Doing Absolutely Nothing – When Less is More

At the end of each coaching session, I ask my clients: "What’s the big take away from our time together?" My client Dan responded with: "Well, my big take away for this evening is that I’m paying you to help me do nothing." We both laughed until we had tears in our eyes. The truth will do that to you sometimes.


Sharlene is taking watercolor lessons. She shares that she has tried watercolors before and didn’t find it satisfying. She didn’t get the results she wanted then, and so decided to try again. I asked her why she was working so hard using a painting medium that wasn’t giving her pleasure -why work so hard doing something you aren’t enjoying? Why not work with a medium that is fun? Her response was, "You mean I can actually just have fun painting?" This concept of just having fun, doing what comes easy, was hard for Sharlene to allow. She finished by saying, "Well I paid for the lessons so I have to keep going until I’m done." "Really?" I said to myself. Sharlene isn’t a client, so the conversation ended there.


At the most recent session of Aging – Who Me? Mac shared how he noticed how much he was whining about all that was happening to him as he is aging. Now in his 80’s he is having to go off Island more frequently for medical reasons. Mac notices how is whines about the fact that he no longer has what it takes to maintain his home – something that has been so important to him. He also noticed himself whining about what will become of him, and how this leads to worrying about leaving his wife, Irene, when he dies.

This particular day, Mac woke up feeling depressed, but as he looked outside his window the whining and depression evaporated. The beauty of the sunshine embracing the rapturous colors of Autumn transmuted his despair into delight and wonder. He relaxed and stopped everything and did nothing. And in doing so, Mac experienced a state of being that was infinitely pleasing. He found himself inspired to create some paintings – something he hadn’t experienced for a very long time.


I’ll be leaving my part-time position at Orcas Center in the next few weeks. As it becomes known in the community, people come up and share with me their sincere gratitude for all that I’ve given. I’m stymied by their acknowledgements. I feel as if I’m doing nothing that could possibly create such delight in these people, just by my presence in their lives. How can I be doing so little yet be experienced as doing so much? This doesn’t make sense.


I’ve heard it said that most of us are pretending to be who we already are. We pretend to be what we want people to decide is true about us – loving, generous, cool, intelligent, athletic, rich, beautiful – we are pretending to be what we think people will want us to be. At the same time we are discontent with our lives as pretenders, because we aren’t free to live in and express our essential nature – being who we are.

Pretending takes a lot of work and a ton of energy. When we stop pretending, we begin discoverying who we are at the essential core level of being. What so many discover is that, in the state of pure presence with no pretending, what shows up is our essential beauty, wisdom, & loving generosity. It’s hugely humbling to experience this. Doing nothing brings to everyone a life that is infinitely pleasing. This is the state of being a guru.

As I mentioned in an article I wrote about a month ago, I had a desire to go to Bali, but I kept shunning this desire because of my fears. Well, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve booked a flight to Bali for late February, and will be facilitating a 7-day retreat there in March, entitled Weaving Heaven and Earth. Bazinga!!! How did that happen?

How this happened is that I considered when and where in my life am I most in my essence, and the answer is when I’m doing absolutely nothing. The answer is: when I facilitated retreats in Moscow and in the US; when I facilitated workshops and trainings; when writing and painting from inspiration. This sounds like I’m doing a lot, but the truth is, inside me, I’m doing absolutely nothing.

We are trained to do, do, do, in order to prove that we are what we are supposed to be. As we age and hopefully gain wisdom, we realize that we didn’t want to do a lot of that imposed doing. We found that so much of what we were doing was pretending to be successful in all the ways that we are told are important. We decided to give up the ‘supposed to’s,’ partly because it is way too much work. So we begin to do nothing. And by doing so, we experience more freedom to just be who we are.

Coming back to Dan who is learning to do less more often: he shares that the consequence of doing nothing is that, at work (a very prestigious organization) he is having more fun, his team is more productive, he has greater freedom to be creative within his position, and he isn’t so intimidated by his boss. How is that possible? He laughs as he shares this, because he sees how while doing less means there is so much more potential productivity available for everyone in his department.

Aging like a guru keeps us mindful of who we are within the pretending, within the processes of aging and maturing, and within those circumstances that allow us to drop into being present with all of the miracles that surround us in every given moment.

It’s hard work learning to do nothing, or in Sharlene’s case, doing what is pleasing and pleasureful. But, man, doing nothing but what’s fun, pleasing & effortless pays off in the long run! I’m heading to Bali, for heaven’s sake!! I didn’t see that coming!

PS. This article wasn’t supposed to get written today. I was too tired! But as I sat here doing nothing, the impulse to write occurred. And bada-bing bada-boom, here it is!

If you’d like to join Dr. Rosie in the AGING – Who Me? in-person discussions at the Orcas Island Senior Center, they meet every 2nd and 4th Tuesday, from 10 – 11:30 a.m.

Or, if you’d like to set up a life or business coaching session, feel free to call her at 360-376-4323.

If you are interested in knowing more about the retreat in Bali, click here!

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