Could Doing Less = Doing More?

Young woman sitting cross-legged & meditating on grass on headland overlooking Sydney & Pacific Ocean

Image: Niko dimo , Flickr CC-BY-2.0

When we think about becoming more sustainable, we often focus on what we should do.

How often do we think that being more sustainable means that we should:

  • Do things differently at home, at work and at leisure?
  • Get our family and friends to change how they do things too?
  • Pressure our political and business leaders to change the systems that are destroying our world as we know it?

We think that there is so much to do:

  • So many changes to make to our homes
  • So many changes to make to how we go about our lives – how we travel, how we get our food, how we take holidays…
  • So many emails and social media posts to respond to, petitions to sign, letters to write, phone calls to make, meetings to go to or organise…

The list goes on…and on.

It all takes so much TIME and ENERGY.

We may ask ourselves, ‘Why does it have to be so hard? (Isn’t that why we invented all this stuff – to make our lives easier?) What do I do first?’

It can get overwhelming.

A different way?

What if there was an easier way, a way where you could know what you should be doing – and have the energy to do it?

A short time ago, I spent some time with a group of people who think they may have the answer.

It involves evoking an ancient wisdom that spans cultures and continents.

And it involves a paradox and doing something counter to our current dominant culture (of course!).

Across the ages and in different parts of the world, people have learned the rewards that come from doing nothing.  And I mean literally doing nothing: being still in mind and body.

Age-old wisdom and modern science teaches the benefits of stopping and being still – meditation, contemplative consciousness, call it what you will.

Apart from the well-documented benefits, just being helps connect us to the physical world.

Separation anxiety?

These days, we spend so much time and energy ‘in our head’, thinking, planning, juggling the myriad things that we need and want to do, to attain and to obtain.

Yet, in being increasingly busy and ambitious, and wanting everything immediately, we fail to recognise that that is one of the causes of our unsustainable lifestyles:

  • Our rushing from place to place, our wanting things delivered to our home/workplace/shops, requires fast and powerful transport…and that transport is almost always involves us (or our goods) being enclosed in boxes on wheels driven by motors powered by fossil fuels, those same fossil fuels that are a major cause of global warming, air pollution, local devastation, and our climate emergency.
  • Our wanting more and more ‘stuff’, bigger and more luxurious boxes that we call homes (filled with more stuff), more distant and lavish treats and holidays uses up more and more resources and energy…and it all adds further strain to our precious world that is already showing that it is failing to cope with our exploitation of it.

Very importantly, the time we spend in our busy heads and boxes separates us from our bodies and the real world, the natural physical world of which we are a part and on which we depend.

We’re human beings

Being still gives us time to just be, to ‘be’ in our bodies, to ‘be’ in the world.

Being still, meditating or observing (being mindful), helps us connect to our own internal and external worlds, both physical and spiritual.

We are, after all, human beings – not consumers.

By being human beings, by connecting with our physical and spiritual selves and our support systems, we are more likely to observe and feel their changes and to integrate with and look after them. (This is even more so if we take time to be still in a place in nature.)

By spending time being still – and especially if we are meditating (which may appear to be the ultimate in aloneness) – we can also end up being more connected to each other as well. (Perhaps that’s one reason why being still or meditating is actually easier when we do it with other people.)

Emptying our minds of all the chatter also, paradoxically, allows our inner wisdom to surface and come to mind.

It all takes practise.

Yet it is the very practise of being still and emptying our minds that is so important and leads to its rewards – like the wisdom to know what you should be doing to live and work more sustainably and the energy to do it.

So let’s join millions of other people around the world – people of many faiths and none – in spending time being still…so that we can have the wisdom and energy for change.