The Lost Art of Not Doing

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.”

Kahlil Gibran.

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Who Am I, If I Am Not Being Productive?

Who am I if I’m not “crazy busy”? Productivity was drilled into me, and unconsciously I felt that I was only worthy of taking up space in the world if I was being busy doing something. Relaxing was being lazy, not self-care. For 30 years I’ve billed by the hour as an attorney whose income and value to the firm is driven largely by how much of my one wild and precious life I spend working. Then there’s the unpaid work of a mother’s daily life.

A friend mentioned that the world should rediscover the “lost art of doing nothing,” and I was immediately intrigued. Does “doing nothing” mean lying on a hammock, watching the world go by, 24/7? To find out, I picked up Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza’s book, “Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action,” and I was hooked.

A quick read, it was filled with stories of learning to widen your view of how to get things done. Its stories show that “trying harder” isn’t always the best way, and trying less may be. Busyness can actually keep you from doing a good job — limiting creativity and foreclosing strategic thinking in lieu of doing, doing and doing some more.

The book reminds us that Martin Luther and John Calvin conceptualized hard work, self-denial and discipline as Christian duties, with hard work being considered a source of personal value. Soon, hard work became an end in itself. And that, my friends, is no way to live.

No more rushing through life!


Kindling Courage,

and Finding a Path of Plentitude at One With Your Life’s Desire

I am learning to find ease in risk … the safety and security that have seduced me for so much of my life are slowing losing their attraction. I’m 61 years old — if not now, when? I once served on a panel asked to describe a lesson learned from taking a big risk. Each of us agreed that, whether the risky venture had turned out to be successful or not, we were glad we had taken the leap. The question we asked ourselves, then, was if we all were glad we had taken the risk, if it always enhanced our life in some way — why do we nonetheless continue to fear it?

Do you know John O’Donohue’s poem, “For a New Beginning”? It resonates with me, and to carry it in my heart I’ve worked this month to memorize it. I recited it from memory for the first time this morning, in perfect conditions, as I sat on a sandy, mostly empty beach and watched the dawn create the new beginning of this day. I hope it encourages you to kindle your courage enough to step out into that new beginning that’s been quietly whispering, patient yet persistent, waiting for you to leave behind what no longer serves you and step onto a new path, to live at one with your life’s desire.

For a New Beginning
John O’Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.


Zero to Sixty

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I’m 59 and 11 months today.  Next October 25, I want to know I’ve created my best pathway to sixty, and have blogged along the way to keep myself accountable.

First step along that path is to Train My Mind For Happiness, and step one in that endeavor is to be alert and mindful of toxic patterns of thought.

There are so many books on Happiness and Mindfulness, and courses aplenty as well.  First up for me is UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Foundation Science of Happiness Class.  There, they teach that each of us can create new roads through the superhighway of our brain — that we really can teach an old dog new tricks.

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I need some.  New pathways, that is.  I have well-worn groves along the toxic thoughts highway, starting with that capital “P” Perfectionism.   But believing that I can always be perfect … that when I fall short of perfect I am not enough, I am not worthy, I am a failure … shocking as it may seem, that belief does not lead to happiness.  Not even close.  And it keeps me from taking risks, it encourages me to hold on to (supposed) control, its makes me fearful of vulnerability.  It keeps me constrained in a very small box.

While there are pitstops for moments of pleasure along the Perfection Superhighway — a refueling when I get that fleeting feeling of satisfaction for a job well done, the beauty of the perfect roundness of those zeros in a “100” atop the graded paper — the stop is always too short.  Too soon, I’m back on the road, the short-lived joy of accomplishing something perfectly already forgotten while I search frantically for how to do the next thing just right.

While refueling stations are few and far between, however, there is an over-abundance of other things along that well-worn Highway of Perfect.  Anxiety, Alienation, Knowing I Am Not Enough — those are the oxygen I breath along that drive.  Well, f*ck that.  I’m tossing out the well-worn roadmap of my life and taking Exit 59A.  What’s that sign say?  This Way to Average?  Average????  Yikes!!!  OK, I’m in!  What the hell, it might be fun.   I’m going to do my best to start believing that doing good enough is good enough.  I’m exiting the well-worn highway of striving for perfection, and I’m going to start being happy for putting in the effort, taking the chances, going for it, even if I fall short.  I’m heading to It’s OK to Just Be Me, which is much more accepted, I hear, in Averageville.

highway exittCome and meet me there!

 


Forgiveness

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Forgiveness isn’t about condoning what harm was done to you, or forgetting it, but is a deep work of your heart, that honors the betrayal of yourself, the grief, anger, hurt and fear.  It can be a long, hard process.  And it may tear your heart apart, but that vulnerability becomes a place our heart depends on for staying open and alive.  We are biologically wired for revenge, but we are equally biologically wired for forgiveness.

Here’s a test to help you discover your forgiveness style.


We Chose Joy

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A little more than an hour’s winding, curvy drive from the San Diego Airport to the border town of Tecate, Mexico, we arrived at the Ranch on the last Saturday of March for the first-ever Gathering of Joy.  The goal?  To create connections and dive into discussions of how perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity can help us cultivate a life of Joy, no matter the circumstances.  Happiness is a great feeling — who doesn’t want to feel happy?  But it’s fleeting as well. This week was about not just being happy, or about how to remove all sorrow from your life, but about how you can have a deep abiding sense of Joy regardless of the circumstances.  A happiness that lasts, and that shines from within.

The Book of Joy

The Ranch offered us a beautiful setting in which to learn, blessing us with everything from sacred Mount Kuchumaa to abundant wildflowers blooming along the winding paths, creating a sense of peace that created an ideal environment in which to connect, build relationships, and learn.

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Magic was in the impromptu and unexpected moments sprinkled throughout the week, from being treated to an original Maya Fiennes song after hearing her story…

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to sharing a delicious dinner in a six-acre organic garden under the stars, with surprise performances from Opera Ambulante, inspiration through poetic entertainment from Gill Sotu, and music from Jake Shimabukuro…

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to being part of Damien’s once-in-a-lifetime experience courtesy of a man whose heart is at least as big as his incredible talent, at Jake’s Thursday night concert.

 

We made friends.  We ate a lot of vegetables.  We laughed and we cried.  We hiked and meditated and listened and learned.  We are eternally grateful to each of you for taking this week out of your busy lives to gather together to cultivate joy.

As Doug Abrams says in the close to the book our week was centered around:

“…we would be missing the main message of the Dalai Lama’s and the Archbishop’s teachings if we did not emphasize that the source of true joy, as evidenced all week long and in their lives, is in our relationships with other people. … Ultimately, joy is not something to learn, it is something to live.  And our greatest joy is lived in deep, loving, and generous relationships with others.”

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We’ll be premiering a video featuring some of the highlights of the week at a soon-to-be-, and you are all invited to attend.  Details are forthcoming.  If you are not able to make the meal, we’ll be adding the video to our website the next day, for all to enjoy.  And, as our plans evolve over the next few months for our next Gathering event,  we will be sure to share all of the details with you in hopes that we can continue learning to live our best lives, in relationship and with deep and profound JOY.