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Focusing on Negativity for a Meaningful Life

What is Zen?I noticed recently how little time we have for joyful thinking. By that I mean the simple ability to just daydream, bliss out, and savor the fun of a meandering mind. We spend so much time doing-doing-doing that it’s easy to fill life up with one task after another, non stop, never having the moment to actually “not-do.”

I learned recently in a panel discussion with Leo Babauta author of the blog Zen Habits, and Susan O’Connell the VP of the San Francisco Zen Center, and Tim Ferriss author of the book and blog The Four Hour Workweek, that Zen is active not doing. Intentional, focused, and conscious not doing. I like the idea of that, and think it’s really pertinent to living happily and healthily today.

After all, if we spend our entire lives jumping from one task and chore and project to another, never embracing the space between these “doings,” then what’s the point. How can we ever enjoy the fruits of our labors if we don’t just stop?

Perhaps we actually avoid this thinking process because it’s painful to confront our thoughts. Our natural tendencies are to seek pleasure and avoid pain, so if we fill our lives with constant doing, then perhaps by default active not-doing is painful?


Top Rated Productivity Software Tool
So much of life is about being productive. Tools and techniques ranging from David Allen’s Getting Things Done System, to software like Things, Rescue Time, and Simple Note. I’m waiting for the tool that has us just stop it all, turn it all off, and go deep inside. Wait a minute, that tool already exists. It’s called motivated self direction. It’s a the free download we’ve all got in place already. It’s the tool of choice. We can choose to turn it all off and go inside anytime. (It’s even a free software you’re born with, but, I am happy to take donations for tuning you in to it).

I took a poll recently among some friends, and it turns out that except for showering and sleeping, most people spend all day every day doing stuff. Many people even admitted to checking email while sitting on the toilet! How many of you leave your phones on, and are willing to take calls, send Tweets, read texts, and check email, all while having lunch with a friend?

Be honest. It’s non-stop and we desperately need a change. That change will either come intentionally with people realizing that they need to create more space and just turn things off, or, it will come unintentionally with AA-like groups cropping up for information addiction disorders. I am focused on trying to intentionally create that change, but, I think it’s a matter of weeks before support groups start popping up en masse. In a sense, the community of conscious customers of Samovar are part of the movement of people embracing connecting in person, slowing down, and savoring the little joyful things in life like a pot of tea.


Focusing on Negativity
I like to look at the simple and obvious little things and finding value in them. So how about creating a ritual of doing “not doing.” What does that look like? I would like to share with you my “Thinking, Not Doing” ritual.

Good artists and musicians are masters at “doing” and “creating” but, also, masters at what they aren’t doing or creating. The space or sound surrounding what they’ve created is known as negative space, and it is just as important as the positive space of their creation. The same notion can be applied to living. We spend so much time doing-doing-doing, that we lack any negative space, any pause between the noise. However, once aware of the need for this space, I found it to be deep, rich, and profound, where nothing happens, other thank I just sit, and think and ponder. I’ve been exploring creating these more intentionally within myself, and even between me and other people. And, they can happen in 1 minute, or in hours.


What’s the Point of It All?
To repeat, these negative spaces are so very important because it is only in them that we can bathe in the presence of our lives. In these spaces we can deeply reflect on our experiences and relationships and hopes, and dreams. In these spaces we experience the pleasurable and non pleasurable experiences of life, and learn from ourselves. Negative spaces make life worth living. They nourish. They teach. And, as vitalized and informed humans, we can re-enter the world creating positive vibrations around us, positively influencing others, and making the world a better place. Isn’t that the point of it all?


8 Steps for Creating Negative Space
1. Starting out, it’s easier to experience negative space if you block out large chunks of time, like whole vacations, or days, or consecutive hours. But if you just don’t have the time, then start by listening for negative spacer in music, the pause between the playing. Most music has it. Also, if you really don’t have the time, then wake up a little bit earlier one day, and just sit there for a few minutes, and see what happens. Just try it. Right now. Even if only for 20 seconds! Don’t wait for the weekend or vacation (after all, they may never come). Block out that time, and try it this very moment. As you get better in understanding and feeling negative space, it’s easy to insert into little windows throughout the day. In the hallway at work. Before you pick up a phone call. After you send an email. During lunch. Anytime!

2. Go somewhere different. Mix things up a little for an inspiring session by going to a different part of your home, work, or town. Go park your car in a part of town you’ve never been there. It’s inspiring to be somewhere where you don’t have the usual issues and baggage bothering you.

3. You don’t want to have to make excuses to interrupt the experience. Satisfy your body with the basics. Go to the bathroom, eat something light, bring something to drink, perhaps lightly caffeinated (not so much to make you anxious or jittery). Be sure to dress so that you will be comfortable – not too hot or cold.

4. Have a pen and paper handy for inspirations.

5. Embrace true silence. No radio, No people (until you become practiced and are good enough to do this with others). Cell phone is obviously turned off. No computer.

6. Sit and Think. Let it flow. Don’t meditate. Try not to sleep (but if you’re tired, sure, rest up).

7. Relax. Just go with it. Drift. Journey inside. Don’t get caught up on anything. There’s no right way to do it. Savor it.

8. Have fun.

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