The awe-inspiring power of doing nothing

Are you lazy? I’m lazy.

When I was a teen, one of my first ideas for a business was a company that would make products with the strict intention of making it even easier to be lazy. My flagship product would have been an inflatable suit, that you wear like normal clothes. But when you want to go somewhere (like the fridge), you tap some coordinates into the wristband. The suit inflates with helium, lifts you off the ground, takes you to your destination. Puts you down gently. Deflates. You get your food, then your clothes take you back to the couch.

Would have started that company, but was too lazy.

For anyone who identifies with being idle, this post is for you.

Let’s explore the intricate art of doing nothing.

In How to disengage self-limiting thoughts processes, I shared a virtually effortless technique for simply observing thoughts, emotions, and urges for undesired behaviors. By just noticing and not participating, the thought, emotion, or urge “gets bored and goes away.”

In essence, just say to yourself, “Just a thought,” when you have a thought. Watch the thought, see what it does. So simple, it might sound stupid.

Another way of looking at it: so simple, it’s stupid not to try it.

I lost 160 pounds with this practice. I gained a lot of it back by not doing it.

The following video illustrates the theory behind the practice.

To sum it up, every thought, emotion, and urge/compulsion (which is sort of a thought or emotion attached to a drive) rises into awareness, and for illustrative purposes, “runs a loop.” After it runs its loop, it subsides, stops using energy. It may come back later, but as long as it is allowed to run its loop, it will be gone again in a matter of seconds.

Problem is, conflicting thoughts and emotions (often in the form of self-judgments) can cause a cognitive knot, which blocks the loop. The initial thought/emotion/urge gets stuck.

Gets messy pretty quickly, especially if it becomes a cycle of aversion and judgment. Knots after knot after knot.

Over time, this conditions the mind to resist itself by default.

There is a potential breakthrough to be found here. I found one.

I realized, there are emotions and thoughts I’ve resisted for almost my whole life. Pain I didn’t allow myself to feel. Pain I hid from, by eating and drinking myself into oblivion.

Here\’s an example.

When I was probably around six or seven, my family and I were at a party store, renting some movies. On the way out, a rather profoundly rotund dude walked by, and my dad made this comment to me:

“You better be careful, or you’ll end up looking like that!”

Mom scolded him. I pretended not to care at all. But those words stuck with me. The words would have hurt, if I’d let them. But I ignored my emotions, probably by eating. And I kept on doing that. Until I was a rather rotund dude, myself.

Just a couple days ago, I let the emotions pertaining to that situation run their loop. I felt them. They hurt like hell for about three seconds, and were gone. I didn’t analyze. Didn’t tell a story. If I would have, the pain would have lasted longer. Would have gotten stuck in the knotty loop again. By just observing, the emotions flowed right through me. Let themselves be known. Subsided.

Doesn’t mean those emotions are gone forever. But I\ll bet next time, they’ll hurt a little less. And so on, until that particular wound is all patched up.

This doesn’t really take energy or effort. In fact, it is much more exhausting to engage every thought/emotion/urge that pops up. That’s the whole point– from this place of “cognitive exhaustion” an uncomfortable inner environment is established, that’s conducive to maladaptive coping mechanisms (uncontrollable drinking, drugging, eating, etc.).

All that’s required is mindfulness. In this context, mindfulness is the ability to distinguish your awareness from your thoughts/emotions/urges. To have a thought, emotion, and urge, without being it.

A few quick mindfulness strategies

1. The 10-minute observation exercises (brought to my attention by Jack Jesse, Ph.D)

Get a piece of paper and a pencil. Sit down somewhere pleasant, and focus on noticing details in your environment. Just write down everything you see. Focus only on the sense of sight, and do this for ten minutes.

Do the same with sound. Write down descriptions of everything you hear for ten minutes.

Just for kicks, write a four line poem about your experience. And take note of the most significant things you noticed.

This practice develops awareness of and attentiveness to the present moment.

Sight and sound are relatively easy to focus on and be present to. Not as evasive as thoughts/emotions/urges. So if the inner stuff is just too slippery right now, practice with the outward sensory stuff.

2. “Follow the thought” (Robert Eschbach)

Pop a squat in a comfortable position. Get still and as relaxed as possible. If relaxing is challenging, try PikoPiko. Breathe in and out through your nose.

Notice the cooling of your nostrils, breathing in. Notice the temperature of your nostrils as you breathe out. Do this 5-10 times.

When you have a thought, just watch it. See what it does. Maybe it’s a picture. A movie, or a memory. Words, sounds. Whatever form the thought takes, just check it out and see what happens. Don’t try to influence the thought in any way. See what it does without any conscious input from you.

Where does the thought go? Does it transform into another thought, or does it just disappear? Are there any moments when you’re not thinking at all?

Once you get used to hanging out with your inner stuff, try asking yourself the following question…

3. “Where is my next thought coming from?” (Jack Jesse, Ph.D)

Seriously, just ask. And look for the answer.

Do this in a meditative state, or when you\’re out and about. Do it whenever. Ask the question, and pay close attention. Try to find where your next thought is coming from.

Easy peasy

All of these strategies, you could do on the couch if you felt so inclined.

If you have a good excuse not to try, I’d love to hear it. Laziness is not an excuse, though. Like I said, couch.

Keep in mind, the goal here is to get to a point where whenever a thought/emotion/urge arises, you’re able to let it flow without engaging it. I do this by labeling the thought with the words, “Just a thought.” Then I can choose to put my energy into it, or let it run its loop and fade away. That’s what works for me.

Find what works for you. Then, tell the world.

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