Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Joy Diet - What about nothing?

I'm still waiting for the joy in nothing. While I've been able to practice nothing most days, I have not felt joyful about it. I will keep at it. Patience, patience, I tell myself.

Patience is something I offer quite easily to other people, but with myself I often want the answers now. I have a sneaky suspicion I need to be compassionate with myself, persisting with the practice until I reach a point where I can feel the joy in doing nothing rather than approaching it with dutiful compliance. Hopefully, as the weeks of practice accumulate, I’ll find ways to get in touch with that empty space with a greater sense of peace and joyfulness.

One of the techniques I’ve found really helpful is one I picked up from one of Eckhart Tolle’s books: to be like a cat watching a mouse hole patiently, curious about the next mouse to appear. When I wait for the next thought to appear, it paradoxically takes longer to come. More nothingness between the mind-chatter!

Because I live in a noisy city, my mind can get snagged by sounds in my environment, taking my thoughts along on a train ride that carries me great distances, hopping from car to car, before I realize I was supposed to jump off that train of thought miles ago. To try and remedy it, I pretend I am surveilling my mind from a dark room (or van) with lots of monitors in it. When a sound or a thought enters the picture, a small light or screen corresponding to that impulse lights up, then goes dark. I don’t label or analyze any of the thoughts that light up the monitors, just notice that something lit up and forget about it (hopefully).

So far, I only skipped one day this week and I found that the next day’s meditation was more difficult. It almost seemed as if the backlog of mental noise that hadn’t been released into the “waterfall” was now damming up the works. Perhaps that is one of the values of practicing daily?


  1. You are so know that you need to be more compassionate with yourself! You say that you didn't find joy in nothing -- but you will. I believe that. Once you are more compassionate with yourself and allow yourself to just "be" with this, I truly believe you will find and discover joy in so many things around you. I look forward to knowing that you do!!

  2. When I first started meditating (or whatever you want to call what I do!!!), I started in the morning. Just getting up, opening the curtains, looking out on the world and listening. Listening to the traffic, to the birds, to the children going to school, noticing the color of the sky, how the trees looked, were my tomatoes blooming ... you get the idea ...and that led me to NOTHING. I suddenly realized the more I focused on what seemed like silly things, the more relaxed I felt. Falling into NOTHING just seemed to come naturally. But it was a process. Be kind to yourself. It will come!

  3. I like the cat analogy, it makes a lot of sense.

  4. It's great that you noticed you need more compassion for yourself, I like the cat analogy also. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Yes we are always so good to others and so strict with ourselves. Lucky you, you noticed that, maybe that's what your nothing should be about. Maybe you should use 15 minutes a day to tell yourself:
    "You are just doing great, Helen, I am proud of you!"

  6. once you get the hang of nothing, it can really become quite addicting :) at least it was for me. i love doing nothing and i really love the joy that comes from nothing. looking forward to sharing the truth with you.

  7. yes, I agree with you about noisy cities. you know, I believe that this all about the practice of doing nothing. at first it feels unusual, a bit more and it begins to feel a bit better, and then after practice practice and! let us hope, yes? I'm happy to be on this journey along with you :)

  8. I'm a new blogger, too. I like what you've been doing with yours.

    And I like the Echardt Tolle example for watching.

    There may be times when we will feel joy after a period of nothing - but I'm not sure that that is a common expectation. For me, it is more subtle - maybe others do experience what they would call joy as a result. I'm confident that the more we work with the practice the more ease we will develop.

    Have a good week working with truth!

  9. Oh how I can relate to the patience part... I think for me, it's about trying to be too perfect... like developing a perfect meditation practice overnight! With self-compassion and trust, I feel myself relaxing into it more and more...