The most important thing I do every day is . . . believe it or not . . . nothing. It is a practice that creates nothing, and yet creates everything.
It is the most uncomfortable, most valuable time that I spend.
Here’s how I do nothing:
I stop doing things. I sit down. I stay sitting.
It’s mostly impossible, the doing of nothing. At the same time, it’s very easy.
When I’m doing nothing, I feel aches and pains, warmth, tingles, chills, complaints, tightness, impatience, restlessness, lust. My mind fills with fears, impulses, regrets, desires, calendars, TV shows, grocery lists, sadness, terror, joy, traumatic memories, contentment, beloved faces, betraying faces, story plots, breakfast sausage, protests, longing, leftover pizza, the inane song in my head.
I can’t change the thoughts or run away or distract myself or make something happen.
Doing nothing allows life to just be, along with its torrent of thoughts.
Doing nothing teaches me that the good stuff arises independently of my conscious control. In writing, this means everything.
There will always be a new idea, something to say. When the story is patchy or implausible or weak, I don’t have to jump up and do something.
I stay. Wisdom will come. Solutions will come, just like problems.
When I do nothing, I find Center, I find peace. I’m not capitulating in defeat or indulging my lazy side or avoiding anything. I’m acknowledging a greater Source of my creativity and life.
In classes, I also do nothing. Leading others into nothing. Whether on Zoom or (someday soon again) in a live setting, we close our eyes together. We breathe. We relax. We stop forcing ideas, pushing our secret inner agendas.
We tell stories; we write them; we read them. No longer do we have to make things happen.
We experience heartbreak, horror, violence, a scream in the night, or an officer’s knock at the door. We feel humor and warmth: giant clown cookie shoes; a mother-in-law in robe and curlers.
We acknowledge zest and surprise, a buttercup-yellow meyer lemon, a kiss on the nape of the neck, a car radio playing as we drive a dusty desert road.
Our writing, our creating, our art, and our lives brim to overflowing. We stop trying to fix the world and surrender, holding nothing we can grasp, moving beyond our tiny brain-space, freed to experience the universe.
In doing nothing, we are overtaken with story and truth and wonder and love—that is to say, we are doing our best work, in everything.