It’s a new year, and many people have geared up to make life changes. Most of these changes require some kind of effort or hard work, and there’s a focused, determined feel to these life change plans. It’s just how we do things, for some reason. White-knuckled willpower, elbow grease, no pain no gain.
So it makes sense that when you decide to heal yourself using mind-body tools, you apply the same approach. I sure did. I gave myself rules. I created unrealistic structure. I worked hard.
The paradox here is that working hard on mind-body tools doesn’t work. Why not? Because mind-body tools are all about listening to your body’s wisdom, calming your nervous system, and unraveling tension in your mind and body. Naturally, it’s difficult to do those things if you are creating more tension with a “work hard” attitude.
It’s one of the most trusted and cherished beliefs in our culture – hard work will get you where you want to go. It’s oddly reassuring. Which is why many people get confused or stuck in mental circles when they start working hard, efforting, and trying with mind-body healing. It’s kind of scary to let go of that old favorite, the hard work mindset. It means relying on something else – something that feels an awful lot like not controlling the situation. Eeeek!
The good news is that if you can learn how to release hard work, effort, and trying with the mind-body tools, you will have learned a new skill that extrapolates into the rest of your life. You’ll discover that you can actually work easy, drop effort, and stop trying. When you do that in other areas of your life besides just healing, you’ll hold the secret to health in your hands. Your body will be perpetually delighted.
Are you scratching your head right now, asking yourself, “Is she saying what I think she’s saying?” Yes! I am saying that all the things you want, be they health, wealth, fitness, relationships, etc., will come to you more easily if you stop working hard, efforting, and trying.
Before you dismiss this crazy notion, use the old scientific process and evaluate it in your own life. Keep a little observation journal for a month and actually track your efforting/non-efforting and the results you get. I have a feeling you’ll be amazed.
However, shifting away from efforting can be one of the trickiest things you’ve ever done. I’ve been learning how to stop efforting for years, and each time I get a little clearer about it, I find a new level of relaxation in my body, mind, and spirit. And – stuff happens without me trying at all. It’s truly amazing! But the old habit can creep back in at a moment’s notice, so I have to be aware of my body. It tells me immediately with tension and discomfort any time I slip into hard work, effort, or trying.
How exactly does one stop hard work or effort or trying? Well, not by trying! (Yes, it is a mind-bender!) Here’s the easiest method:
Abigail’s Non-Effort Recipe
Set aside ten minutes in your daily schedule. Get in a comfortable position, with whatever setting you enjoy. I personally love a cozy blanket, soothing music, and an eye pillow. Sometimes I also use aromatherapy. The point is to feel deliciously comfy and cozy. Focus your attention on your low belly, and invite your breath to fill this area of your body. Don’t pooch out your stomach and force the air there – just allow it to flow in and out. If it doesn’t go into your low belly, don’t worry. Just breathe. You can spend the entire time paying relaxed attention to the breath, or you can also lightly scan your body and notice how it feels. No effort. No goal. Nothing. If your mind starts to head off into worry, just notice that it’s doing so. Notice your breath and body again. Don’t try to change anything. Literally do nothing.
Though this is the easiest method, you may find yourself slipping a little of the old hard work, efforting, and trying into it. Any time you notice stress around your non-efforting practice, you can be sure one of those three elements is present. This exercise does not have to be done right, perfectly, or with any sort of elbow grease. It’s simply about practicing non-effort.
After doing this for several days, you will begin to notice changes. You’ll most likely notice a bit of relaxation in your body. You’ll probably find your mind seems less worried. You’ll notice cravings for less-than-helpful habits dissipating.
Eventually, you might want to keep a notebook handy for post-un-efforting. Why? Because you’ll probably discover that your mind has solved problems, created things, and otherwise effortlessly organized parts of your life that needed attention. This is where non-efforting begins to truly show its power.
For example, I have a weekly schedule in which I write blog posts on Tuesdays and publish them on Thursdays. If I have been non-efforting, when I sit down to write on Tuesdays, it is possibly the easiest thing I’ve ever done. This is because the blog post has already been written during my non-efforting minutes in days prior, and I have already jotted down the outline on a post-it. Because I have given it no effort and no thought, have not worried for one minute, and am quite sure it will be fine, when I sit down to write, everything that came to me during my non-efforting session reappears in my mind. In about fifteen minutes, my fingers have typed the post, effortlessly.
I love this so much that I am applying it everywhere. If I haven’t yet had a creative idea for a project through a non-efforting session, I don’t force the issue. Instead, I do some non-efforting. (There are definitely times where the old work hard habit sneaks in, and every time, I end up with physical tension, less satisfaction in my work, and irritability.) I’m not trying to be perfect in my not trying, but I am enjoying applying this concept to different areas of my life. The difference between this and the old force-it method is truly astonishing.
Whether you are wanting to heal your body through mind-body techniques, lose weight, create more ease in your work life, I’m telling you…you’ve gotta try not-trying. Or maybe I should say, not-try not-trying.