Strive To Non-Strive

photoWarning: Today’s post is all about me.  According to the wise men of the world I have a problem. I need to go into rehab. I admit it. I STRIVE. Asking me to stop striving is like asking me to stop breathing. It is something I continually wrestle with. The picture you see here is on my dashboard.  It has been there for years.  I am continually ‘striving’ to work on all these areas, but when I get to the non-striving part I hit a brick wall. I have a feeling I have been like this all my life because I remember my Dad saying, “Penny, you need to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling once in a while.”

We are told that we need to continue to grow, change, achieve, better ourselves. Just Do It. Never Surrender. If it doesn’t kill you it will only make you stronger. So why do all the omniscient of the world say non-striving is one step closer to nirvana? Who are we to believe? Ghandi or Nike? Jon Kabat-Zinn or Rocky? I don’t even know how to ‘non-strive’. So I have devoted this post to finding out what non-striving is about, and how to strive to non-strive. Come along for the journey.

First off, when I try to embrace non-striving I can’t stop thinking that I am striving to non-strive, so therefore I am striving. Apparently, I need to change my approach to non-striving. As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, I need to let things be as they are.  To not try to get anywhere else. To not try to make anything happen.


This is going to be hard. I can see that non-striving takes trust, acceptance, non attachment, patience. All the things on my dashboard. Non-striving isn’t just one thing, it encompasses many aspects of mindfulness.  Moment by moment I need to strive to non-strive. Wait, there I go again. Deep breath now…just be. Remember whatever is already here is good enough. Is life about looking forward to the future, worrying about the past, or is life about being right where you are.


Maybe I should go away for a while so I can focus on non-striving. Take a vacation. Lie on the beach and be one with the waves. That will probably do about as much good as someone who wants to lose weight, goes to a fat farm for a month, then returns to all their bad habits and regains all the weight.  I sense I need to learn how to incorporate this non-striving thing in my daily life. To change my thoughts so when I am completing that long to-do list I am also practicing non-striving.

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Incorporating non-striving into my daily to-do list seems counterintuitive.  Don’t strive…just do?  This may be what Yoda meant when he said, “Do or do not, there is no try”.  Hmm, I thought I was supposed to be in a state of non-doing.  Not trying to get anywhere else. Not trying to to make things happen. Let things be as they are.

According to Kabat-Zinn non-striving is healing and restorative.  So should I throw away my to-do list?  If I do, will I give in to a life of sloth and gluttony?  If I sit down the world may pass me by!  According to the zen masters non-striving doesn’t mean I won’t get anything done, my biggest fear, it means I will do everything on my list with more being, more in the moment, more paying attention to life.  I will bring more to the situation and my response to things will be more appropriate to what is called for in the moment.

As Henry Miller so eloquently put it, “It isn’t about sitting back and doing nothing, but what we do should have meaning, and the greater part of every day has little meaning…don’t just live a life of senseless insect activity…live with genuine activity.”  So incorporate more meaning into each moment. I bet I’ll be happier and so will everyone around me.

I recently made the photo below with the stairs I use for my interval cardio training (love my PicLab app).  I usually attack the 125 stairs. I can’t wait to get done with the workout.  All I see is the finish line at the top. I realized, after contemplating non-striving, that it is about one step at a time and really being aware of each step. Feeling the hard surface of the concrete, noticing the way I lift my leg to approach the next step. Instead of ignoring the muscle burn, paying attention to it, plus the thoughts that surround the pain. Paying attention, moment by moment, step by step.




I may be on to something here. Don’t strive just do, or better yet, don’t strive just be. Slow down and enjoy the ride, stare at the ceiling once in a while. Instead of focusing on the finish line focus on the technique.  Kind of like swimming.  If you focus on the placement of the hand as it pulls you through the water, and the rotation of the body as you reach and relax, then your time and efficiency will improve, making the swim more enjoyable. Non-striving, like swimming, can’t be learned from a book or a video, it must be practiced.  I must practice swimming in the present moment of the ocean of life. I can tell this is going to be a process. Something I will need to come back to over and over to continue my rehab of striving to non-strive. 😉