ADHD to Zen: Non-Doing


I start today with a deep, but not-so-heavy, sigh.

I am about to present to you the idea of non-doing, the second transformation step in this series of four (check out the first one here).

However, I’m perplexed. I have no idea how to present this topic. I really want to write a post so fascinating, that you feel compelled to read this post over and over again. My biggest problem: I’m not sure I can do it justice and explain it fully, without making it confusing.

So the only way I can express it appropriately is to “practice what I preach”, so to speak.

As I write this post, I am practicing non-doing.

How can that be?

In Wherever You Go There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn tells us:

“But non-doing doesn’t have to be threatening to people who feel they always have to get things done. They might find they get even more “done”, and done better, by practicing non-doing. Non-doing simply means letting things be and allowing them to unfold in their own way.”

We often think of non-doing as synonymous with meditating and doing nothing. But that is not the case. Certainly, the practice of sitting down and doing nothing can help us become more attuned to the present moment, to experience the richness and fullness of life as it unfolds in the here-and-now. However, that same presence and awareness of “now” can be achieved, just as easily, as we go about our day, doing whatever it is we do.

What does this mean?

It means that we can be present and allow our lives to unfold, to do the activities of the moment in a non-clinging way, without being attached to any particular outcome. We can appreciate the beauty of simply being, the wonder of what it means to be alive and wash the dishes or drive to work or do nothing at all – without clinging to the need to get more things done, figure things out or change our state of being.

We can let things be exactly as they are, and (as Kabat-Zinn says) “drink in the beauty of being alive”.

When we get caught up in the need to get better at something, to do more, or change the situation we find ourselves in, we attach ourselves to a notion that things are not okay – that we are not okay. Moments become minutes, become hours, become days – time that slips away unnoticed, and essentially – un-lived. Un-lived because we were somewhere else in our minds, thinking we should be anywhere but where we were.

When we embrace the perfectness of each and every moment, the absolute wholeness of who and how we are in it, we find ourselves in flow with the natural rhythm of the force behind life itself. When we start from this place of non-attached acceptance, we are able to go ahead and do whatever it is that needs to be done, in an effortless way.

Kabat-Zinn describes this: “The inward stillness of the doer merges with the outward activity to such an extent that the action does itself. Effortless activity. Nothing is forced. There is no exertion of the will…”

We, as ADDers, all have ample experience in doing things mindlessly, of being in action with detached minds that don’t concentrate on the task at hand. We also have the experience of getting lost in our activities – of being ultra-busy in pursuit of getting more done, often trying to catch up on those things never seem to get done.

My curiosity about the topic of non-doing for ADDers is this:

What if we practiced “doing”, more often, with full presence and non-attachment to particular outcomes? We know what it is like to be mindless and not-present, and at the same time worried about results or if we are going to achieve something. We don’t know what it’s like to do things, being fully immersed in them and present, and not really caring how they turn out at all.

This is how I practiced what I preach throughout the writing of this post. I wrote this post word-by-word, without editing or changing it (apart from a spell-check). I was in the moment, writing – being present with the idea, the keyboard, and my fingers typing away. I wanted this to be a good post, one that you liked. But I detached from the desperation that it must be so. I let go of any desired outcome and instead… I wrote it and let it be okay as it was. In essence, I let the post write itself.

You may or may not have enjoyed it. But I enjoyed the experience letting it unfold. I cannot say that it would have been any better if I had put pressure on myself to write the best post of my writing career.

The ADHD mind’s biggest enemy is pressure. If you drop the pressure, what becomes possible in your life? If nothing else – an appreciation of the moment and a life lived more fully-present. In the spirit of curiosity, I encourage you to try “non-doing”, even if for only a moment or two over the next couple of days. Share your experience in the comments below.

And have an awesome day.


Mindfulness: What Is It?

Mindfulness: What Is It?
How to meditate: Mastering your inner maelstrom. Illustration: Cristina Guitian

First of all, I’ll tell you what it isn’t: difficult.

It’s actually pretty simple. So simple, in fact, that I intend to describe it to you in a very short post today. Simple concepts beget simple explanations.

Mindfulness is a way of improving your being. Being, in this context, refers to your entire experience of life. Through mindfulness, you develop greater self-awareness, hone attention span and find more calmness and gratitude in your life.

It helps you find serenity, while also strengthening your ability to make well thought-out decisions and congruent actions. It helps you accept the results of those actions, no matter what they are.

So how do you get more of this mindfulness thing?

It’s true that it is a form of meditation but don’t write it off just yet. Mindfulness is also a way of being. And of doing. And of thinking.
It’s about being here now, present in the moment. Fully aware of your environment, internal and external, but completely non-judgemental about what you see.

Mindfulness is about really, truly, fully living life – as it is happening. Not thinking about the future or ruminating about the past – but being here now.

Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

It’s absolutely not. It just takes practice.

Practice, by the way, can happen formally and informally.

Formal practice occurs in the way that we typically thinking about meditation – sitting quietly, with relaxed posture, and clearing our minds of thoughts.

Informal practice happens as you go about your day – brushing your teeth, eating, driving to work … you can practice doing normal, everyday things. Mindfulness means paying attention to what you are doing – observing yourself in action . And when thoughts come up you notice them, label them, and let them go just as quickly as they arrived.

You think that’s the part that sounds impossible? How can you stop thinking with a wildly abundant ADHD mind?

The misconception about mindfulness is that you must wipe your mind clean of all thoughts. Mindfulness is not mindlessness. You allow thoughts to come and go. But you don’t “chase” them. Mindfulness is continually bringing your attention back to the present moment – over and over and over again. And over again if you must.

Let me ask you this:

How much of your life have you missed because you weren’t really there? (Click to tweet)

How much richer, happier and fulfilling could your life be, if you experienced it through the lens of mindful appreciation and acceptance?

If you think having ADHD excludes you from meditating, or from mental clarity and mindful being- think again. Go and read The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD, By Lidia Zylowska, MD. She might change your mind.

One last thing…

If you are taking this journey with me, you must make two promises.

Firstly, that you will not over-complicate it. We ADDers love to create marvellously-designed systems that we never use. Mindfulness is born out of simplicity. You don’t need a system to practice – just do it whenever can.

Secondly, promise you won’t be hard on yourself when your mind continually wanders off. Pinky swear you won’t! Even if you have to bring your attention back a hundred times a minute, it doesn’t mean you are bad at mindfulness. It means you’re normal.

Make no mistake, I am no Zen-Master. I’m learning along side you. While I have been practising mindfulness for some time now, I still have to bring my attention back to the moment frequently x 10. But I have certainly improved from when I started!

See for yourself. For the next week, practice being mindful for one minute a day, maybe while brushing your teeth or eating. We are starting small so we can grow this muscle slowly. One minute a day is a decent goal. If you go longer – wow, you’re awesome!

Tell me how it goes in the comments below.



Could this New Year’s Resolution Change Your Life in 2014?


If you could make one resolution this New Year – one you could easily stick to, that would enhance all facets of your life, but require very little effort – it would be a no-brainer to make that resolution, right?

We all know New Year’s resolutions are easy to make but hard to keep. Turning our desires into actions we will commit ourselves to, consistently, beyond the first week or month of the year – well, that’s the hard part. It’s easy to want something, much harder to make it happen.

I have a theory about that.

All actions we take, or don’t take, are filtered through a cost-benefit system of analysis. In other words, we consciously or subconsciously weigh the pros and cons of taking an action against the pros and cons of not taking it.

For example, I may want to lose weight but the “benefit” of being slim does not outweigh the “cost” associated with dieting and rigorous exercise. Or put another weigh – the pain of maintaining status quo seems more worth it than the effort involved in getting thinner.

Those failed resolutions we make every year – the ones that don’t last as long as a celebrity marriage – they aren’t resolutions at all. They are simply desires. Desires that are inevitably eclipsed by other competing motivations. More often than not, the competing motivation that wins is the one that wants to avoid the cost of the EFFORT.

But a resolution, a REAL resolution, is actually a “firm decision to do or not do something”. Whatever intention you set, you will keep to it because you are certain of your choice and committed to the action. The benefit is worth the effort, no matter how little or great. It doesn’t mean you’ll find immediate success, but that you will keep working at it with the tenacity of a terrier.

This New Year, I invite you take a little journey with me. Find your inner terrier. Chase something with me.

It will take very little effort. It costs nothing. You won’t have to give anything up. And you won’t have to commit yourself to any strenuous activity.

In 2014, I challenge you to work on being more mindful, every single day.

(This isn’t a joke, by the way – it is possible to be mindful with ADD/ADHD). 

Would you like to take this journey with me? Could you stand to find more calmness, peace and joy in your life? Would you like to slow time down – be more present, experience life in real time, as it is happening?

What about quieting the mental chatter? Paying attention and focusing on what you are doing? How about eating healthier and taking better care of your body? What if you even stopped misplacing things so often? Learned to listen better during conversations? Became more productive at work? Had more fun with your family?

Could you spare a few minutes a day, maybe even 5, to work on this with me over the coming year? I propose that this one resolution could go a long way to improving almost every single facet of our lives.

I can’t think of a single thing in my life that couldn’t be helped by more mindful presence. Can you?

Later this week, I will be publishing a follow up to this post, to explain more about what it means to be mindful; specifically, how mindfulness can help ADHD.

In future posts, I will be setting up experiments we can try out together. In the meantime, you have a think about making this resolution that requires very little effort but could change your life in countless ways.

We’ll talk later.

If you are up for the challenge and want to invite others, tweet this: Tweet: In 2014, I challenge you to work on being more mindful, every single day. @andreanordstrom