The beauty of not doing anything

Somehow, from the time we start school, we are taught to ‘fill up’ our day. You have to keep doing something, else you are termed lazy and accused of procrastination. Every minute counts – you are told. Don’t waste time – you are told.

It continues through college and even work – every self help book out there speaks of life slipping by so fast that you have to make the most of it. Increase efficiency, be more productive, work hard play harder…it goes on and on.

And so, when you do manage to catch a few moments, you feel guilty of ‘wasting time’ and the FOMO of social media – so the few minutes that you have to yourself are spent scrolling through Twitter, Insta feeds and LinkedIn (with more gyan on time management there too!).

Life is a race – so said Veeru Sahasrabuddhe of Three Idiots fame. And you are an anda – replied Rancho.

And one fine day, the body gives up. And time does not matter anymore – nor do you.

Taking time off, doing nothing at all, should not induce the feeling of guilt. Amani Bhava – the concept of no-mind is based on this – doing, feeling nothing.

You may have heard of the Zen concept of no-mind. The term no-mind is shortened from Mushin no shin (無心の心), a Zen expression meaning the mind without mind and is also referred to as the state of “nomindness“. Widely used in the context of martial arts, it denotes the state of mind when you don’t have to think and judge your next move – it happens instinctively. In Kyokushin Karate, during a Kumite or combat, a knockdown happens not when you see an opening, and think of what kick to unleash – it happens when there is an opening and your roundhouse kick lands on the opponent – a subconscious move – through instinct. Much like the gut-feeling that I spoke about earlier – you don’t know where it came from, but it was always there – through your years and years of training. 

In the context of meditation, this Zen concept has been influenced by amani bhava, as described by Sri Gaudapadacharya, the author of the Mandukya Upanishad Karikas.

Man – is mind, aman – is no mind, bhava – feeling. The feeling of no-mind, a thoughtless mind – the ultimate calm. 

Our minds are constantly working – and recent developments in technology have aggravated this situation. We are always thinking, always ding, always trying to fill up even bit of our time. 

When at work, we have two-three screens open, multiple tabs on our browsers, multiple devices screaming notifications – all leading to a sensory overload. 

Coupled with our incessant thoughts – why did my boss act so nasty in the morning meeting, I need to complete this report and I don’t have time, what’s for lunch, I have to plan the upcoming between, checking Twitter and venting on the news you just saw, replying to a WhatsApp message from your wife, checking the new photo your kid put up on Insta and making a mental note to speak to her about it when you are back home…its doesn’t take much to understand how this all leads to stress and anxiety. 

Think of you in a room, running from one corner to another, again and again, while you are trying to sit on a chair in the middle of this room, and thread a needle. 

Yes, that is what it is like. Your brain is very capable, but you are working against it, and expect it to perform better each day. Not possible. 

The amani-bhava exercise will help you practice the art of no-mind. Of just being, without burdening yourself to keep doing something. The Dutch call it Niksen – the art of doing nothing. 

It is very difficult to remain calm and not do anything even for a couple of minutes, this exercise is five-times that. But you will get there with practice. And no, you wouldn’t be wasting time. I have found my productivity multiply, but practising this everyday. More work, more focus, and less stress. And the best part is – YOU HAVE TO DO NOTHING!

अस्पर्शयोगो वै नाम सर्वसत्त्वसुखो हितः ।
अविवादोऽविरुद्धश्च देशितस्तं नमाम्यहम् ॥ २ ॥

asparśayogo vai nāma sarvasattvasukho hitaḥ |
avivādo’viruddhaśca deśitastaṃ namāmyaham || 2 ||

I salute this Yoga known as the Asparśa (i.e., free from all touch which implies duality), taught through the scripture,—the Yoga which promotes the happiness of all beings and conduces to the well-being of all and which is free from strife and contradictions.

Mandukya Karika

The mind in alert state is a mind at meditation. The mind at meditation is no longer a thinking, projecting, conditioned mind. Where the mind has thus dissolved itself, bhava( existence/awareness) alone is. This experience is called amani bhava (the no-mind state) – it is Brahman.

Mani bhava is samsara (mind-filled). You and I (as duality) are nothing but the mind. As long as we are identified with the mind, we are far, far away from the Reality of One without a second. The moment· you forget the mind (no mind), you are That (Tat Tvam Asi).

इह शारीपत्र रुपम् शून्यता शून्यतैव रुपम् 

रूपान ना पृथक शून्यता शून्यताया ना पृथग रुपम 

iha śāriputra rūpaṃ śūnyatā śūnyataiva rūpaṃ rūpān na pṛthak śūnyatā śūnyatāyā na pṛthag rūpam

“Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Form is not different than emptiness; emptiness is not different than form.”

Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya, also known as the Heart Sutra in Buddhism