on the art of doing without doing, and why it can help you get the right things done

tree in water courtesy FlickrCC aloshbennet

Doing Without Doing

The other day, it seemed that no matter what I tried to get done, I just didn’t. Writing attempts petered out, emails didn’t get sent, and top-of-the-list super important action items just…weren’t. Three hours in, I finally let go of trying.

Instead, I picked up my copy of the Dalai Lama’s Art of Happiness and sat down in my most comfy chair. There, I parsed the words and found peace on the pages. I made notes, saw universal teachings, and had aha moments about how they come into fruition in my own life.

The Magic of Letting Things Happen

Ideas for articles came to mind, I added to my roster of what I’ll be rolling out in my third 30-Day Happiness Challenge (coming November 1-30), and I drafted up some revision notes for down-the-line ideas. I also had a nice long nap.

I’m still learning this lesson. I recently read a quote by Pema Chodron where she says:

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

The Lesson I’m Still Learning

And is it ever taking me a long time to get this one: the art of doing without doing, and why it can help us get the right things done. The truth is that whenever I surrender my master plan to the universe’s master plan, magic happens. Opportunities arrive in my inbox, invitations come via telephone, and things much better than I’d hoped for begin to take place.

Ishvara Pranidhana is a spiritual practice that translates to surrender to the universe. Or God, the divine, or cosmic energy. We live our happiest lives when we are living our dharma, our purpose for being on this planet. And our ego-mind doesn’t know our dharma. Our higher mind does.

Help from Our Higher Mind

Our ego-mind is the part of us that believes we are small and limited to our identity as defined in relation to others: daughter, girlfriend, wife, husband, less experienced, more experienced, etc. Our higher mind knows our soul.

Our higher mind is connected to the ocean, the universe, god, Om. Guided. Divinely lit. In partnership with everyone around us as we are united by universal consciousness. This is the part of us that will up and simply block things we think we ‘should’ be doing, so that we can do what we’re meantto be doing.

Wu Wei and the Taoists

Another spiritual teaching along these lines comes from Taoists:
wu wei
1. without action, without effort, without control
2. action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort

It seems the Taoists teach that this practice of action that happens without action stems from “observation of one’s behavior after they have accepted themselves for who they are and release conscious control over their lives to the infinite Tao.”

Sounds a lot like Ishvara Pranidhana.

Don’t do this, though

Hold up, though: the sticky point here is that it’s tempting to view this philosophy or way of doing without doing as an invitation to do absolutely nothing and just wait for opportunities to arise. Tapas, or sustained perseverance, is another spiritual teaching that pairs up with Ishvara Pranidhana to tell us that yup, we can surrender our efforts to the master plan, but we need to sustain them.

The beauty of these together in practice is that we can find ease whether at rest or getting loads of things done–because we recognize they’re both part of the master plan. The week before my “be still and contemplate stuff” day, I’d spent four of my five dedicated work days putting in 12 to 13 hours. And I was happy when they were done, but doing them felt like ease and flow. I had tons of energy those days, and didn’t feel drained until the end of them all–when I was meant to stop.

Invitation for You

I’m learning to embrace the natural ebb and flow of life, and–with a lot of self-coaching–release the fears that come up when it’s time to pause and rest.

Today, I invite you to give yourself permission to pause when it feels like the best thing for you. To take a walk, take a break or take a nap without guilt or worry over what you’re missing out on creating. And then return to what calls you–re-energized, re-vitalized, and recognizing that you’ve just tapped into your dharma and a grander master plan.

Today’s Tweetable + Facebook post

@lindsey_lewis: Give yourself permission to pause. Resting to be revitalized is part of your dharma and a grander master plan.

Thinking of you,


p.s. Know someone who could use a boost? Forward them this post–with love.

image credit: tree in water courtesy FlickrCC aloshbennet

Sep 19, 2013 · Comment

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