“Don’t just do something—sit there!” Because sometimes the path to move forward is not in the doing, but in the contemplation which allows for new ideas, thoughts, and visions.
In Taoist thought, spontaneity means that a thing has been practiced so frequently that one can spontaneously do the action without thinking it through; in Western thought spontaneity is also without thought, but in a more reckless or quick-to-act way. Contemplation, like spontaneity, has differences, too, between cultures.
It is difficult to imagine, in our capitalist American lives, that contemplating something is hard work. Taking quiet time to ponder, think through, plan, imagine, what have you, could mean sitting still. Like Buddha at the river. It might mean lying down. Or swinging on a swing or hammock.
Do you ever use the term “waking thought?” When a fresh solution to a problem comes to us in our sleep, that is a form of contemplation. Another saying is “let me sleep on that” which gives our brains time to contemplate a best outcome.
Contemplation is not hard, if you practice it. When we take time to think before acting, we might find ourselves fact checking that headline, or going back to ask follow-up questions, or digging a bit deeper in some way. Unfortunately, in a fast-paced, disposable culture like ours, having a ready answer is lauded over careful thinking. Being in motion and being busy is lauded over still, quiet contemplation.
Obviously, if you had not already guessed where this is headed, RESIST! In a reckless, speedy-moving culture, RESIST by slowing down and thinking things over. Don’t just do something—sit there.
It is my sincere wish that we contemplate our lives and our life choices more often than we usually do, and get kudos for doing so. Busy is not the same thing as successful, and looking contemplative typically looks like lazy or relaxed. May we contemplate what it looks like to RESIST our culture that wants to turn out non-thinking worker bees. Be a queen and contemplate.
In peace with love,