The Practice of NOT Doing

Written by on November 12, 2019 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living, Meditation, Thrive with 0 Comments

Is there an art of not doing?In a cultural climate that values production almost above anything else, how do we practice not doing? 


The Practice of Not Doing

Photo by David Newkirk

Relaxing is a practice. Relaxing is like any other practice: if you don’t do it regularly, you can lose your ability to do it well. Have you ever felt like the cartoon of Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice whose master goes out (to play Sorcerer’s poker, I think) and comes back to find that Mickey has found his magic hat and wand and in an effort to make his chores more efficient and easier, created instead utter chaos? I think that just like Mickey, in our eagerness to make life easier, automated, or more productive, we forget to learn where the off-button is. Consequentially instead of creating ease for ourselves, we also find ourselves swimming in a river of chaos. 

Gentle practices like Restore Yoga and Yoga Nidra are perfect ways to practice discovering the off button, not as a way of tuning out but as a way of replenishing the source. Restore yoga is a style of yoga that is very accommodating, gentle, and slow. A practitioner will often use cushions, blocks, and blankets to stay in a passive and relaxing pose for anywhere from 5–25 minutes. The purpose is to restore to wholeness through gentle grounding and opening postures which take no effort—unless is takes great effort for you to turn off. (Click here for a free Yoga Nidra recording)

Yoga Nidra is a form of mindfulness, similar to guided meditation, where the practitioner will lie down, close their eyes, and listen to a facilitator lead them systematically through deepening layers of Awareness. This process lasts anywhere between 10–35 minutes. Deep relaxation is the special sauce for this practice and it’s not uncommon for someone to feel quite rejuvenated and deeply rested after this practice. In fact, when I teach Restore Yoga, I reserve the last 20–30 minutes of class to finish with a long, Yoga Nidra. 

The Ritual of Downtime

You don’t need to go to a yoga studio or find a specialized guided meditation to help you relax. Try coming home from work and dedicating 20 minutes to simply relaxing before you take on anything else. Resting for 20 minutes as soon as you get home will soon become a  ritual that your family will come to love because they will get the best version of you when you’re finally ready to have family time. Your family may even want to join in. For a rest time, I might suggest turning off your phone, dimming the lights, lay down with your legs up the wall (the yoga pose Viprita Karani) put on nice music and practice resting. The Kenny G is optional. Wouldn’t that be cool if there were a mandatory 15 minutes of savasana to end the work day? 

With a facility and familiarity with rest, you may actually find that you become more effective at what you do because we have taken a moment to replenish the source and clarified perhaps the reasons we do all that we do.

Not Acting is not Re-Acting

Another component in the art of not doing is very skillfully holding steady and not reacting to a situation. Sometimes, when something arises and we don’t know exactly what to do about it, often the best response is to hold our ground and see how the situation matures. For those of us who like to be in control of everything, this can be a difficult practice. 

In yoga there is a principle called Ishvarapranidhana. It literally means “to lay it down at the feet of God,” to let go of the reins of apparent control and allow God, or the Universe, or the World to make its move. This might mean learning to hand over control of a project or situation to someone or something else and walk away. This isn’t a sign of defeat but rather a powerful choice. Letting go can be a very difficult practice but one that ultimately can lead you to understand your own inner character and true being.

Whether it’s a Restore Yoga or Yoga Nidra practice or finding some downtime in your daily schedule,I invite you to practice NOT doing this week. 

Photo by Alex Adams


Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and currently lives in Southern France. When he's not teaching or conducting retreats, or traveling to teach, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats and trainings in places like Tuscany, France, and Hong Kong , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program


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