Book Review: The Art of Effortless Living

The Art of Effortless Living by Ingrid Bacci, PhD

Live your life with ease, peace and creativity without stress, struggle and effort. Yes, this can be done by anyone who is willing to look within themselves to recognize their stressful habits, such as physically tensing up during difficult situations, and replacing these automatic negative responses with effective techniques that produce positive and calming results. We live in a culture that promotes fear, excessive striving and being accepted by others. It is no wonder that our physical body and emotional mind become limited and ill under these conditions, when we do things that are not in alignment with our true selves.

I finally see how the thoughts we create and the things we do day-after-day and year-after-year become habits. Through repetitive thoughts and actions, we have programmed ourselves to think, feel and act in certain preset ways. Just look at all the different cultures that have been created all over the world in each country. Individuals in America will program themselves differently than individuals from a far away country like China or Egypt. Different governments, laws, school systems, family structure and ideals are some examples of how the environment we live in determines to a large extent how these cultural differences will equate to different lifestyles, thoughts and beliefs. And of course, even individuals within the same country will create their own view of the world, which is different than others in their own community. So if we were able to create these negative habits, it is logical that we do have the ability to reprogram ourselves through the implementation of new, healthy habits. However, there is no quick fix. This is a gradual process to untangle the various negative habits that have been with us for many years, some of them with us our entire lives. Yet, it also makes sense that the longer it takes to change, means that we are practicing these new processes for a longer period of time, which offers a greater chance that these new processes will stick.

It is empowering to gain the realization that we each have control over how we communicate with ourselves inside our mind and body regardless of the many external forces that try to shape us for better or worse. I see how my desire to please authority figures throughout the course of my life is partially responsible for my anxious responses to their requests. I perfected an ability to communicate with myself in a self-deprecating way, thinking that this method would motivate me to achieve perfection and accolades such that I avoid mistakes and thus, do not get punished. Of course, attempts for perfection rarely lead to perfection. This perfection attitude is really a focus on the end result, the need to produce a great final product. During this state, the focus is not on the present moment but rather the end result. Too much thinking, worrying and desire to be perfect has severe limitations that distract an individual from achieving at their peak performance and to their full potential.

To rid ourselves of these negative internal emotions, thoughts and actions, the most important and “only” thing necessary, according to the author, is to pay attention to our inner self. Gain the ability to assess how we truly feel during all sorts of situations. For example, we may recognize that our shoulders tense up during difficult interactions with others or when we type at the computer. If we focus some of our attention inward into our body during these outward experiences, with practice, we will be able to identify the physical tension and the emotional trigger or physically inappropriate posture that led to it. Then we can implement various practices, such as breathing exercises, meditation, visualization, and even the Alexander Technique to alter our response to life situations from a negative effect to one that benefits us.

Another cause of anxiety over my lifetime has been the desire to help other individuals with their issues without tending to my own needs. The author recommends “letting go of the caretaking, guilt and neediness that often characterize relationships, and that indicate an addiction to fear.” Perhaps my fear was that if I did not help others all the time on their timetable that they would not need me and sever ties. I have learned through my own experiences that this is far from the truth. As I have been practicing my assertiveness skills, I have found that the ability to communicate with someone directly, even when “no, I can’t help you” is my reply, the relationship continues to grow and even grows stronger due to the open lines of direct communication. Yet, throughout the years, as I would drop everything to help others, they had no problem being assertive with me regarding their needs or saying “no, I can’t help you today Marc”. Even though I saw this dynamic of a “one-way street” I continued my helping ways to the detriment of my own health. I ignored the physical pains that were triggered when I was in an emotional conflict of wanting to help my friends or family while knowing that I would be giving up what I wanted to do for myself at that time.

Dr. Bacci addresses the differences between “doing” and “being”. We do too much doing and not enough being. To “be” is the ability to quiet the mind and go within ourselves, paying attention to physical and emotional cues, which lead us towards the creation of our own life. If we truly listen to ourselves and be gentle with ourselves during the process, we will gain a much greater chance of achieving our true callings and in a kind, loving and compassionate way towards ourselves. The key is to focus our attention fully and completely in the present moment and then take action based on our inner feelings. This process will lead us in the direction that is most appropriate for us. Do not focus on the end result as that takes us away from present moment awareness.

“By letting go of fear and committing to becoming fully yourself, you invent the life you have always wanted. You become vibrantly healthy, emotionally fulfilled, mentally challenged and deeply creative.”   Ingrid Bacci, PhD

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