Not-Doing – Every moment is a moment

“Every moment is a moment. What does this moment ask of me?” A quote from Charlotte Selver (Every Moment is a Moment).non-doing

“Practice not-doing and everything will fall into place.” From Lao-Tzu (Tao Te Ching).

One is an ancient promise that we in the West are only now re-discovering. The other is from a woman who lived fully until she was 102, practicing and teaching Sensory Awareness all her adult life.

We now know that struggling and striving to get where we think we want to go will almost always give us high blood pressure, migraines, chronic indigestion, inflammation… . The list is long, and none of it is good for our sense of well-being or for our physical longevity.

“Practice non-doing and everything will fall into place.” That is a powerful promise; one that many of us long for, me included. What does Lao-Tzu mean by this?

It doesn’t mean resting on our laurels, zoning out in front of the TV, or shirking all responsibility. I don’t believe he meant never doing anything, nor would this make any sense at all to us: we were raised on the values of hard work and good effort, and that was meaningful to ourselves and others. Besides, our brains are wired for doing, for solving problems. Even if someone were to sit in meditation all day, every day, that person would be doing something that was meaningful.

In our modern world, too many of us are striving and struggling to “get somewhere”, to pay the bills, to live in the house of our dreams, or even any house. We struggle against our inner judgment that this isn’t what we thought life would be like, or that while we strive to bring home food, we are not present for our friends and family. We, in fact, are rarely present for anything, forever planning the next day and week and month, worrying about what might go wrong, focusing on our goals for the future.

In fact, we don’t really need to put that much effort into living and making the things we want to happen, happen. Perhaps it’s a function of aging, having to find ways to use energy wisely. Perhaps it’s the wisdom we accumulate through trial and error. But as we age, we find a lot of satisfaction in making things happen and solving problems with minimum effort. It means we don’t have to sacrifice living in and appreciating the present for some future goal.

“Every moment is a moment. What does this moment ask of me?” I’m in a study group that is led by Lee Lesser, a long-time student of Charlotte Selver. We meet every month, and in-between times, we practice ways of being with and appreciating fully with our whole person, body and soul, this moment, right here and now.

Taking a moment like this is a way of not-doing. If we were to practice taking only a few moments to be truly present, how might it alter our world?

Here’s a simple exercise that you might try: close your eyes … notice how your eyelids feel on your eyes as they close over your eyes … Can you feel your eyelashes against your skin? Now raise your hands to your eyes … cup them over your closed eyes … notice the sensation …. Is it warm? Cool? Practice sitting there for a moment, supporting your eyes with your cupped hands. Notice how your hands alter to accommodate your eyes … how your hands covering your eyes alter how your eyes feel … how your arms, shoulders, back, adjust to support your raised hands. Be with this moment … and then when you are ready, remove your hands from your eyes, sensing what that action brings to your awareness.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.


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