10 Ways to Grow Toward Effortless Living

by Adrian W. Hall, MFT, ATR

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In this section of the book, David Richo talks explicitly about spiritual receptivity.  To me, this is the apex of When Love Meets Fear.  He says that assertiveness is “will as will power” and spiritual receptiveness “empowerment as willingness to accept the givens of existence and act in accord with one’s personal experience as it unfolds” (p. 197).  Yes, it means being in reality with the simple truths of existence (see my post about this here), being in tune with what is occurring inside you and being able to operate in the world based on those two important pieces of information. 

He calls spiritual receptivity a “skill of nondoing” (p. 197).  I think that is part of what makes it such a challenge, especially in our culture.  Effort and will are so highly valued, but what happens is that favoring effort and will brings us further under the illusion that we are in full control.  The plain truth is that we are not.  At the very least (if you don’t believe in any kind of universal force), there are other people, there is weather, there are circumstances. So, can we let go of control a little to make space for living easier?  How?  

David Richo talks about ten areas where you can let go and create space for larger forces to do their work, working with the flow rather than against it.  These are ways you can build your receptivity.  I am going to include David Richo’s words in bold and then write about what I believe he means in each of these areas. 

  1. Letting go of limiting, rigid roles.  Can you let go of operating only inside the roles you have assumed in your life?  If you can let yourself dream of what you really want to do or where you want to be, where do you stop yourself?  If you are a mom, but you want to sail around the world, do you stop yourself there, saying your kids have to be in school?  You don’t have to.  There are creative solutions for everything.  Don’t get me wrong, it is very scary to go beyond the conventional limits of those roles!  But it is possible.  Start with just dreaming, letting logic sit on the sideline for a second.  For more guidance on this, read 10 Elements of Heart Led Decision Making.
  2. Letting go of the belief that I am entitled to be taken care of.  Well, remember one of the givens of existence?  We are ultimately alone.  Yes, it is completely up to us as adults to manage our own feelings, meet needs and create what we want in this life.  Can you let go of needing someone else to fix or save you?  Can you fully own taking care of yourself?  That doesn’t mean that you don’t let love in or allow collaboration, it means you take responsibility for your life and your experience, even when it is hard.
  3. Letting go of attachment to outcomes so that balance occurs between making things happen (effort) and allowing things to happen (effortlessness):  To me, the most important thing here is about attachment to outcome.  When we have a vision of how things will be or set a goal, it is easy to develop an attachment to that.  Can you set your intention, shoot for something and even take action steps, then let it turn out as it turns out?  It’s like when I’m making art and I want to re-create exactly what I have in my head and then get disappointed that I can’t make it that way.  My art is always so much better when I start with nothing in my mind or when I start with something, but see it only as a jumping off point.  Whatever I create is perfect, if I can allow it to unfold. 
  4. Letting go of the fear that others may know who we are or what our agenda is:  I have to tell you something.  People know and feel you and your agenda on some level anyway, even if it is not conscious.  So, if you can be congruent (what is on the inside is the same as what is on the outside), no matter who you are and what your agenda is, that feels good to people.  It resonates with them. Save yourself the energy of hiding and practice authenticity.  You’ll be happier and people will enjoy you more.
  5. Letting go of the need to be right or in control, be hard on ourselves and others:  Honestly, when I think about it, it is a little exhausting to need to be right all the time.  I find that when I am needing to be right, I am tense, even in my body.  Needing to control or be right actually goes against the realities of being human:  we are flawed and there are forces bigger than us.  Being hard on ourselves and others (beyond just encouraging and motivating in a healthy way) is also fighting with reality.  You are where you are.  If you can embrace that, you will conserve energy that is wasted on fighting against reality.  That way, you have more energy to move forward, improve, ect.
  6. Letting go of old resentments, blame, grudges, and desire for vengeance:  Each person in your life, including you, is where they are for a reason.  That means physically, but also on an emotional or spiritual level.  You might be hurt, disappointed or angry at where that person is or has been in relation to you, which is totally valid and real.  However, they are on their journey.  They have to exist in this world, on their mission, even if it is veiled to them or others, just like you do.  I might really be annoyed by the fact that the person in front of me is going slow in the car when I am in a hurry, but they are old and they are scared or trying to be careful.  One day I will be too.  Can I just respect that we are in different places, neither one wrong?
  7. Letting go of an “either…or” attitude:  Life is full of paradox.  Think of a bride on her wedding day.  She is both scared AND excited.  Does one cancel out the other?  Wouldn’t it be weird if she didn’t feel both ways?  When you find yourself saying or thinking, “it has to be this or that”, look for where there is room for AND.
  8. Letting go of the need to cover up our feelings or to flee our upheavals instead of cooperating with them so new vistas appear: Yup, you know the only way to the other side is through.  I understand the automatic reaction to avoid pain.  It happens to me.  Then can we catch ourselves in the avoidance, come back to the pain or upheaval and breathe through it?  What I find interesting is that every time I do this or witness a client or friend doing this, there is so much information on the road THROUGH it.  I find out about myself or what direction I need to go.  All that rich information would be lost and the pain lasts longer when we try to avoid and go around.  Read more about how to do this here.
  9. Letting go of disowning the parts of ourselves that scare, shame or excite us:  This is similar to #8.  It seems like trying to move away from those parts (at least the ones that cause shame or fear) is a good idea, but actually, those parts are important.  If we can face them, we can integrate them and assign the energy that was used to avoid them to more productive projects.  Read more about this here.  If we are trying to push away what excites us, think of the lively energy being suffocated.  That excitement is divine guidance.  In action, this looks like taking time to explore, face, be curious about the parts of you that you try to push away.  You can do this through art, writing about it, talking through it with someone you trust or through breathing with it when those parts show up and just letting them be so you can get to know them.
  10. Letting go of the fear of intimacy, aloneness, change, loss and of our own potential:  All of these things exist in this human life.  All.  And, it is normal to be afraid of some of them.  Know your fear, be aware when it is showing up.  You have a program to deal with it.  Breathe, stay with it one second longer than you can.  If you want to know more, you can read my posts about fears of intimacy, aloneness and loss

I know this is a lot to think about. In this list, there are probably areas where you feel like you have let go (feel good about yourself, celebrate that!) and there are others where you need work.  Just pick the most important one that you see might be holding you back or causing you discomfort and work on it.  Then you can come back and pick another one.  By building your spiritual receptivity, you are allowing space for a more powerful presence to come in than just a controlling ego.  It makes space for the divine in your life, for love and for living at ease.

*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".