Jessie Aysa Kanzer is author of the forthcoming book Don’t Just Sit There, DO NOTHING: Healing, Chilling, and Living with the Tao Te Ching. A perfectionist and straight-A student who immigrated from the Soviet Union, Jessie understands stress. She didn’t deal well with it at first, developing an eating disorder and depression when life overwhelmed her. She pushed through, throwing herself into news reporting, then into acting. But as her goals and opportunities grew, so did her anxiety.
That was until she stopped everything. She stood still long enough to understand what was going on inside her and to find ways to heal and to cope. In her book, Jessie shares all she’s learned from following the sacred, ancient philosophy of the Tao Te Ching. She says, “No matter how busy you are, take the time to go within,” adding, “the busier you get, the more important this is.”
If you find yourself being frantic and frazzled, here are a few suggestions from Kanzer on how to do less so you can get more done.
Schedule Unscheduled Time
“When there is silence, one finds the anchor of the Universe within himself,” the Tao Te Ching tells us. In other words, when you silence all the noise—and the omnipresent external messaging of our age of technology—you connect to the power of the Universe (or to your Higher Self, or, simply, your Inner Guidance—call it what you will). This enables you to communicate, act, and live more effectively. Now, doesn’t that sound like something worth making time for?
“If you find you’re running around day after day or are glued to your computer with barely a chance to eat, schedule some breaks,” suggests Kanzer. “Seriously—drop them on the calendar with a big bold “DO NOTHING.” This can be a five-, ten-, maybe fifteen-minute reprieve you take to reconnect with yourself, preferably multiple times throughout the day. You can call it meditation or just a practice in beingness; you can keep your eyes open or close them; you can laugh or you can cry… there are no rules.”
“Even if all you’ve got time for is a deep inhale and a slow exhale, that’s a very potent moment,” says Kanzer. “We can get so caught up in our human turmoil and busyness, we forget to breathe deeply, and it feels delicious when we do (try it right now!). It also provides an instant calm for our nervous system, helping us destress. Given that stress greatly weakens our immunity, this is more important than ever.”
Place your hand on your heart, inhale, pause, exhale—simple. Or give box breathing a try; it’s such an easy, yet powerful tool: inhale for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, exhale for four counts, hold at the bottom for four counts.
Taking the time to do a little breath work during your work day, won’t slow you down – it’ll keep you energized to tackle your to-do list.
Look to Nature
Nature is the perfect setting to bring us back to ourselves because it’s where we come from. “Be like the forces of nature,” says the Tao, “when the gale blows, there is only wind, when a downpour comes, there is only rain.” Go with flow, it’s telling us, release the reigns for a bit.
“Get out into nature, go for a hike or a short walk when you can,” suggests Kanzer. “And when the weather or your schedule doesn’t allow for this, or if you simply don’t feel like it, connect with the elements outside your window. Anyone can look up at the sky for a moment and take in its spaciousness; we can all pause to watch a tree branch or a shrub or a leaf move with the wind. This pause reminds us that a natural ebb and flow is available to us.”
Revisit Your Senses
When we are busy, busy, busy, we’re usually the opposite of grounded—as in, we don’t even feel our feet on the ground, we are not fully inhabiting our own bodies. This occurs when our mind is racing, running away somewhere to a future event or a to-do list, frantically working but not being here, in the now. Connecting to your physical senses is a great way to bring yourself back.
“Listen to the melody of a beautiful song—really listen—or to the birds chirping outside; focus in on the sound and become present with it. Feel the surface beneath your feet. Feel your arms, your legs, your torso, the temperature of your skin, the air in your nostrils, the taste in your mouth. Be here now,” adds Kanzer.
Often, staying relentlessly busy is our subconscious way of not feeling our own emotions. How many of us walk (or run) around with buried trauma and hurt and with all those shadow aspects of ourselves we haven’t addressed. But here’s the thing: it’s the running that holds us back from living our best lives, not the actual ” bad” stuff. We’ve all got darkness within us—it needs to be let out in a safe environment so we can finally stop carrying it.
“Your ‘do nothing’ time can be used for feeling—for letting yourself actually feel all the stuff you’ve been burying for eons,” explains Kanzer. “Take the time to cry, to scream, or just to sit with your emotions. Journal without censoring yourself—see what comes up. Instead of doing, use being to move through the harder realities of existence.”
Beyond all our doing, wanting, resisting, and controlling, lies stillness, and in that stillness is power.