Art of Effortless Living : Simple Techniques for Healing Mind, Body and Spirit
by Bacci, Ingrid, Ph.D.

Dr. John Upledger
Introduction: The Life We Are Meant to Live1(20)
Part I The Way of the Effortful Warrior: A Cultural Addiction
To Do or To Be
Doing: An Addiction to Effortful Living
The Addiction to Effortful Relationships
The Effortful Lifestyle: A Holographic Pattern
Part II The Way of the Effortless Warrior: Transcending Cultural Addiction
The Effortless Way
Effortlessness: Discovering Our Breath
Effortlessness: Feeling Our Physical Bodies
Feeling Our Emotional Bodies
Grieving Our Emotional Bodies
Part III The Power of a Higher Life: From Effortlessness to Self-Creation
Developing Our Higher Selves
Cultivating Passion
Creativity and Shifting Perspective
The Art of Personal Relationships
Becoming Ourselves
Audio Program Order Form241

Chapter One

To Do or To Be

Every culture seeks to provide answers to some of the fundamentalquestions we face in the course of a lifetime. How can webecome everything that we need to be? How do we tap into ourpotential and go in a direction that matches our deepest needs?These questions reflect another even more fundamental question:How do we master the art of living? There are only two basicanswers to this question. Each culture pledges primary allegianceto one of these answers. That answer then becomes the drivingforce behind individuals' choices and accomplishments. It definestheir value systems. It creates criteria for success and failure thatdetermine how society's members perceive and value themselves.It enters deep into the core of each person's being.

    The first answer to the question is that living well is a functionof what you do. It embodies a philosophy of doing. It says successat living is measured by what you accomplish externally. The secondanswer is that living well is a function of who you are. Itembodies a philosophy of being. It says success at living reflectsyour internal state, or how you experience yourself inside.

    When we define ourselves by what we do, our focus is onachieving concrete external goals. We also assume that by achievingthose goals we will find internal contentment. We think thatthe external activities that absorb our attention will create adesirable internal result. We become professionally successful, orgain the recognition of colleagues so that we can feel internalstates called happiness, confidence or self-esteem. We search for amate and create a family for the same reason: to feel internal satisfaction.We always assume that external accomplishment, ordoing, comes first. Our internal state, or how we feel, comes second,presumably as a consequence of what we do.

    The second answer to the question of right living is exactly theopposite. According to this philosophy of being, achieving a desirableinternal state comes first. When we define ourselves by whowe are instead of by what we do, our focus is on achieving innerqualities like serenity, strength, balance, passion or insight. Theinner reality is the most important thing. External success, whichis the primary focus of a philosophy of doing, comes second, presumablyas a result of achieving a desirable internal state.

The Cultural Commitment to Doing

    Our culture overwhelmingly embraces the first approach toright living and life mastery. We live in a culture based on doing.We have very few reference points for achieving internal fulfillmentor success at being. We are all willing to sing the praises ofpoise, passion or courage, but most of us spend relatively littletime thinking about what these terms mean, or about what wewould have to do to develop these qualities. Naturally, we hope toattain noble character traits as a result of our activities. But thatis not quite the same thing as devoting ourselves each day to usingthe events of the day to pursue inner growth. Instead, even whilewe are interested in inner growth, most of us still define our dayin terms of a "to do" list: getting the next deal closed, the obligatoryphone calls completed, the children fed and shipped off toschool, or the next meal arranged.

    Society also doesn't offer us many institutionalized opportunitiesfor pursuing inner goals. We have to look to our extracurricularvolunteer activities, recreation or religious life if we want todevote time to character cultivation. It's in our time off that we tryto find the inner qualities we long for. But the rest of the time, allthe time that is not leisure, gets focused mostly on achieving. Andso we have lots of criteria for making it in the arena of doing.Financial stability, recognition in the professional field of ourchoice, marriage, children, service to the community, social status,are all signposts for external success. We spend a great deal oftime working to meet these criteria, and to a large extent we measureour success as individuals by how effectively we have donethis.

    No one would deny that external goals can be extremely important.There is nothing wrong with doing things. After all, we dolive in a physical world and things do have to get done. And theWestern industrialized focus on external accomplishment hasuntil recently fostered unparalleled levels of abundance for atleast certain portions of the planet. But there is a problem. It isnot at all true that achieving external goals will guarantee internalsatisfaction. This may be what the philosophy of doing claims,but things don't work out that way. There is no guarantee that byaccomplishing the external goals we set for ourselves we willachieve internal fulfillment. In fact, nothing could be further fromthe truth. Over-focusing on external achievements can cause us toignore the deep personal changes and challenges we must confrontin order to feel we have lived life well.

    How many people do you know who are successful yet aregnawed by feelings of insecurity and failure? The road to externalsuccess is not necessarily the road to depth of character and self-realization.You can amass millions to assuage feelings of insecurityyet never resolve that inner sense of worthlessness. You canbecome an entertainment celebrity and the envy of all around you,a Marilyn Monroe or a John Belushi, and be so ridden by feelingsof despair that you take your own life. Storing up the externalsymbols of success just isn't the whole answer.

    Our culture is in crisis, and the crisis we are in is due in partto this terrible gap between external success and internal satisfaction.Carried to an extreme, the focus on external accomplishmentsand achievements produces the opposite of a satisfying life.We accumulate external proofs of our value at the cost of a deepinner sense of emptiness and what often amounts to despair overthe meaning of life. If we try to quench our inner emptiness byaccomplishing more, that inner emptiness only grows. As a guidingprinciple, the philosophy of doing is at best limited and atworst bankrupt. And there is something about our focus on achievingthat is distorted, that expresses a sickness of the soul. Why dowe think that we have to pile up achievements in order to be okay?The truth is that we would not feel that we had to prove ourselvesby what we did unless we already believed that we were unworthy.Yet if we are unworthy at our core, no amount of achievementwill solve our problem.

The Alternative of Being

    The only way we can find the pathway to satisfaction is by lesseningour obsessive grip on doing and focusing more on being. Butwhat does being involve? What would individuals who practicebeing be like? These people are all too rare, but I have met a few.They are balanced and at peace, yet also courageous, strong andnot afraid of taking risks. They blend authority with gentleness,patience with dynamism, the capacity for joy and laughter with anability to experience deep recesses of personal pain. They integratea passion for self-expression with the ability to listen intently,and are leaders who can also follow. They are their own person,uninfluenced by public opinion, yet also capable of deep partnershipand companionship. They are profoundly committed to inspiringcauses, and able to evoke that sense of commitment in others.They are mentally sharp, emotionally vibrant and vitally alive.They make every moment of life count and contribute in a big way,not because they need to pile up accomplishments but becausethey care deeply. They can give and receive love abundantly, andbe of genuine service from a spirit of self-giving rather than ofobligation. Their many strengths combine yin and yang, softnessand strength, independence and the capacity for loving interdependence.They are totally comfortable in their own skins.

    Spiritual writings extol the virtues of being. In the OldTestament, Job was great not for what he possessed but for hisability to endure with strength through all he lost. It was hisstruggle to achieve internal freedom and faith that gained himGod's grace and that eventually returned him to material prosperity.Job represents the spiritual principle that internal achievement,or focus on being, brings about external achievement andsuccess. The New Testament is also a teaching of being. It guidesus toward purifying ourselves of inner weaknesses like envy, greedand fear, and replacing them with the light of love. In a differenttradition, Buddhism teaches us not about achieving externally butrather about developing detachment in the face of life's restlessstriving, and committing ourselves to the inner quest for peace.The ancient masterpiece of China, the I Ching or Book of Changes,which became a source for the teachings of both Confucius andLao-Tse, teaches the way of inner balance in the midst of constantexternal change. Its oracles guide the sincere seeker into right livingthrough learning the personal security, tranquillity and powerthat come from aligning oneself with the forces of life and the realityof the Tao.

    The philosophy of being is about self-transformation. The consequencesof our culture's total failure to value self-transformationare deadly. A pessimism about human potential pervadesWestern society. This pessimism tells us that we cannot amount tomuch, that we must lower our sights, and that great feats are notfor the common man or woman.

    A lack of faith in the human spirit underlies our obsession withkeeping busy. We learn to over-focus on details and avoid responsibilityfor the big picture. We learn how to do more but we don'tnecessarily learn how to become bigger and better people, to conquerthe anxieties that drive us, or to set our sights on high ideals.Our lack of faith in ourselves limits our ability to challenge ourselves.We admire greatness of character in others, yet oftenassume that we cannot develop this greatness within ourselves.Almost nothing around us tells us what the pathwork of self-transformationand empowerment looks like or how we canembrace it.

    Cultural voices counsel defeat rather than challenge us togrow. These crippling voices even masquerade as scientific fact.Here's a typical so-called objective scientific argument: We areborn with unalterable genetic traits. Therefore, our personalitiesare largely under the control of our biochemistry. And if biochemistryrules us, how can we change ourselves for the better? Howcan we change our internal states? How can we conquer anxiety,depression or fear if these are biologically determined? In fact,since biochemistry is our master, then when anxiety or depressionhails our way, shouldn't we take a drug to control it rather thanfind out how to transform it from within? According to this view,we are victims of our biochemistry, and the best we can do is tomanage our states with the use of external agents.

    Our nation is not only the biggest consumer of illicit drugs inthe world, it is also the biggest consumer of prescription drugs. Werationalize this fact by saying that our brain synapses rule ourlives, and so all we can do is biochemically influence those synapses.The problem with arguments like these is that they use so-calledscience to limit us instead of helping us to grow. They arealso misleading. It is a fact that biochemistry affects our mentaland emotional states. But it is just as much a fact that our mental,emotional and spiritual states influence our biochemistry. Ourbeliefs can create health or disease, self-doubt or self-confidence.There's no doubt that our beliefs have power. When we embraceself-limiting, fearful beliefs and ground them in cultural superstitionsthat we call science, we use our mental capacities for outrightself-destruction.

    Each of us has the power to use our own mind to transform ourinternal states and create a life that is physically healthy as wellas emotionally and mentally rewarding. But we can't create thislife for ourselves unless we place our priorities where they belong:with being rather than with doing. That's the responsibility weface. And it's not a question of sacrificing one thing for another.Focusing on being will take us where we actually want to go whenwe focus on doing, because both the philosophy of doing and thephilosophy of being are aiming at the same goal: inner satisfaction.But people who focus on becoming happy by achieving externalgoals are going about their lives in a confused way. They'reputting the cart before the horse. They think that they can getaway with focusing on their achievements first and deal withthemselves afterwards, when what they really should do is theopposite. This confusion over what comes first is the problem. Itmakes for a lot of poor choices in life.

The Key to Happiness

    Long ago, the Buddha recognized the confusion in the wayhuman beings pursue happiness. He observed that a restless strivingafter goals is part of human nature. People are constantlyseeking to get something or to do something, operating with thenotion that what they get or what they do will give them satisfaction.At the same time, what they are really looking for is somethingthey can achieve only by ceasing their striving, by ceasing tothink in terms of what they can get and do.

    The Buddha identified a paradox. In all the frenzy of our activity,no matter what we are trying to do or where we are trying togo, what we are actually seeking is not an external achievementbut an internal feeling. It is our internal state that we are tryingto manage, and not something else. We believe that by achievingsomething—finding the right mate, getting the perfect job, etc.—wewill attain the internal state of satisfaction that gives us a feelingof meaningfulness. We look to the outside, but we are lookingthere to heal the inside. External goals simply become a means forproducing internal results. After all, it is our internal state that welive with moment by moment and day after day. It is the only thingthat never leaves us. It is us.

    In the end, everything we do is motivated by the desire toachieve an internal state that makes us feel better. What differentiatesus one from the other is not whether or not we are seekinginternal fulfillment, because all of us are doing that. What,makes us different from each other is how we go about seeking tocreate that inner well-being, what kind of results we actuallyachieve, and whether we learn from the results.

    The drug addict takes drugs to change his internal state, to getrid of pain, anger or anxiety and feel more pleasure, more freedom,more joy. Like everyone else, he wants to find happiness andrelease from pain. But he has a fairly low criterion of success andis prevented from learning and growing. The addict is also dependenton something external for changing his internal state. Theexternal thing that changes his state—the drug—produces short-termsatisfaction and leads to long-term disaster. The more herelies on the drug for feeling good, the more the rest of his life fallsapart. He gets symptomatic relief from a cancerous problem he'sfeeding. His approach to managing how he feels is short-sighted,creates a more and more unmanageable life, and doesn't meet hisreal needs—needs that have more to do with feeling safe in theuniverse than with feeling high.

    Imagine the opposite extreme from the drug addict: theTibetan yogi who wraps his naked body in a dripping wet sheetand sits in sub-zero temperatures on a Himalayan mountain topthroughout the night. He practices a fairly intense inner disciplineby training himself to heat his body with his mind, drying the wetsheet that envelops him. He's remarkably adept at maintaining acomfortable body temperature in an uncomfortable world. There'sa similarity between the Tibetan yogi and the drug addict. Both ofthem are working on getting control of how they feel on the inside.But the yogi is doing it in a way that's very different from the drugaddict. Instead of looking for something outside him to warm himup on the inside, the yogi trains his mind to raise his body temperatureso that the outside world doesn't bother him. He is usingan adverse external circumstance as a tool for developing an internalskill. Instead of changing from the outside, he changes fromthe inside. Instead of trying to get something outside himself tosatisfy him, he satisfies himself by changing his normal responsepattern to the outside. And if he keeps it up, he'll even influencehis environment by melting the snow he's sitting on.

    We may not all want to develop the ability to dry wet sheets inArctic conditions. But there is a lesson in the yogi's approach. Theability to maintain control of our internal states in the face of difficultcircumstances, instead of being tossed to and fro by thewinds of the moment, is basic to leading a fulfilling life. Andthere's more. Inner balance is a key ingredient for meaningfulexternal achievement. People with inner balance train their mindsto be powerful allies in the pursuit of their goals, instead of weakcompanions or even foes.

    When we focus on being instead of doing, we explore andstrengthen the power of our minds. The mind is the greatestresource we have. Because our culture asks us to focus excessivelyon doing, it neglects the cultivation of our greatest resource, theinternal faculties of our minds. What's more, when we over-focuson doing, we actually end up achieving far less in the outsideworld than if we focused on being. That's the real rub: if you gowith doing you lose on all fronts. You're less happy and youachieve less. But if you go with being, you find that by working onyour internal state you're not only happier, you also achieve farmore than you would have imagined possible. Focusing on doing isself-destructive and inefficient. It undermines our peace andmakes our life stressful. It encourages self-hatred, fear andshame. It is totally ineffective, crippling and painful. We are sufferingfrom a cultural disease that is making us sicker than weknow.

    It's impossible to live in today's world and not be affected bythis disease. We need to understand the enemy we live with fullybefore we can free ourselves. The next three chapters explore howliving a life that overfocuses on doing and on external successweakens every aspect of our lives, from our health to our emotionallife, our relationships and our creative potential. I call the lifepath of doing the way of the effortful warrior, because over-focusingon doing eats up our lives. Let's look at how we commit ourselvesto an effortful lifestyle that then destroys us.

Copyright © 2000 Ingrid Bacci. All rights reserved.
ISBN: 0-9678507-1-1

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