Self esteem

Practice Not Doing, And Do More

Want to know what drains your energy more than anything else?…

It’s thinking.  Believe it or not, your brain uses lots of energy when you’re thinking.  I don’t mean the kind of thinking you do when you are focused on what you are doing, and thinking about the best way to go about it.  Of course that takes mental energy, but I’m talking about the endless internal dialogue that’s always running in the back of your mind as you go about your day.

It’s the thinking you do while you’re doing everything else on “auto pilot’.  Ever drive home from the grocery store, but don’t remember any of the driving?  Unfortunately we do that all the time, and it’s how lots of accidents happen.

You’re driving home from work or wherever, and you’re thinking about what your mother said last week, or about what you are going to say to so and so next week.  The mind gets lost in it’s endless internal dialogue, and much of life goes by without you ever seeing it.  Everything is always the same, never new, and interesting.  You eat dinner, watch the same old TV shoes, go to bed at the same time each night, endlessly repeating the same old routines.  Always tired.

Want to know how to have a lot more energy?…

Focus your mind only upon the task at hand — what you are doing.  Don’t think about things that have nothing to do with the moment.

Many people think that they have to always be thinking about things or their whole world will crumble.  It won’t.  All of that useless thinking, only sucks your energy.  If you’re worried about forgetting important things, make lists.  When you are focused on something, and a thought about some important event, that you need to remember crosses your mind, write it down. Then pay attention to what you’re doing.

It’s not easy.  When you’ve developed a habit of indulging in an endless internal dialogue, your mind keeps wanting to slip back into it.  There’s a simple way to stop it…

Break Routines

Routines support the internal dialogue.  Doing things on “auto pilot” allows you to go around talking to yourself — which is really what you are doing.  It’s not much different from the guys sitting around on park benches talking to people who aren’t there.  The only difference is that no one can hear you doing it.  Thank God for that!

The ancient Toltecs developed a practice they called, “not doing”.  Not doing is the perfect thing to silence your internal dialogue.  Before I tell you how to do it, let’s look at some of the benefits?…

  • Life will seem interesting and new again.
  • You’ll have increased perception since you won’t be lost somewhere in your mind.
  • You will become much more efficient since you will actually be paying attention to what you are doing.  The quality of your work will improve.
  • You won’t forget things as easily, since you will be writing them down instead of just thinking about them.
  • Others will perceive you as having more presence.
  • You’ll have more time to do things you enjoy, and more energy to do it with.
  • As a result of all these accomplishments, your self esteem will soar.

Not doing is simply not doing things the same way you have always done them.  It forces you to pay attention.  For example…

Examine your life, and look for routines, then find other things you can do to replace them, or simply do them differently.  Do you always watch TV after dinner?  Read a good novel instead.  Do you always eat breakfast before you take a shower in the morning?  Swap them around, and remember to pay attention to the showering and eating.  Don’t get lost in your mind.  You’ll save on hot water too!

Do you tend to eat the same things?  Try something new.  Make healthier choices.

Instead of Facebooking, go for a walk, or do some yoga.  Look carefully for all the ways in which you can practice not doing.  Or, as the Toltec’s say, “stalk yourself”.  Stalk yourself like a jaguar stalking it’s pray.  Pay attention to what you are doing.


Sky Abelar is a Reiki Master Teacher, and the creator of the Self Esteem Guru website. If you are interested in learning other self esteem activities and exercises similar to “not doing”, be sure to check out her site.


21 Responses to Practice Not Doing, And Do More

  1. Emily Hunter says:

    Mindfulness about activities is deceptively easy to talk about, yet so difficult to follow through with.  There are the pressures of everyday life which say that we should do everything at once… and then there’s the reality of what WORKS which says that we should practice not doing.  If only brains were logical. :) 

  2. Khandee says:

    I agree, that increasing your focus on the present moment is rewarding but very difficult to do. In the beginning I think the best thing to do, is to simply become aware when you are not focussed on the present (i.e. when your mind is caught in the past or thinking about the future)

  3. Yes, this is good advice – break routine to stay in the moment.  Unfortunately, we’re “wired” to create routines because they (seem to) take less energy.  Maybe thinking is like the immune system: if we don’t give it something juicy to focus on – like the present moment – it makes mischief.  Good article, thanks.

  4. Sky Abelar says:

     Exactly Emily, and that is why I recommended breaking routines as a way of forcing the mind to pay attention.  It’s when we keep on repeating the same things in the same way that the brain is free to do everything on autopilot, and not pay attention.  Here is one of my favorite quotes….

    “”The internal dialogue is what grounds people in the daily world. The world is such and such or so and so, only because we talk to ourselves about its being such and such and so and so.We also choose our paths as we talk to ourselves. Thus we repeat
    the same choices over and over until the day we die, because we  keep on
    repeating the same internal talk over and over until the day we die. A
    warrior is aware of this and strives to stop his internal talk.” Carlos Castaneda

  5. Sky Abelar says:

     I see it as similar to flying a  plane.  You might have to power up and work your way through some heavy clouds, wind, and rain, but eventually you will pop out into the clear blue above it.   Then you can relax because you can clearly see where you came from, and you can see how to avoid going back into it. 

  6. Rayne Tsering says:

    I love all things Toltec.  Stalk yourself, like a jaguar stalking it’s prey.  When you see a routine, pounce!!

  7. Emily Hunter says:

    I love that quote! :) I’m going to have to borrow it and pin it somewhere fun. 

  8. Markkiefaber says:

    Isn’t this what Zen is all about?

  9. Justin Mazza says:

    I came up with the same conclusion about thinking. You can literally feel each thought sucking the life out of your body. I am not suggesting that we become mindless bots but to quiet the incessant internal chatter.

  10. James says:

    Society is stuck in a routine frame of mind. I agree people need to break these routines and open up their thoughts to new experiences. I often find a accomplish much more when I focus on one task, forgetting all the others I have to complete for the day. Once one is completed I move onto the next. People need to break the cycle of using to much energy by constantly overloading their mind with all sorts of junk. 

    But anyway great post!

  11. michael says:

    small typo. 4th paragraph. “same old TV shows.”

  12. michael says:

    small typo. 4th paragraph. “same old TV shows.”

  13. michael says:

    small typo. 4th paragraph. “same old TV shows.”

  14. Montez Gina says:

    Loved this article,specially since i am actually following this theory for the past half month!!Due to a drastic change of routine brought about by a camp i was to be in,i simply learned to live in the moment instead of useless wishful thinking which had stagnated my mind and lowered my energy level.

    Now,as i am back home i am better able to concentrate on everything-be it studies(my weaker point :p) or even everyday things.And not to mention,i am not as forgetful as i was earlier.The only challenge i am facing is to keep this thing going as i am tempted to go back into the ‘thinking phase’ over the weekends.Hope i cope with it by reading this article whenever i weaken that way.   

  15. Pingback: Mindfulness, Not Doing, and Money | Million Ways to Save

  16. Sky Abelar says:

    Hi Montez,

    Glad to hear the article helped you! Another way to keep you from falling back into routines is to take this to another level. Try substituting some of the things that you do often with other activities you may have never tried.

    For example, lets say you are someone who likes to spend their weekends reading a book. Try going to a football game instead, even if you don’t like football. This might sound like a strange suggestion, but it works wonders for shattering set in stone routines.

  17. The endless internal dialogue is the voice of our fear. I am inclined to think that the internal dialogue is not a problem. The problem is fear. Fear generates the internal dialogue or at least most of it. I like to see it as fear of the unknown. We are unknown to ourselves. Who are we really? This simple question scares us. As a solution we define ourselves. We are Chinese, we are Hindu, we are rich, we are poor, we are smart, we are dumb, we are managers, we are teachers, we are depressed, and so on. Those definitions give us a feeling of certitude. The illusion of knowing. The power of domination on ourselves. This makes us slaves of ourselves and fear is not solved. It can’t be solved because we know deep down that we are obsessively trying to define what can’t be defined. We are ever-changing creatures of unlimited potential. You can’t define what is changing. What can you instead? You can love it.

    Emanuele Santanche – 
    Freedom and courage

  18. I just did a search for “practice not doing,”  because I’ve been reading Wayne Dyer’s book, “Change Your Thoughts; Change Your Life,” which is translations and essays based on the Tao Te Ching.  That’s what the 3rd verse of the Tao that I just read last night was all about.  Interesting that it’s a Toltec practice as well.

  19. I just did a search for “practice not doing,”  because I’ve been reading Wayne Dyer’s book, “Change Your Thoughts; Change Your Life,” which is translations and essays based on the Tao Te Ching.  That’s what the 3rd verse of the Tao that I just read last night was all about.  Interesting that it’s a Toltec practice as well.

  20. I just did a search for “practice not doing,”  because I’ve been reading Wayne Dyer’s book, “Change Your Thoughts; Change Your Life,” which is translations and essays based on the Tao Te Ching.  That’s what the 3rd verse of the Tao that I just read last night was all about.  Interesting that it’s a Toltec practice as well.

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