading, knitting, watching TV, talking, scratching, or sleeping. Just sitting. Not even thinking. Thoughts will of course try to invade. That's fine, but let them drift away, like clouds floating across the sky.

This process will awaken you to the frenetic, constant, repetitive activity of the mind. The constant pressure to be elsewhere with the assumption that something more needs to happen so you can be "happy". The first step is the recognition of this process on a regular basis. The next step is to continue spending time alone, in prayer, meditation, yoga, tai chi...

2. Each day, find something simple in your life that is beautiful, interesting, wondrous or amazing
Like a spider web. Or a flower. Or the sun reflecting off a colorful bird. Or a sunset. Maybe the moon. Or a smile. You get the picture. Living in appreciation makes every day better, and there is always something to appreciate.

3. Each day, decide to listen completely in every conversation
Without second guessing the content you are expecting from the other person. Without finishing the sentences for him/her. Without already preparing your rebuttal to the anticipated conversation. Just listen. Listening is a rare skill these days. It takes practice, and is enhanced considerably by having a quiet, still mind.

4. Quit fighting "what is"
Whatever is happening in the present moment is happening, whether or not you like it. It is as it is for now, so increase your level of contentment by accepting each moment as if you have chosen it. Of course you can take actions to improve your life, but you can't change the present moment because it already is...

Mental stillness, discovering the profound in everyday life and living in the moment are very elusive experiences for most people. We put so much value on doing, on accomplishment, and so little on being. One of my favorite cartoons showed two cigar smoking, pinstriped executives in discussion. One lamented that "maybe true happiness comes AFTER the first $700 million".

They say that it is wisdom to know others, but it is enlightenment to know oneself. Take a few moments each day to get to know yourself.

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