79: Doing Nothing Perfectly

79: Doing Nothing Perfectly

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

Doing Nothing Perfectly

I like the physical part, but I’m also drawn to the spiritual. For me, yoga is not just a workout — it’s about working on yourself.

~Mary Glover

One of the most useful things I have learned in life is how to do nothing. It didn’t come easily. In my family, being still wasn’t valued. My father was a workaholic who held down three jobs that took up most of his days, nights, and weekends. On top of that, he was a perfectionist. Everything he did had to be done just right. There was no room for error in anything, a philosophy that applied to his daughters as well. I had absorbed the message early on that doing nothing wasn’t allowed, and that whatever I did, it had to be perfect if I wanted approval from my dad.

And that became my approach to most things in life — look busy and never let anyone know I wasn’t perfect.

When I married, I tried to be the perfect wife, housekeeper, and cook. When I became pregnant, I vowed to be the best mother ever. But life has its own agenda, I discovered, and doing my best didn’t necessarily mean being the best. I had to put myself aside to care for my busy husband and newborn daughter. Eventually, I felt overwhelmed and needed help.

That’s when I discovered yoga. It quickly became part of my life. It was a way to remain active and in shape, and I could fit it in and around my other obligations during the day.

With the help of books and videos, I taught myself the poses. I learned how to breathe intentionally, the mainstay of all yogic practice.

And then the stillness came. It was not what I had expected. In the beginning, I had to push away my guilt that I was doing nothing. I soon found out that courting stillness was the most active nothing I had ever encountered. I had to relearn the three Rs: release judgment, relax the internal critic, and reconnect with the inner source.

My internal critic was not happy. I could hear my father accuse me of being idle. I could imagine him telling me to get busy and do something useful. Yet somehow I knew that I was doing something useful, perhaps not something he would have approved of, but something that was extremely valuable for me.

This feeling was so strong that it kept me balanced when the world was shoving me in contradictory directions. It became a pool of peace from which I was able to draw nourishment. My whole body would relax and my mind would become clear so that I could make decisions from a broader perspective. I had tapped into an inner space that I didn’t know existed until I started doing nothing.

Many years have passed since I began my breathing practice. My daughter is an adult now, with children of her own. Each morning I still find time to sit quietly and watch my breath. Doing nothing continues to be a powerful, peaceful tool with which to start my day. And I am learning to do it perfectly.

~Ferida Wolff

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