do less

Today we ask you to do less.

Do less.

The time in which you live is in many ways defined by constant activity. 

Not long ago, work in an office ended when you stepped out the door.  People had evenings and weekends truly away from work.  Now work is continuous, because people are constantly accessible via electronic devices.  And expectations are higher than ever.

So people today do more and more and more, and still never get enough done.  Lives are spent in a constant flurry of hectic activity, multitasking, overscheduling.  Caffeine and other stimulants are imbibed in order to keep up with the relentless pace.  Naturally, people are so overstimulated during the day that they cannot get to sleep at night, so drugs are required to help people go to sleep.

And yet for all this doing, are people really getting more done?  Are they more productive?

Or is there a lot of wasted energy?  A lot of storm and fury, signifying nothing.  People sitting at desks, texting and playing games, pretending that they are very busy.  Or busy people who are so exhausted that they cannot think straight or remember things.  

Consider that it will take an exhausted, distracted person at least twice as long to accomplish a task as it would a clear-headed, well-rested, focused person.  Can you see the problem?

So: if you feel like you don’t do enough, even though you’re exhausting yourself trying — and you still want to do more — the answer is simple:

Do less.

If you want to do more, start by doing less.

That is why meditation is a useful tool.  Meditation is an act of “doing nothing.”  You sit and stare at a wall.  You listen to your breathing, and observe your thoughts.  

And yet anyone who engages in the practice can tell you that a lot happens in the midst of all this sitting about, doing nothing.

Reducing activity and stimuli is a form of mental decluttering.

Think about a cluttered work space.  It takes you at least twice as long to find anything in the mess.  And the mess is so daunting that you tend to avoid it — procrastinating just to get away from the wretched pile of things to do.  

But a clean work space is inviting.  It’s no problem to find anything you might look for or need.  Good ideas come easily in an uncluttered space, because there is room for them.

So: if you want to do more, do less.

That doesn’t mean go completely slack in life and turn into a vegetative person who watches TV all day.

It just means, slow down.  Declutter.  Give yourself more space, more room to breathe, to look around and see the sky and trees.

It means, all this constant activity isn’t getting you want you really want.  Multitasking just means you are paying a little bit of attention to a lot of things.  Imagine how far you might go if you gave all your attention to one thing for an hour.

That is why if you want to do more, you must start by doing less.

Many people are afraid to do this because they think it will look bad.  They are afraid they will be judged for not appearing to be busy enough.  So they must keep up the appearance of being constantly busy.  If you ask them how they are, they will always tell you how exhausted and overworked they are.  Then you cannot judge them.

This leads to a very crazy “Alice in Wonderland” reality, in which people are pretending to be very busy in order to maintain an appropriate image, while in reality they are just checking their electronic devices.   

In truth, if you become a more focused and effective person, an attentive and deliberate person, don’t you think people will be attracted to that?  They might wonder what your secret is.  

Your secret is that you do less.  You do more by doing less.  You might even sit staring at a wall for twenty minutes, appearing to be doing nothing at all.

Life gets much easier, when you stop worrying about what other people think of you.  Just because everyone else is constantly crazed and exhausted doesn’t mean you have to be like that, too.  Everyone used to smoke cigarettes.  Humans are notorious for doing things that are unhealthy and counterproductive.

You happen to live in the age of constant activity and stimuli.  It is not healthy.

Quit it, as you would any unhealthy habit.  

Do less, and you will accomplish more.

be friendly

Today we ask that you be friendly.

Be friendly.

What does this mean?

Really, it means be open, be trusting.  It means believing that life is essentially good, that it is good to be here in this life on Earth.  It means appreciating all that is good around you.

So you are friendly toward this new year.  You are friendly toward the day ahead of you, and what it brings.

You are friendly toward the people you may meet this day.  You are friendly toward the animals and the plants.

You are friendly with yourself.   You are friendly with your body.  You are friendly with the person you are today.

For many people, it is challenging to be friendly.

That is because they are wary and mistrustful.  They approach life like frightened animals — tense, vigilant, ready to fight or flee at the first provocation.

And it is understandable.  They may have been taught to be frightened of life, and may have had many bad experiences that have reinforced this fear.

Many people are like abused dogs.  It is a dog’s nature to be friendly, but if a dog has been mistreated, he will be defensive, frightened, aggressive.

How do you rehabilitate an abused animal?

Mainly by being friendly toward it.  You create a space in which the animal feels safe, and loved.  Slowly — sometimes very slowly — the animal gradually relaxes, and becomes friendly in return.

It is the same with humans.

If you want good relationships in life, it is wise to treat people the way you would treat an abused dog that you wish to rehabilitate.  Be friendly.  Be patient.  It may take a while, but eventually most people relax and become friendly in return.

You cannot really do this with other people, if you cannot do it with yourself.

You, too, may feel like an abused animal — scared, defensive, reactive.  Always on the verge of fight or flight.  Wary, mistrustful.  Growling at the world, hackles raised.

If that is the case, it is necessary for you to rehabilitate yourself.  To create a safe, loving space for yourself, in which you can relax and let your guard down.

But that space cannot exist if you are always judging and attacking yourself in your own mind.

Judging and attacking yourself in your own mind is a form of self-abuse.

Animals are not capable of self-abuse.  While animals can be traumatized, they are not capable of reinforcing the trauma through self-abuse in their thoughts.

That is why it is generally far easier to rehabilitate a scared, defensive animal, than a scared, defensive human.

But you have to start somewhere.

And the place to start is just by being friendly.

Can you just be friendly?  Can you adopt a basic attitude of friendliness?

As if you were gently holding out a treat to a scared animal.  “Come here.  You’re safe.  I won’t hurt you.”

Can you look at the ways in which you tend to be unfriendly — to yourself, and others?

Being friendly doesn’t mean: drop your healthy boundaries, and be a doormat.

It’s just an attitude.

Do you know the idea in the judicial system, that a person is innocent until proven guilty?

Being friendly assumes that life, reality, the universe — it is innocent until proven guilty.

It means assuming the people you meet today — they are innocent until proven guilty.

Be friendly, unless you are given true cause not to be.

You are also innocent.  And, in truth, nothing you have done or will do will make you guilty in the eyes of a loving reality.  You will never be “condemned for your sins.”  But that is another matter.

For now, just be friendly.

Friendly people generally find that life is friendly in return.

So if you are finding life to be unfriendly, perhaps look at how you might be friendlier.

Start with yourself.  Make friends with yourself.  The rest will follow.

 

 

stop trying so hard

Today we ask you to stop trying so hard.

Don’t try so hard.

What does this mean?

Modern society is obsessed with achievement, with status, with perfection.  People are expected to constantly push themselves, to be super-people.  Super-workers, supermoms, super-athletes.  You must be super, and superior.  You must be rich, prize-winning, and have children who excel in school and sports.  And this is just in order to feel okay about yourselves — to feel like you are worth something.

No wonder so many people are miserable, anxious, and depressed.

For this superiority must be continually worked for, struggled for, fought for.  Drop your vigilance for a moment and you may lose, fall behind, fail.  If a child does not get into the right kindergarten, he will not be on the proper track for a prestigious college!

This is madness.  This is a very crazy way to live and think.

Really it is nothing new.  In earlier times, people used to beat themselves because they were afraid of not being good enough to get into Heaven.  They used to beat their children, too, to make sure they were moral, virtuous, and perfect before the eyes of their God.  To make sure that this God would not judge them and find them wanting.  Of course, they lived in constant fear.  One immoral thought, and they would burn in Hell!

“Enlightened” modern people would rightly consider this behavior crazy, but they do the same thing.  Only now it is about status and achievement.  They must make sure they are members of the rich and successful elite, and make sure their children do the same.

So all day long everyone is trying very hard.  Trying very hard to be perfect, to be the best at whatever it is they’re doing.

This takes many forms.  It is easy to look back on the stereotypical “perfect mother and wife” of the 1950’s in America, and see how restrictive that role was, how backwards.  But modern “liberated” women are slaves to a perfect image in other ways, just as insidious.

Stop trying so hard.

It’s sacrilegious to say, isn’t it?  

Don’t try so hard.

In a culture where you are constantly exhorted to try as hard as you can, go the extra mile, punish yourself to make the win and be better than the rest.

It’s a bit subversive, isn’t it?  To say “Don’t try so hard.”  “Stop trying so hard.”

Don’t try so hard.

Stop trying so hard.

Have you ever had the experience of releasing the need to get something that you’ve really wanted?  Of letting go of the need to get that thing?  Only to wind up getting it?

There is a reason for this.

When you are desperate for something, you are tense and nervous.  And this creates an energetic block that actually repels the thing you want so desperately.

This is very obvious in romantic pursuits.  When someone exudes an air of desperation, of nervous tension, is he or she particularly attractive?

But that is what are you doing when you are trying very hard.  You are clenched, nervous.  You must be perfect — or else!

Or else what?

Someone might criticize you for not trying hard enough, is what.  Usually it’s just the voice in your head.  Occasionally it might be another person.

So what if someone criticizes you.

The voice in your head may say, it’s a very big problem if someone criticizes me!  If I don’t try hard all the time, I will lose my job!  I will be a bad parent who damages my child!  My partner will leave me!  No one will want to be with me!  I will wind up poor and alone!

But is that really true?

Look at the fears of what might happen to you if you stopped trying so hard.

Most of them are probably not true, if you really examine them.

And of course the paradox is that if you stop trying so hard, you will actually relax.  And this will make you a better worker, parent, partner — you name it. 

It may be impossible to accept this.  You may be utterly convinced that your constant struggle to be the best you can be, to be a Super-You, is the only thing keeping the wolves at bay.  That you must try very, very hard to be good, to be worth something, to be loved, to be safe.

But do you really think that medieval people who whipped themselves and their children to get into Heaven were right?  They believed absolutely that God would not love them if they didn’t whip themselves for their sins.  Do you believe they were right?  Or do you think they were crazy?

They just believed certain things.  They believed in Heaven and Hell.  A little self-flagellation was a small price to pay to escape the fires of Hell.

A modern person might say “Hell is not real.”

But Hell is very real for those who believe in it.  It’s so real, in fact, that they put themselves there in their minds, and experience real terror.

Non-religious modern people may not fear Hell in this way, but they fear other hells.  “No one will love me, I will be poor, I will be a failure.”

Probably the hell you project in your mind is no more real than the fire-and-brimstone Hell religious people fear.

If you stop trying so hard, you will not go to “Hell” — whatever Hell is for you.

In fact, when you let go, and stop trying so hard — that is the way to Heaven.

It could be said that “Heaven” is a place where no one has to try hard at all.  In Heaven, you are loved, and you are safe, and you do not have to try hard for these things.

So maybe if you believe that you are loved, and you are safe, and you do not have to try hard for these things — if you believed that right now, maybe you will find yourself living in Heaven on Earth.  

It’s worth a try.

 

be gentle

Today we ask that you be gentle.

Be gentle.

What does this mean?

Who doesn’t like being treated gently, in life?

Animals and children respond best to gentle energy.  So do you.

But most people aren’t gentle with themselves.  Most people are hard on themselves.  Most people are really rather mean to themselves.

People believe that getting anywhere in life requires the use of force.  You must push and demand if you are to get anywhere.  You must scream in order to be heard.  And you cannot be kind to yourself — otherwise you will be lazy and not get anything done.

Really these beliefs are quite barbaric.  And they are absolutely wrong.

Think about what happens in your body when someone gets in your face and forcefully demands something from you.

You tense up.  Your body goes into “fight or flight” mode.  You automatically feel resistance, because the forceful energy with which this person is coming at you feels like an attack.

Now think about what happens when someone is gentle with you.  When someone gently asks you for something.  Aren’t you more likely to feel generous toward that person?

It is the same with all things.

When you forcefully attack yourself, when you are pushy and demanding with yourself, you automatically resist this energy.

When you yell at yourself for eating the dessert and putting on weight, isn’t there another part of you that wants to sneak off and eat that dessert all over again?

Whereas if you are gentle with yourself, if you are kind and understanding, you are actually far more likely to change the behavior.

So be kind.  Be gentle.

Be gentle with yourself, and others.

This does not mean you will be a doormat who gets abused.  It does not mean you will be a lazy person who does nothing.

On the contrary.  If you learn to be gentle, you will become a much more effective and productive person.

People who constantly force, push, demand and scream waste a lot of energy.

People who get things done in a gentle way save energy.  They also spare themselves and others a lot of unnecessary suffering.

Be gentle with the universe, too.

Many people want to “manifest” things.  They have long lists of demands for the universe, for God.  They make all these demands and then get frustrated when they don’t get what they want.

But maybe it would be different if they only asked gently.

And maybe let the universe have a say in it, too.  Maybe sometimes the universe has better ideas, or has something to contribute beyond what you can perceive.  When people are pushy and demanding, fixated on what they want and must have, they have tunnel vision.  They cannot see possibilities, or “think outside the box.”  But when they are gentle, they are open to things they might have never dreamt of.  

relax

Today we ask you to relax.

Most people want to relax.  There are many professions, even industries, dedicated to helping people relax, not to mention many drugs that serve this purpose.

And yet people are still not at all relaxed.  If anything, people are more stressed and tightly wound than ever.

Why is this so?

People believe they have no choice in the matter.   Life is stressful.   Their jobs are stressful, their relationships are stressful, the world is stressful.  It would be nice to relax, of course, but they can’t afford it.   Even if they can, they’re far too busy.

So that is what people think.  They wish they could relax.  Who doesn’t want to relax?  But external circumstances always prevent them from doing so.

In truth, people do not relax because they do not believe in relaxation.  They do not value it. It is not a priority.  Because of this, many modern humans have all but lost the ability to relax.

People may want to relax.  But they have been taught, since childhood, that resting is a sign of laziness.  If they are awake, they ought to be doing something productive.  And they should be awake more.  Modern humans on average sleep less than any generation in human history.  Forgoing sleep is considered a mark of productivity and virtue.

If people believe that relaxation is lazy, unproductive, and a sign that they’re weak and worthless, they won’t do it — no matter how much they may fantasize about it.

Moreover, modern humans are addicted to continuous stimulation.  Their eyes are always on a screen, always checking, always alert, always taking in new information.  Never have humans been so restless.

People have no idea how detrimental all of this is to their health.

It is no exaggeration to say that the vast majority of physical and mental illness in developed  countries is caused, quite simply, by chronic lack of adequate sleep and rest, accumulated over many years.

This really is true.

Relaxation and sleep are just as important to human health as exercise and a good diet.  A human cannot be truly healthy unless he is capable of frequent deep relaxation.

And this will not happen if he believes that relaxation is lazy and unproductive.

People know that eating well and exercising is good for them, even if they don’t do it.

But people don’t really believe that rest and relaxation is actually good for them.  They may know they want it, but they don’t understand that it is absolutely necessary for their mental and physical health.

So please understand this.

Rest, relaxation, and sleep are absolutely necessary for your mental and physical health.

Human beings thrive on a minimum — a minimum — of eight hours of sleep at night, plus short daytime naps.  If one sleeps less at night, more daytime napping is necessary to make up for the deficit.  These naps can be brief — even ten to twenty minutes can help immensely — but they are essential.  

If this were truly understood, society and business would promote sleep, napping, and relaxation in order to massively increase productivity and efficiency.

This measure would also radically address your overburdened health care systems.  All major diseases associated with developed countries — cancer, heart disease, and diabetes — are strongly impacted by sleep and rest, and the lack thereof.  Mental health is also powerfully affected by sleep and rest.

If you replaced the belief that “relaxation is a sign of laziness” with the belief that “relaxation is absolutely vital to your health,” it is far more likely that you would create more space in your life for sleep and relaxation.  You would also be more likely to help your children learn good sleeping habits.

Of course, this is only true if you are someone who values your health.  Most people think they value their health, but often there are other things they value more — like money, achievement, proving they are worth something, or even just being stimulated and entertained.  When health is not a true priority in your life, this will be reflected in your experience.

That said, if you do honestly value your health, learn how to rest.  If you have forgotten how, you must relearn how to do this.  Shut off your screens, for a start.  Take a true break.

Is it possible for you to have a guilt-free day of rest?  A “lazy day”?

Would it relieve your guilt if you knew that every “lazy day” you give yourself measurably increases your health, well-being, and productivity?  That every nap you take, that every moment of true unwinding you grant yourself actively reduces the agents of physical and mental disease in your body?

So please.  Take a rest.  Guilt-free.  It’s good for you!

scared

Today we ask that you not allow your life to be ruled by other people’s fears.

Do not be ruled by other people’s fears.

What does this mean?

Much of the fear people experience in life really isn’t even their own fear.

They are fears taken in from other people, the way you might catch a cold, or the flu.

You read things on the internet, you watch TV, you talk to people.  Through this, you are exposed to a lot of stories about things you should be afraid of.

The vast majority of these fearful stories are things you will never directly experience in your lifetime.

Most of you will never directly experience a terrorist attack, the kidnapping of a child, or losing all your possessions in a natural disaster.  You will not be brutally murdered by a maniac, or have a loved one killed in such a way.

And yet all day long people sit around imagining all these horrible things they hear about from other people.  And as they imagine these things, they feel real fear and tension in their bodies.  This tension can make them quite sick and anxious — even though nothing bad is actually happening to them!   They are sitting at home or in an office, worried sick because of some story about something terrible happening to someone else, something that they will never directly experience.  

It is a terrible energy drain.  There are a million better things to do than to obsess over fearful stories about other people.

Yet consider how much time you might spend doing precisely this.  How much time do you spend imagining horrible scenarios, prompted by stories you hear from others.

Usually the argument for this activity is that sitting around anticipating dreadful things that might happen to you allows you to protect yourself and your loved ones from harm.

While it is wise, for example, to make some preparation for earthquakes if you live in an area prone to earthquakes, or make preparations for tornadoes if you live in an area prone to tornadoes, in truth this should not take very much of your time.  

But most of the fearful stories people take in drive people into a state of feeling helpless and powerless.  There is no useful action to take, no preparation you can make.  Your mind just races with groundless anxiety and misery.  You aren’t protecting yourself or anyone else.  If anything, you’re making everything worse for yourself and your loved ones, with all of your worries.

So be discerning.  Be discerning about the sources of the fearful stories you take in.  Where are these stories coming from?  And is it truly useful for you to spend time taking in these stories?

You may know that you cannot believe everything you read, you cannot believe everything other people tell you.  And yet when the mind sees something in official-looking print, or when an authoritative voice says something — there is a tendency to believe.

So question.  Discern.

All these things other people say you should be afraid of — how much of it really has to do with you, personally?

There is enough fear in life without taking on everyone else’s fear.

How much of your fear really belongs to your parents, your partner, or the voices on the internet?

If you are afraid of spiders, or flying in airplanes, fine.  That is your personal fear.  That is something you can work on. 

But what if you’ve always been basically unafraid around spiders, and then so-and-so tells you some nightmarish story about some person suffering from a horrible spider bite.  Suddenly you start thinking, “I should be more afraid of spiders than I am.”  

This is what it means to take on other people’s fears.  Deep down, you are really not all that afraid of spiders.  You are probably intelligent enough not to fool around with a poisonous spider.  So this fearful story isn’t helping you.  It’s just adding unnecessary, useless fear to your life. 

A lot of fear is like this.

When you are obsessing over some fearful thing, check in with yourself.  Ask yourself if this fear is really your fear, or someone else’s fear.  Ask yourself how likely it is that this fearful thing could happen to you.  

If you really do an inventory, you may find that the majority of the things you fear are “other people’s fears,” that you have taken in.  Let them go.  They’re not protecting you from anything.

 

 

how will you use your power?

Today we ask that you focus your energy and attention not on what you wish to destroy, but what you wish to create.

If you could do this one thing, it would radically improve your whole life experience.

Focus your energy and attention not on what you wish to destroy, but rather on what you wish to create.

What does this mean?

The majority of humans are more oriented toward what they want to destroy, instead of creating.

For example, in life most people go around focusing on what they dislike.  Really, these are things they would like to wish out of existence: the fat around the belly, the traffic jam, the despised politician, the credit card bill.

You may not think of it this way, but you are wishing for these things to be destroyed.  Often, when you are angry at another person, there is a part of you that wishes to destroy their current identity.  This is not to say you wish physical harm on someone you dislike — although some people do.  But what you wish is to destroy their current identity, the way their minds work, what they believe, etc.  You want to remake them into someone more pleasing to you.

You wish to destroy the personality you perceive as flawed and problematic, and replace it with a persona you like better.

You wish these politicians did not exist in their present form.  They are ruining everything.  You want to wave a magic wand, and change them into different people.

In the same way, you want to destroy the fat around your belly.  You want to wave a magic wand and wish it out of existence.

Perhaps you wish that some part of your past had never happened.  You want to wave a magic wand and change things, give yourself a different past.

And so you see that most humans are very fixated upon all these things they would like to wish out of existence — to destroy.

It is a great waste of energy.

And ultimately the destructive urge does in fact lead to acts of violence and war.  These include, but are not limited to, acts of terrorism, murder, and of course the great wars that slaughter millions.

If you look inside many average households, you will see humans locked in chronic warfare.  Husbands and wives are at war with each other.  Parents and children are at war.  Neighbors war with neighbors.  Offices are full of people at war.  Everyone is at war — mostly with themselves, of course.

When you want to destroy the fat on your body or any physical feature you dislike, you are at war with yourself.

When you beat yourself up because of something you did or didn’t do, you are at war with yourself.

What if it didn’t have to be like this?

What would life look like if humans weren’t oriented toward destruction, but rather creation?

Consider what happens when you wrest your attention away from all these things you are angry about and want to wish out of existence, and instead focus on creating something new, that feels good to you.

So, for example, instead of attacking yourself for being physically out of shape, you focus your energy and attention on this question: how can I create a healthy body, and feel good doing so?

This may seem subtle, but the difference is vast.

Because, you see, the person who is oriented toward destroying his fat, ugly body will not create lasting health.  Even if he binge diets and exhausts himself working out, he will inevitably fall out of shape again, and return to the pattern of hating and attacking his ugly body.

Whereas the person who is oriented toward feeling good as he creates a healthy, happy body will, over time, succeed.

Some people define this phenomenon as “The Law of Attraction,” but this is a wildly misunderstood thing.  It is not just about wishing what you want into existence — manifesting the car, the soul mate, the dream job.

It goes much deeper than this.  It is also much simpler.  It is about changing your whole energetic orientation away from negative destruction, and toward positive creation.

If you want to create healthy and harmonious change in your life, you must at the same time completely release your compulsion to destroy.

In practice, this means a deep acceptance of reality as it is.  It means making peace with reality, and not being at war with it.

This means ceasing to attack things, situations, and people — even in your mind.  Especially in your mind.

This is no small matter, obviously.  The destructive urge is habitual, and to a large degree innate.  Animals and pre-verbal children can and do act violently out of jealousy, the desire to control and dominate, etc.

But humans, unlike animals, possess the ability to completely reshape their minds and consciousness through focused effort.  This is the purpose of meditative practice — to calm and focus the wild animal mind that cannot control its impulses and compulsions, and create a peaceful consciousness.

You do not, however, have to be a monk in meditative retreat in order to do this.

Anyone can do this, anywhere, right now.

Just recognize when you are in “destroy” mode.  It happens when you are complaining and judging.  It happens when you wish something out of existence.

Catch yourself when you are doing this, and ask yourself: “What do I really want to create here?”

For example: when you are in conflict with another person, generally your actions are working toward destroying the relationship.  If you are attacking the person in your mind, wishing they were someone else, this will be reflected in your behavior and actions.  

But often, that is not what you really want.  Usually what people really want is to create a healthier relationship with the person they are in conflict with — even if it means severing the relationship.  

So if this is really what you want, ask: how can I create this?  How can I create a healthier relationship with this person?  How can I create peace around this situation?

And then just wait and see.  There will be an answer, so long as you release the need to continue attacking and destroying this person in your mind, gossiping negatively about this person with others, etc.

This holds true in any situation.

If you are unhappy with your life experience, do an inventory.

Over the course of a day, pay attention to how much time you spend in “destroy/attack” mode — negatively judging and wishing things out of existence.  Also pay attention to how much time you spend in positive creation — creating in a way that feels good to you.

If you want to enjoy your life experience more, it is simple: decrease the amount of time you spend in “destroy/attack mode”, and increase the amount of time spent in “feel-good creation.”

You do not have to be a monk to increase peace in your life, and the world.  Anyone can do this.

Just ask yourself: would you rather use your power, time, and energy to destroy, or would you rather use your power, time, and energy to create?

It is your choice.

But if you choose “destroy,” you will increase disharmonious energy in your life experience.  You will be at war, and war is an unpleasant, draining state of being.

It is much wiser to create than to destroy.

 

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