Attitude 5 – Non-Striving

. . . My opinion is that you never find happiness until you stop looking for it. My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness: and this, in the minds of most people, is the worst possible course. I will hold to the saying that:”Perfect Joy is to be without joy. Perfect praise is to be without praise.”  ― Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu

This is the fifth of the seven attitudes that Jon-Kabat-Zinn believes are the basis for Mindfulness.

What is non-striving?

Definition: Trying less and being more.

  • Meditation has no goal other than for you to be yourself. The irony is you already are.
  • Paying attention to how you are right now – however, that it is. Just watch.
  • The best way to achieve your own goals is to back off from striving and instead start to really focus on carefully seeing and accepting things as they are, moment by moment. With patience and regular practice moving towards your goals will take place by itself.

Another aspect to living mindfully is practising without striving for any particular outcome. It is almost unnatural for us all to practice non-striving. We approach life with the idea of constantly trying to “fix things”; t strive to sort out problems. We may even approach our meditation practice with a goal of trying to fix a problem, and the harder we try to accomplish this, the less we experience what may be unfolding quite naturally. The notion of trying to get somewhere with your meditation has built into it the belief that there is something wrong with where we are right now. Instead, allow things to unfold naturally and try to stop the driving desire in you to get somewhere other than where you are right now, and see how it makes you feel. Then explore what it’s like to practice with no specific goal and see what happens. I have just sat and concentrated on my breath and have been amazed a the depth of peace that I can achieve.

Is there to be found on earth a fullness of joy of non-striving, or is there no such thing?


. . . What the world appears to value is money, reputation, long life, and achievement. What it apparently counts as joy is health and comfort of body, good food, fine clothes, beautiful things to look at, pleasant music to listen to, etc.

What society seems to condemn is a lack of money, a low social rank, a reputation for being no good, and for being different.

If people find that they are deprived of these things, they go into a panic or fall into despair. They are so concerned for their life that their anxiety makes life unbearable, even when they have the things they think they want. Their very concern for enjoyment makes them unhappy.

. . . I cannot tell if what the world considers “happiness” is happiness or not. All I know is that when I consider the way they go about attaining it, I see them carried away headlong, grim and obsessed, in the general onrush of the human herd, unable to stop themselves or to change their direction. All the while they claim to be just on the point of attaining happiness.

. . . My opinion is that you never find happiness until you stop striving for it. My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness: and this, in the minds of most people, is the worst possible course.

I will hold to the saying that:”Perfect Joy is to be without joy. Perfect praise is to be without praise. Perfect peace is without striving.”

Contentment and well-being become possible the moment you cease to act with them in view, and if you practice non-striving, you will have both happiness and well-being.

The video where Jon describes the Non-Striving attitude can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cl0DreXY4JI&index=6&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D
I leave you with the following quote.

“In mindfulness practice there is nothing to achieve, nothing to get, and nowhere to go. Instead, you are cultivating another way of being, learning how to be fully aware of exactly where and how you are in this very moment, even if the moment is painful or you don’t like it, because in this moment, this is your reality. A non-striving attitude can be especially valuable during childbirth. As you will see, allowing things to be exactly as they are during labor actually creates the optimal mind-body condition for your body to open, change, and give birth.”

Nancy Bardacke, Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond

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