I’ve never made New Year’s resolutions. They can end in feelings of guilt and drudgery. Sometimes they lead to consuming more, like buying exercise equipment—when getting outdoors for regular walks might have a more lasting effect.
I propose a different strategy for next year: Be less ambitious and, in Carlos Castaneda lingo, practice “not-doing.” This will shrink our impact on the resources and ecosystems that make it possible for us to survive.
By zooming in on what we need instead of what we want, we can find ourselves with more time, more money and less garbage. Transcend the idea of recycling and pre-cycle—don’t buy over-packaged products in the first place. I’m going to try to make it an entire year without using a single throwaway cup.
Disconnect from the Computer, Cellphone and Television
I get my daily news fix from a reliable source like EcoHearth. Then, once my work-related activities are done, I disconnect from electronic devices. Sprawling out on a yoga mat in Shavasana, the corpse pose, recharges the spirit and is a perfect example of not-doing.
Whether you live in a crowded city or close to wide-open nature, become engrossed daily in the elements. Getting exercise in the gym or on a Nordic Track might be good for the heart and lungs, but it keeps the mind and body walled in. Outside, there’s a more convivial community, from birds and insects to soil and plants, always there to remind us humans that we’re not the only creatures that count.
Talk to Strangers Regularly
Sometimes I catch myself being a snob, as though perpetually traveling in a crowded subway, ignoring everyone around me. As our environmental challenges become more pressing and resources are further depleted, a good survival strategy is to build relationships. Whether speaking to animals, plants or someone standing in line at the grocery store, breaking the ice goes a long way toward feeling more connected to our universe. Don’t wait for a disaster to lend a hand; be an activist or strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger. This is an example of not-doing for yourself and doing for the wider world.
Grow Some Food
Whether sprouting microgreens in a jar on the counter, growing salad in a container on the balcony or launching a four-season garden complete with greenhouse, we can wean ourselves, even if just a little, from our dependence on large commercial food networks. This generates inspiration from watching life spring into action while providing nourishment from vital plants. And it sets off reciprocity with life forms other than our own.
Embrace the Darkness
It’s counterintuitive, but negative events and feelings are part of the natural balance of life and can be catalysts for positive behavior. Part of living mindfully is accepting, rather than doing. Try not to worry about things you have no control over because they are not yet a reality or already behind you. But also avoid indifference or passivity when a present situation needs your attention. I like to remind myself of the ancient Persian proverb: “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”
Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda
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