Don’t Just Do Something
…Sit there


Marion Atmo’s insights on meditation and illness; “I discovered that so many activities and responsibilities I thought were essential, were not.”

ancient seat

This is one of Osho’s brilliant phrases that’s grown on me. It turns our western addiction to activity on its head. We’ve internalised so well the command to keep busy, we don’t need someone else to tell us. But it’s not simple, I know. I lived – or maybe I didn’t really live – trying to squeeze in more and more activity to less and less time. With a background anxiety that if I didn’t, time would run out and my dreams would stay unfulfilled.

Then I was drawn to meet Osho, when I was 23 and I knew the wisdom he was offering was food for my soul. He said that all his discourses were different ways of saying ‘meditate’, ‘know yourself’. But outside the structure of an ashram or in a meditation retreat, it’s much harder to just sit. Apart from the necessities of life – and who decides what they are – the desire for distraction is strong and sitting, not doing anything, gets pushed down on the ‘to-do’ list. Even structuring meditation into my day can be another activity on the to-do list. Another thing to be done!

So just sitting is not easy. However, I always had periods of being ill in my life, in bed with lung dis-eases. Once I surrendered to being ill, I found a new ease. As well as my body resting, more importantly my mind rested. I discovered that so many activities and responsibilities I thought were essential, were not. Life carried on quite well without my supreme efforts. Osho had given me the name Ma Dhyan Atmo and Atmo means ‘supreme self’. I struggled with this meaning, and people who knew me well gave me a nickname – Ma Supreme Effort.

For me, illness has been a necessary gift until I could listen to my body and trust the flow of life. Illness has brought me into the moment, into the simplicity of breath in and out, rejoicing in the intrinsic healing nature of my body.

Staying with what is happening now, not making an effort to achieve or plan, to move life forward the way I thought it should be. Life became more spacious, full of unexpected blessings. I’ve had to go through years of unexplained chronic fatigue symptoms to integrate the lesson of ‘don’t just do something, sit there’. I still have to pace myself, still get wistful for the dynamic and social person I was decades ago.

Then I remember, ah – just sit. Osho used to describe meditation as letting clouds pass in the sky, where attention always returns to the blue sky. Clouds come and go, the sky remains.

Recently I experienced a different way of letting thoughts go. Just sitting, thoughts flow out downwards, as if there’s a basin in me with an outlet. Presence remains, but thoughts flow away through the outlet. It’s quite effortless. Then something miraculous can happen. In this restful presence, I find creativity blossoms. Maybe an idea for a musical or creative project arises, or an unexpected insight to solve a problem, or there’s an intuitive urge to make contact with a friend.

Life is so much bigger than my efforts to make it work. Meditation, just sitting, is the key to open vast and unexplored territory inside. It may seem boring and a waste of time, but without it, life returns to the straight and narrow, necessary but ultimately unfulfilling task-based routines and passing distractions.

So, just sit.

First published on Marion Carlisle’s blog

Marion Atmo

Marion Atmo is a sannyasin since 1981 and now lives in Wales, UK. She played bass guitar and keyboards in the English and Dutch Osho Communes and also in Poona.

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