Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Resting the Mind: A 3-Minute Exercise in Non-Meditation

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

“You’re not the limited, anxious person you think you are.  Any trained Buddhist teacher can tell you with all the conviction of personal experience that really, you’re the very heart of compassion, completely aware, and fully capable of achieving the greatest good, not only for yourself, but for everyone and everything you can imagine.” Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

You can replace the word “anxious” for any troubling emotion that personally plagues you like anger, depression, frustration, low self-esteem and so forth.  Your true nature is naturally peaceful, it is never touched by these difficult emotions.  It is like a wide open sky, not the thoughts and emotions that pass through it.  You are not the emotions; they are just temporary phenomena.

So how do you come to know your true nature, which is currently obscured by an unending stream of dualistic thinking and emotional uprisings?

Meditation is the key

Meditation is the key to both calming and settling the mind as well as seeing it’s true essence.  However, in the West, there is so much misunderstanding about what meditation truly is and often the assumption that it’s only meant for people who want to live their life sheltered away from the rest of the world.

In the Tibetan language, one of the words used for meditation is “gom,” which means getting used to or becoming familiar with.  Meditation is simply the process of becoming familiar with your own true nature.

Mingyur Rinpoche tells us:

“According to the Buddha, the basic nature of mind can be directly experienced simply by allowing the mind to rest simply as it is.”

How do you accomplish this?  Here’s a three-minute exercise from Mingyur Rinpoche to give you a feel for what resting the mind is like.

An exercise in non-meditation

“This is not a meditation exercise. In fact, it’s an exercise in ‘non-meditation’ — a very old Buddhist practice that, as my father explained it, takes the pressure off thinking you have to achieve a goal or experience some sort of special state. In non-meditation, we just watch whatever happens without interfering. We are merely interested observers of a kind of introspective experiment, with no investment in how the experiment turns out.

Of course, when I first learned this, I was a pretty goal oriented child. I wanted something wonderful to happen every time I sat down to meditate. So it took me a while to get the hang of just resting, just looking, and letting go of the results.

First, assume a position in which your spine is straight, and your body is relaxed. Once your body is positioned comfortably, allow your mind to simply rest for three minutes or so. Just let your mind go, as though you’ve just finished a long and difficult task.

Whatever happens, whether thoughts or emotions occur, whether you notice some physical discomfort, whether you’re aware of sounds or smells around you, or you mind is a total blank, don’t worry.  Anything that happens—or doesn’t happen—is simply part of the experience of allowing your mind to rest.

So now, just rest in the awareness of whatever is passing through your mind…

Just rest …

Just rest …

When the three minutes are up, ask yourself. How was that experience? Don’t judge it; don’t try to explain it. Just review what happened and how you felt.. You might have experienced a brief taste of peace or openness. That’s good. Or you might have been aware of a million different thoughts, feelings and sensations. That’s also good. Why? Because either way, as long as you have maintained at least a bare awareness of what you were thinking or feeling, you’ve had a direct experience of your mind just performing its natural functions.”

I invite you to take three minutes to try out this exercise.

In my next post, I will include the excerpts in which Mingyur Rinpoche confides the big secret of what meditation actually is and describes the difference between meditation and the ordinary thinking mind.  Stay tuned for the big secret.

Resting the Mind – Part 2

Source:  The Joy of Living, Unlocking the Secret & Science of Happiness by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

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Non-meditation – part 2


  1. I love the concept of ‘non-meditation,’ as it takes the pressure off for the experience to ‘be’ or ‘bring’ something. When I first started meditating, I thought I was supposed to stop all thoughts. Needless to say, that didn’t go too well. 🙂 When I learned to allow and observe, the entire nature of the experience changed, and gradually, so did I.

  2. Jean, Thanks so much for your comment, which underlines the essence of this post! I appreciate your visit and your lively spirit, which you demonstrate beautifully via your blog.

    • My experiences with students was that many have incorrect notions about meditation like what Jean has described. Just being aware is the doorway to the meditation state. It isn’t about being zoned out or fighting a battle attempting to wrestle with thoughts that arise but many thought it was. That’s why I like this post. Thanks for sharing it.

      • Time Thief, You describe so well some of the common misconceptions about meditation. I appreciate your observations, knowing your experience with meditation. Stay well!

  3. That was terrific. I found that I set my chair so I was towards an open doorway to the kitchen. I noticed a lot of things I had not taken the time to see. I noticed a lot – the arrangement of things, their shapes.

    I saw something of my concerns, about where my mind was directed and fretting.

    I set myself a rule, which was not to move my head. I felt otherwise I would not know how to stop – how to rest.

    Thank you.

    [P.S. I just thought I should tell you I like the green color in the sidebar here.]

    • David, I’m so happy you found this a useful exercise. Staying still (e.g. not moving the head) helps in the beginning. Thanks for the color feedback, I like it too although it’s difficult for me to ever stick with one color scheme. BTW, I think I’m in love with Audrey. I look forward to seeing more of your photographs, very nice blog.

  4. I liked this article especially. It’s a version of what’s done in sitting (in the Zen practice of that). When sitting, just sit. Don’t think. JUST…sit. Though it will sound goal-oriented, I could suggest you may also expand the time with practice from three, to five, to ten, to twenty minutes. Any more and someone here in the West will call it “wasted time”. Monks don’t think of it as wasted, however. Me either.

    • Hello MIke, Yes, absolutely you can expand this from 3 minutes. Zen is also a wonderful tradition. I especially have liked writings by Suzuki Roishi and Katigiri Roishi. If only more people would “waste” time like this! Thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts.

  5. Hey, Sandra,

    Like this post immensely. Many people are intimidated by meditation–doing “nothing” and being alone with their thoughts. Others think they have to somehow become a “guru” in the first week–a swami “yogic flying.” If they don’t “accomplish” residency on the “astral plane” immediately, they quit. This non-meditation practice is an excellent introduction that takes the pressure and goal-seeking off. Am posting your articles on Twitter and Facebook–I really like the direction of your site. The real deal.

    • Hi Bob,

      I’m delighted this article range a bell for you. We often bring our neurotic style to meditation, don’t we! Meditation can help us see that and have some humor about it. Thanks so much for your positive words and your support. I really appreciate you sharing my articles. I am keen on reading your book too.

  6. Sandra,

    My book is available for free as a download on Smashwords and on Kindle for $2.99. Somehow I doubt I’ll become a millionaire–but hell, not my aim. Though I sure would like to have enough dough to take a woman out to dinner.



    • Bob,

      Thanks for the info. I’m a keen Kindle fan these days. I’m wishing you sell a few zillion extra books so you can do the dinner thing!

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