Aimlessness is the third door of liberation. Apranihita is the Sanskrit term. Apranihita means you don’t put anything in front of you as object of your pursuit. What you are looking for is already there, not outside of you. You are already what you want to become. You are wonderful just like that. Don’t try to be something else, someone else. You don’t have to go to the future in order to get what you want. Everything you are looking for, it is right here, in the here and the now, including the Kingdom of God, your immortality, your deathlessness. Your enlightenment is right here. And that is truly the third door of liberation: aimlessness.

Excerpt from a Dharma Talk by Thich Nhat Hanh


Just lately I have been wandering around in my brain and leaning towards this idea that I am just not being present in my life at all at the moment. Goals haven’t really been working out for me lately and the idea of a goal-less state is appealing and in many ways perhaps necessary. And at the same time quite challenging, even frightening.

I am probably busier than I have ever been in my life and it is not very pleasant. I’m feeling overwhelmed. It feels like nothing seems to get achieved even though my days seem to be filled with endless tasks and goals. Finding this talk by Thich Nhat Hanh on aimlessness, the third door of liberation, was timely and really made me stop and think.


It seems like now is a good time to find some time to just be still.

A time to sit with intention

A time to be authentic

A time for more aimlessness, and trust that this aimlessness will lead me in my true direction.

A time to move beyond the hamster wheel of busy-ness

A time to be present on a whole new level.


I am such a novice at all this mindfulness, really. And while I have found a pattern of regular meditation, in the last week the discipline of this has fallen away. (How does one embrace aimlessness but remain disciplined? This is something to explore.)

I have felt that I have lost my authenticity and with it many aspects of my wellbeing. It feels like time to reflect and come back to centre. In that time-honoured tradition of many introverts, I need to hunker down in to myself and just be alone for a little while. Or at least to find some little spaces here and there for myself. Because grasping at authenticity from the midst of the hamster wheel just isn’t working – one of the problems is that there are too many other people running around that wheel with me.

This blog is one area at the moment where I feel that I am grasping at authenticity, and also grappling with something so basic as time to write.

Perhaps aimlessness will reveal a new approach to my writing. Perhaps I will find a new way to prioritise writing so that I actually produce more posts. Perhaps I will actually get that e-book of my thesis written…

So I am going to take a little break for a month or so. I’m sure it won’t be very noticeable as posts on here are already so haphazard! But it will be a time to re-group without feeling pressure to write posts (that don’t get written anyway).

It will be a time to finally get an e-book of my thesis written with the right intention and in the right spirit.

So for now I will concentrate on cultivating a little more aimlessness in my life and see where it takes me.


Leo Babauta has written a lot about living without goals:


Today I had the good fortune again to join in with a Drumbeat session run by the gorgeous John. We are running sessions for mental health and wellbeing in a rural town and having a bit of a ball in the process. While we do some African drumming, there is also a lot of discussion around ways to take care of yourself and improve communication with others. Generally the sessions use drumming as a metaphor for life. Since we are drumming, there is obviously a lot of reference to rhythm in life – how other people and your environment can affect your rhythm and what are ways to deal with this.

I find that I get very distracted by other people’s drumming. No doubt this happens a lot when you are new to African drumming. I feel a bit overwhelmed by all that is going on – the people, the noise, trying to process everything. Sometimes it feels like all of the senses are working overtime. Often I just shut my eyes to focus on my drumming and this way I can block out at least one sensation – sight.

I thought about the Highly Sensitive Person trait (HSP) and how this resonates so much with me. It is this trait, perhaps more than introversion, that could be affecting how I approach the drumming in a group. I feel very comfortable in this group, and while there is a degree of anxiety about making mistakes, I think it is the overload of the senses that impacts the most on my drumming.

So I close my eyes, I focus on my rhythm alone, and I draw my back up tall to help myself feel strong and comfortable. Its almost as if I am sending out a protective shield around myself. I try being mindful of my breath. Focusing inward, and yet in some way still remaining open to the group.

And it works. I find I can be immersed in my own rhythm, but still able to focus enough on what others are doing around me. It was intriguing to notice how a few subtle changes could reduce that feeling of sensory overload.

Drumming mindfully – a tool for assisting HSP’s feel a little less overwhelmed? Sounds fun!




I found this transcript on the internet but have no idea where it was originally recorded. If anyone knows, please comment below.

Q: Could tell us about the benefits of silence and how we could bring that home with us from this retreat?

Thich Nhat Hanh: Many of us have realized in the last few days that silence can be enjoyable. We realize that there are many things that we do not have to say, and that then we can reserve the time and energy to do other things that can help us to look more deeply into ourselves and things around us.

If you are pushed by your habit energy to say something, don’t say it. Instead, take a notebook and write it down. A day or two later, read what you wrote, and you might find out that it would have been an awful thing to say. So slowly you become master of yourself, and you know what to say and what not to say.

I remember one time I proposed to a sister that she practice silence. She was an elder nun and she had a few negative seeds in her that prevented her from being happy. She was just a little bit too hard on the other sisters. I proposed to her that she was a very talented person, very skillful in many things, and she could make many people happy if only she knew how to be silent and to say only things that needed to be said.

I proposed to her that she use only three sentences for three months. She could repeat these three sentences as many times as she wanted (laughter) and I told her that if she practiced that for a week, she would feel happiness right away. The first sentence was, “Dear sister, is there anything I can do to help you?” (laughter) The second sentence was, “Did you like what I did to help you?” The third was, “Would you have any suggestion that I can do it better?” (laughter) If she could say that, she would make many people happy and the happiness would go back to herself very quickly.

In the family we can practice silence. We can ask the other members of the family to agree that we will practice silence for three days or for a week. It is very beneficial. There will be a transformation after the period of practicing silence.


I am reflecting on the words that I say that are not always necessary. In particular, words that I say to my children. While 3 days of silence in the household would be a challenge, I will start small at 3 minutes and see how we go.

Thank you for joining with me as I wander around the topic of “what silence means to me”. Here are a few other recent posts on silence:


Silence – a new book by Thich Nhat Hanh

Fear of Silence – Thich Nhat Hanh




Meditation has moved into the digital age. I’m amazed by the number of tools available to help you meditate. I can have a reminder to meditate come up on my phone (Meditation Helper); or a beautiful bell ring at random intervals during the day (Mindfulness Bell); or connect to a virtual community (Insight Timer).
I’m a bit behind the eight ball, I know. I haven’t long had a smartphone. For a long time I was very cautiously avoiding smartphone technology (snobbery? scared of addictive tendencies?), but now I have wholeheartedly embraced it’s ability to support me to meditate. Here’s a very brief summary of what I have found inspiring, useful, and friendly:

  • Vipassana Meditation is a great app that includes audio that I sometimes listen to. I even listen in the car, which I know defeats the original purpose of the meditations! But just having S. Goenka’s voice in the background and picking out some of the phrases is very calming. It transports me back to the retreats that I have done.
  • The Mindfulness Bell app is beautiful. What more can I say. But it can irritate family and friends. I can set it to ring approximately every 5 minutes through to every 4 hours. A picture of Tibetan singing bowl can come up on your screen, adding to the calming effect for me. The idea though is to remind you of the present moment and this it does beautifully.
  • Insight Timer has the facility to remind you to meditate at a certain time and will also keep track of how often you meditate. It even provides a graph if you like things visual. But best of all is the community that you can connect with. At the end of your meditation the app pops up with a few of the people who have also just meditated using Insight Timer. After my first meditation through the app I received a message saying ” thanks for meditating with me” from someone else. One of the 900 odd people around the world who had also just finished their meditation. How nice is that? Sometimes now I too will randomly pick someone who finished their meditation at the same time as me and send them a message.There are many groups you can connect up with ranging from a Thich Nhat Hanh group through to a Mindful Eating group. If your physical setting is far from any opportunity to connect up with a physical sangha then this a great alternative.
  • Smiling Mind is an organisation with a simple website to encourage mindfulness in everyday life. They have just released an android app that has a few little glitches to be ironed out but this is one to keep an eye out for. The website divides activities into age groups making it ideal as a simple way of using technology to encourage mindfulness for kids and teenagers.
As someone who craves a sangha and needs a lot of help “fitting in meditation” in my daily life these tools are invaluable. Of course just sitting and doing it always gets the best results! But sometimes you just need a little bit of a hand.

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