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The Secret of Non-Striving

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January 18, 2017
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The Secret of Non-Striving

non-striving mindfulness practice

Jon Kabat-Zinn outlines seven attitudes of mindfulness in his book ‘Full Catastrophe Living.’ One of those attitudes is non-striving, or letting go of attachment to particular outcomes. It’s about putting away our agendas and our attempts to control situations to achieve desired end results. In a Zen sense, it’s about responding instead of reacting.

If this seems challenging, or even impossible, there is a secret.

The modern ego immediately asks, ‘If I stop striving, how does anything get accomplished? Can I stop striving to do the laundry?’ This question comes from a place where it is difficult to see that non-striving doesn’t mean not doing anything. It’s not about staying in bed all day. In fact, non-striving is much more of an internal practice than an external one.

You can practice slowing down, you can practice unplugging, you can even practice sleeping in. But that’s not the same thing as non-striving. The attitude of non-striving is something best cultivated during meditation practice and then carried with us during our day.

When you sit for meditation, you practice being open to the present. Whatever your physical, mental, or emotional state is, you open to it and allow it. As challenging as that is, you’ve set yourself up in the perfect environment for it. It’s quiet, no one is disturbing you, and you’re just sitting; being.

The practice of non-striving, while cultivated during meditation, is really best practiced when you’re out and about in the world. Striving manifests as anxiety, fear, judgment, control, self-pressure, and annoyance. When you sense these emotions coming up in you, examine what outcome it is you’re striving for – or even what outcome you’re hoping to avoid.

That’s the secret to non-striving.

Identify the source of the negative emotion and see how your desire to reach or avoid that outcome is an attachment you’re grasping on to, rearranging all your energies to make it happen. That’s striving. And you can choose to let go of it once you’ve identified it. You can learn your striving patterns and then create some in-the-moment methods for releasing them.

Have goals. Have projects, hopes, dreams, desires. But if those things end up causing stress or discomfort, you’re in the middle of striving. The good in life most easily gets through when we practice non-striving and release our attachment to what happens.

By Nadia Alamo