“I know what the greatest cure is: it is to give up, to relinquish, to surrender, so that our little hearts may beat in unison with the great heart of the world.” -Henry Miller
One of my son’s most common refrains to me of late is “do less, Mom…” It is hard advice for me to take- I am a doer, arguably an over-doer. It is how I have come to know myself and, more addictively, how I fill up the space inside of me that I don’t want to feel. And yet, I know that Luke- now 21- is onto something. And not just because he wants me to stop trying to fix his business, but even more because he has tapped into the truth that doing is only half the equation, or maybe less. When our singular focus is the doing, we lose sight of the why. A dear friend told me not long ago that “intention is everything” and to act without it is our current form of insanity. The clarity with which we begin any endeavor not only provides a map to steer by, but even more deeply aligns us with the mysterious subconscious will of the universe that supports our best intentions.
Here are the four ways that I practice to do less - hopefully one that will resonate for you.
1. Feel more, think less.
The body’s intelligence is always true. The brain of our gut will never lie and the radiance of the heart field which extends far beyond our mind should give you pause about what information should lead your decision making process. Our ever evolving fascination with technology has so fully engaged our thinking attention that we walk around disembodied, sometimes right into harm's way. Lost in a device, we don’t sense what is around us. Feeling our life experience through our body is the only way back to a more grounded and real experience of our days. Even if only for a few moments at a time, put away the device and connect to the space in and around you. Develop the sensitivity to listen to your gut, feel when your heart is racing, or closing down, notice when your throat tightens. Use your attention to let your visceral feelings inform you and honor your body’s wisdom.
2. Listen more, talk less
For anyone who knows me, they know that talking is one big way of doing for me - not only as a way to communicate, but even more deeply to know what I think. Partly this comes from a long time confusion between my need to be witnessed by others and knowing myself. But recently I have come to learn how much more I learn about myself when I stop talking and listen more. As I practice holding a space open for someone else to fill, something I had never known about myself emerges. The most generous gift we can offer is our listening attention. And as we do less talking, it also trains us to embrace stillness and listen for the quietest voice inside to be heard.
3. Give more, want less
Winston Churchill once wrote: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Discovering the magical space where you cannot feel the difference between giving and receiving is about believing in your own worthiness. Learning how to turn one's capacity for giving inwards is how we fuel the capacity to give to others. Cultivating a space where we realize how much we have- how blessed we are in life just as it is- allows us to inhabit the graceful and healing space of wanting less from the world. When we practice attending to ourselves as we would with a dear friend, we are full. We don’t want for more.
4. Be more, do less
Coming from an incessant doer, I would expect that you might be skeptical hearing this from me...maybe it is middle age catching up to me, but I am coming to deeply appreciate the deep wisdom of being still. I recently heard about research in which participants would rather receive an electric shock than sit still alone. And sometimes in my own sitting lately, I feel like those bursts of energy are inside me, not even needing to be administered. Learning to be still is sometimes about accepting how jumpy it is inside. Finding peace in our own company is a powerful medicine for almost everything that ails us. Being in stillness is where listening and feeling and giving all merge inside of us and there is literally an open space of peace and quiet waiting to hold you.