From the authors of award-winning book Not Knowing, we learn about the idea of “Not Doing” from Steven D’Souza and Diana Renner’s follow-up book:
“And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent Earth: I ow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29’, In Praise of Mortality
We live in a world that has been described as liquid modernity by sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. He argues that, “These days patterns and configurations are no longer ‘given’, let alone ‘self- evident’; there are just too many of them, clashing with one another and contradicting one another’s commandments.” Coping with the complexity and uncertainty in the modern world is challenging. Like explorers roaming the sea in ancient times, in search of new lands and treasures, we face treacherous currents. The realities of our workplaces are fluid, dynamic, and ever-changing. Rivers and oceans are the lifeblood of the planet, but they can also overwhelm, over ow, and cause serious damage. Sometimes we are battered by the ocean waves, other times we are being swept away by a raging river, wild and unpredictable.
We might feel:
That despite our best efforts, we are making no progress in our work
Tempted to find a quick fix or jump into action
A need to control, imposing our own agenda
A sense of pressure or urgency to act fast
Overwhelmed by strong feelings, like anxiety or anger
Engaged in mindless action
That time speeds up or runs out
An avoidance of reality
Exhausted and burnt out
A lack of joy and fulfilment.
These are symptoms of a kind of doing that is not tuned in and working with the dynamics and energies of the system of which we are a part. When we ignore the current and struggle, push, resist, or try to control, this can lead to exhaustion and the destruction of our health and wellbeing, as well as inferior outcomes in all aspects of our lives.
When the waves have battered us, and left us exhausted, when the pull of the current is so strong that we have lost our way, when we feel that simply staying afloat requires too much effort, it is seductive to want to cling to the certainty of the shore. However, the safety of solid ground is an illusion. We cannot control or avoid the water’s constant ow and dynamism.
We need to release our hold on the shore and achieve harmony with the natural energy of the world around us. To learn and grow, we have to surrender to the currents in the ocean, the ow of the river, the movement of the tide, tapping into their energy, following their lead. We call this Not Doing.
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