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  • Matt

After the list is done

Have you ever wondered what it’s like when there’s nothing left on the list? No laundry to do, no groceries to order. No movie to see, no friend to hang out with. No degree to get, no report to write, no trip to take, no podcast to take in.

(Don’t worry, you can get back to all that in a minute.)

But for now…just pretend there’s *nothing* on the list. And very literally ask yourself: what is the inner feeling you hope to experience when everything is done?

What internal state do you want?

It doesn’t count if you say, “I want to get my list done so then I can do something fun.” That’s still wanting to “do.” What I’m talking about is, what inner feeling are you hoping to create for yourself by “doing” at all? What is the experience you’re chasing after?

Is it relief? Pleasure? Calm? Joy? Safety? Is there a vocabulary for it?

A more direct route

The reason I ask is…what if there’s a more direct route to that experience? What if we don’t have to do all that stuff to achieve the inner state we want?

I’m not advocating that everyone does nothing. Doing is good and useful. What I’m advocating is that we learn to experience peace, safety, pleasure, calm--whatever it is we’re looking for--even when things aren’t done.

You won't turn into bread

I can hear the objections: well, why would we do anything at all, then? We’d just sit there like loaves of bread! There’s no incentive! No reason to get out of bed!

But I think there IS a reason. Something beyond the drive of “shoulda-coulda-woulda.” It’s a purer source of action, one that doesn’t require fear of feeling disappointed, unaccomplished, stressed out, bored…or being boring!

Instead, the action flows from alternate sources that are simple and clear, like curiosity, courage, and a desire to connect.

Can you imagine living that way?

To me, this is what a mindfulness practice is all about. It’s not about following the breath, sitting in the lotus position, or otherwise getting our Zen on. It’s connecting with our basic aliveness, listening to it, and letting it nourish us. It’s realizing we can calm the inner commandos urging us to do, do, do. It’s relying on a more effortless source of motivation that allows us to “do” as our best self.

What an act of trust! The person to be trusted is…yourself.

It’s a huge relief.

I wish I could say I live from this place all the time. Truth be told, I struggle with how I relate to doing tasks, especially during stressful circumstances. But the shift has been remarkable compared to before. With regular practice, I see that I’m gradually turning a temporary state of relief into an enduring trait.

Is it time for a healthier way of “doing” your life? As a mindfulness-based coach, I help clients create new relationships with their habitual ways of thinking and doing. Let’s chat to see whether I’m a good fit to be your coach.


Meanwhile, I express eternal gratitude to Loch Kelly for bringing “effortless mindfulness” practices to the West and Steven Boman, whose integration of effortless mindfulness and other human development tools have transformed my life and work.

Thank you.


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