Trying Not to Try

mind ball

Recently I have been “trying not to try.” I have to say that I don’t love holding opposing concepts in my mind. While I understand the idea intellectually, I have always functioned by choosing between opposites and living the chosen one. But my therapist assures me that choosing to live in the opposites creates the tension that allows broader decisions to be made.

A couple of weeks ago while in New Orleans I was reading about a book called Trying Not to Try, by Edward Slingerland. In the opening of the book, a game called “Mind Ball” is introduced: two participants are seated at opposite ends of a table with a ball between them. The point of the game is to get the ball to the opponent’s end of the table using only brain waves. To this end, electrodes which measure radiate alpha and theta waves (these indicate deep relaxation) are connected to the players’ heads. It is a paradoxical contest of effortful effortlessness, whereby the more relaxed the players can make themselves, the faster they are able to send the ball to their opponent’s side of the table.

After fighting my work process all winter, whereby I set up too many things to do without enough time to do them, the concept of “trying not to try”–of effortless effort–spoke to me. It gave me hope that it’s possible to achieve both relaxed concentration AND productivity–and that I might, as a result, find myself both industrious AND sane. Who would have guessed? Maybe the Voodoo Priestess I met in New Orleans, but that’s a story for another blog post.

 

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