Do Happy: Stop Doing

This post is republished with permission. Find more of Lori Deschene’s writing at Read the original post here.

Relaxation“The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.” ~Robert M. Persig

We live in a fast-paced, achievement-oriented society.  At the end of a busy, to-do-list-focused day, we often find ourselves mentally and physically exhausted and uncertain whether we’re actually moving in the right direction in “the pursuit of happiness.

Perhaps this explains our fascination with all things Zen. It’s become a buzzword in pop culture, branding products that have little to do with peace and enlightenment—and oftentimes, represent ideas that are diametrically opposed.

Zen Dharma Teacher Rev. Lynn “Jnana” Sipe takes an interesting look at Zen in titles in print publications, on all topics from automobiles to music.  Some notable titles include: “Engine Zen,” “The Zen of Contractor Relations,” and “Zen and the Art of Propane Safety.”

Then there’s the vast world of products branded with Zen: tea, candles, rakes, fans, stones, books, eye masks, pillows, fountains, wind chimes, bath products, incense, oils, home décor. All intended to soothe our harried minds. It’s ironic that their acquisition requires more doing and earning—and possibly more stress.

We reach for our wallet to buy little pieces of peace because we’re programmed to fix problems by doing.  Sometimes doing itself is the problem.

Our minds are like little hamster wheels, desperate to reach some point down the road when things get easy, or things make sense.  In all reality, we never get there.

There will never be a moment in time when everything feels done.  When everything is certain.  When there’s no pain or discomfort. Life is a constant juggling act of items in the inbox, people to please, feelings to process, tasks to complete, experiences to be had, problems to face.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

At any given time we have opportunities to learn, grow, change, and experience life.  There’s no shortage of things to do in this world—new hobbies to try, challenges to take on at work, steps to take to strengthen relationships.

It’s all available to us at any time.  They key to enjoying these undertakings is learning to completely stop in between.  Stop thinking. Stop analyzing.  Stop worrying.  Stop planning.  And simply do nothing for a while.

It’s one of the most difficult things to do in this world; it’s why fewer people meditate than buy little Zen fountains for their desks.  But stillness is far more rewarding than the gratification of making an impulse purchase, and the fleeting moment of joy you feel when rippling water offsets the sound of your typing.

You don’t need a complicated plan to spend 5, 10, or even 60 minutes doing nothing.  You just need commitment to that goal.

Find an uncluttered space where you won’t be distracted—preferably somewhere with minimal technology.  Write down everything on your mind, and then move that paper to a different room.  If it helps, put on some soothing music.  Be sure you haven’t eaten and drank anything recently so your body doesn’t put a snag in your plans.

And then work at being still and clear-headed, starting with just a few moments.  Inhale and exhale deeply, focusing solely on your breath. It may help to visualize your breath filling and draining from different parts of your body, starting with your feet and ending with your head.

If thoughts come into your head, simply notice them and let them go.

You will spend your whole life juggling different thoughts, jumping back and forth between true presence in the moment, and thought processes or feelings that pull you out.  Make a goal today to spend at least a few moments in the former state.  It will definitely change your day, and it just may change your life.

Do Happy.  It’s something you’re due.


P – Push your Potential


Push your Potential

What type of potential do you see for  yourself?  Do you look to the future and see all the possibilities for you, if you work at them.  Or do you just dream and then tell yourself it will never happen?  Can you remember being a small child and being asked what you wanted to be when you grew up?   What did you say? How did the person asking you react to

What did you want to be when you grew up?

your answer?  How did you feel when you went back to that small child with huge dreams.   Apparently when I was four years old when Dana won the Eurovision Song Contest and for the next year I wanted to be Dana – A Nurse.    It didn’t even enter my head that I couldn’t be Dana the singer, she already existed, but to my four-year-old mind anything was possible and I wanted the best of it for me.   I remember wanting to be a nurse right through primary school and into secondary school.  I only started to have second thoughts when we started dissecting things in biology class.  It became much less appealing.  Plus my mother’s elderly aunt came to live with us and I saw first hand how much hard work went into basic day-to-day nursing and I was already working part-time in a local grocery store and earning some money for myself in a much easier fashion.  I saw lots of other potential career paths for myself then, but nursing stopped being one of them.  Of course my well-wishing parents wanted me to get the good pensionable bank or civil service job if I didn’t go to university.  I did neither.

By the time I was finishing my first set of exams, I’d learnt that to be intelligent and/or hard-working or both got you landed in the geeky group that got teased unmercifully, and I didn’t want to belong there, so I started to cut corners and not do half as well as I could have in school, simply to belong with the “in crowd”.  Of course this never happened.

University or college didn't appeal to me after school

The exceptions to studying of course were the subjects that I was really interested in.  I was a shy,  awkward, self-conscious, deliberately under-achieving teenager, who looked a good five years younger than her actual age!  And I couldn’t decide on the direction I wanted to go in, career wise.  I did however see all the careers that I didn’t want to do and studied just enough to be able to avoid some of them.  I certainly didn’t see the potential opportunities that going to university would have had, all I saw was three to four years of further bullying and studying to be endured, the end goal of having a diploma or degree just didn’t come into it.  Having said that I’ve never seen a lack of a diploma or degree as a handicap, partially as college or university just wasn’t on my radar at the time.  I have gone back to night school and night college quite a few times since and some of the courses I’ve completed and others I have abandoned when I’ve realised that they were courses I’d let myself be persuaded to do, not because I had any desire to do them.

I’m a serious believer in Life-Long-Learning.  In fact my belief is “The day a person stops learning is the day they die” simply because all through life we learn new things, not all of it book-learning, but learning none-the-less.  And all of this learning opens up new opportunities for us to push our potential to new heights and do new things, or look at old things with fresh eyes and make adjustments to the way we have been approaching things.  It is only by pushing

Standing still means stagnation.

through the boundaries of what we limit ourselves with, that we move forward.  There are many people who are just happy to plod along with life and not make any significant changes to their development as a person.  They finish school, get a job, turn up each day, work, go home and put their feet up for the evening.  Day in day out and they don’t see any point in doing anything else with their lives.  For some that is enough, for quite a few that is no longer enough, either by choice or because the job they once did is no longer there and they need to either up-skill or completely retrain, or they become dis-satisfied with the life they are living and want more for themselves and their families.  These are the people who when they push just a little bit on their potential get the hint of a much brighter future for themselves because they dared to take that step and push.