Doing Less. It's Hard Work

When people ask me what I "do", I have difficulty answering the question.  What do I "do"?  The answer is somewhat unconventional. I teach people to do yoga and strengthen their bodies, find time to sing and move regularly for fun, collaborate creatively with friends, and spend time loving my people.  My schedule is much less busy and the work I do is less harmful to my system that other types of work I have performed.  But it's not easy work, it's hard work to go against the grain, and my natural tendencies to achieve, produce and perfect.  There is a lot of time spent "should-ing" all over myself. 


Society places a value on the time we spend beholden to our jobs, constantly pressuring us to work harder and do more, spending less time with our community and loved ones.  I do not agree that this construct is productive nor sustainable, and I feel that it behooves us, as teachers, healers and leaders to pave this road toward doing less. 


So, what does it look like to work hard at doing less?  Last Friday, my friends Kaci, Dana and I went to a yoga class in the morning and then soaked in a bath house for 2 hours, doing a hot-cold plunge and steam room.  Afterward, we sat and chatted about our dreams and plans, and told stories.  We talked about how this is our work - we teach people about the importance of slowing down, resting and reconnecting - so, we must practice this ourselves.  Talk the talk and walk the walk.  Don't get me wrong, the whole time I was there my mind was in the land of the "shoulds" - should I be doing more, producing something, earning some money?  This is where the work is hard: sitting with this internal critic and choosing to do what my soul knows is best, despite old stories and expectations.


Doing less also enables more time for reading, contemplation and meditation.  Neuroscience has begun to prove that our physical health has a direct relation to the health of our brain.  If we are constantly stimulated, the brain can get too "noisy" and "excited" so that our physical bodies are also overstimulated.  When we are overstimulated, our systems cannot heal and find homeostasis, which can lead to psychological and physical dis-ease.   According to neuroscientists, the antidote for this noisy brain is practicing slow movement and conscious awareness of moment-to-moment feelings and sensations. 


In yoga practice we have a pose called Savasana (sha-vah-sa-nah) or corpse pose: lying on the floor, playing dead, but remaining conscious to experience what it feels like to be in this place of stillness.  Our bodies are still alive, working, breathing, pumping blood, thinking, but we are taking a back-seat to the action.  Witnessing the busy-ness of our vital systems, without adding more stimulation.   Since I have been doing this practice, chronic aches and anxiety have lessened dramatically, without me having to "work" them out. 


My prayer is that each person reading this takes on this radical practice of self-love.  Once we remember to be with ourselves, to love all of the parts unconditionally, then we have a deeper capacity to love all people.  Trust me, there's a lot of room in our hearts if we make room for ourselves.


Here is your permission slip:  take 5-30 minutes everyday to lay on the floor, in stillness and silence.  Notice your breath and what it feels like in your body.  That's it.  As Jack Kornfield says, it's a simple practice, but not an easy one. 


Love Love Love to you all,



Jeanne Marie