As you may have noticed, I do not update my blog as often as I used to. The reason is that I intend to be more gentle and peaceful with myself in 2014. I pledged to myself only to write when I feel inspired to do so, and I do this week.
In the past few weeks, I have discovered a whole other dimension of myself – the non-striving dimension. In the past, even though it’s always been in me, I have had difficulty allowing this dimension to see the light of day. So what exactly is non-striving?
Without knowing it at the time, I ran into this concept the first time when I read Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as a senior in professor Larry Haas’ Philosophies East and West course at Muhlenberg College. The part I remember most vividly is the protagonist trying to let go of ego climbing, of acting out of a need to perform for others, or more truly, for himself. And he discovers this when he goes on a motorcycle trip (he calls it a “chataugua” – I probably butchered the spelling there – please forgive me, Pirsig).
Pirsig was successful in letting go of the need to perform, and I recently discovered that I too can do this when I create space for non-striving in my life. These are “places” I can go to leave behind my strong urge to perform, to strive. Don’t get me wrong – striving can be a very good thing. I have learned the striving in me is good when I strive for the joy of creating things that will benefit others and outlast me and when I learn new things.
Now back to non-striving spaces, where I find peace and I just flow. These spaces look different for each of us. For me. I create spaces for non-striving in my daily life. Some examples…
- Taking what I call a mental health break when I am work. I take 20+ minutes a day, when I can, to eat lunch by myself in our cafeteria, read personal emails, surf the Net, and see colleagues I don’t normally run into in meetings.
- Spending the first ten minutes of my train commute home reflecting on the day and processing what I learned about myself and the world.
- Going on a trip with no set itinerary. My partner and I recently did this in Austin, TX, and it was refreshing.
- Coaching others. I love hearing others’ stories and asking them questions that allow them to go deeper into themselves.
Actually, teaching needs its own paragraph for me to explain. Most who have met me know of my passion for education. I teach business ethics at a local university as a hobby (yes, it pays, but don’t tell the university that I’d do it for free!). Yet, teaching used to be a space in which I strived. I tried to top myself in every class – handing out candy, doing zany things, asking hard-hitting questions, anything. And I found that I am an even better teacher when I teach in a non-striving space. At a recent seminar, instead of preparing too much in advance and figuring out how I would outdo myself, I took the time 10 minutes before to meet my students, to learn of their fears and concerns, and as a result, I more naturally flowed in the teaching. I was able to connect my content to their immediate need. It was a powerful session. In fact, one student came up to me afterward and shared what was on her mind and in her heart. She cried. She told me I helped her understand that she is okay just the way she is and that it’s okay for her to follow her passion. That gave me great pause, because that result would not have been possible if I had taught in a striving space. She may have walked out with a smile on her face and candy in her belly, but she would not have been as transformed. I helped her transform because I chose non-striving.
And the best part of non-striving is that it has made me more mindful, secure in who I am, and stable. It allows me to engage with the world in a deeper, more peaceful way.
I hope I have peaked your interest with this post. Maybe you will think about creating non-striving spaces in your life. If you’d like to share one or more of them so we can all learn from you, please do in the comments section of this post.
I wish you and those closest to you a happy and peaceful 2014!