Skip to main content
Wellbeing & Personal Development

Do nothing - perfectly

Do nothing - perfectly
Share this article:

That was an instruction at a recent Satipatthana meditation course I attended recently.

8 days of sitting on a meditation cushion, doing nothing but observing one’s sensations with equanimity.

To ‘do nothing – perfectly’ takes some doing. It’s hard work.

Your mind starts wandering, flicking between memory and hope. Rather than staying aware with non-judgement, you find yourself evaluating and assessing each sensation rising and falling – like, don’t like, hate, bored. You engage those faithful strategies of positive self talk, to keep motivated and focused, but all they do is distract you from the real work of learning to be in the present.

On the meditation cushion, as in life, we will do anything to do something, rather than nothing. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who has been fundamental in bringing mindfulness to the West so beautifully plays on a familiar action slogan, to say “don’t just do something, sit there”.

Learning to notice ourselves, to be aware, equanimous and self-compassionate in our meditation, helps us in our daily life. Particularly in those times when we are in the grip of a conversation, in the daily rush and juggle or when faced with a pressing issue, and come up against our familiar triggers, ever-present wanting and old fears. If in those times, we can ‘do nothing – perfectly’, even for a split second, we can find new ways forward. 

As a partner, as a friend, to ‘do nothing-perfectly’ can be the ultimate in acceptance. Other times it simply gives each other space, time and energy to see things differently.

As a coach, to ‘do nothing- perfectly’ can be just the thing to create the necessary shift within the coaching relationship to help the coachee move deeper into self-awareness and resourcefulness.

As a leader, to learn to ‘do nothing – perfectly’ helps us to lead in this VUCA world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. If we can viscerally experience sitting in this zone, and be able to suspend judgement and remain open and curious on the meditation cushion, we have a better chance of doing it in the workplace. It may mean we get skilful at being wholly and utterly in the presence of our direct report,  giving them our full attention. It may mean being more comfortable in encouraging silence as a collective, in a busy team meeting. It may be about being more courageous to stand back from your own agenda, to reconnect with a deeper wisdom.

Indeed, what leadership actions and political decisions would have benefited in these last few weeks, if not ever from taking up Lao-Tzu’s challenge...

Do you have the patience to wait
Till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
Till the right action arises by itself?

Penelope Mavor is a Consultant at Impact Italia.