Knowing When Not to Push

zen, meditate, waiting, "don't push"

I have two kids. One was born in a hospital. The other was born at home, but both came into this world through natural childbirth methods. One thing I learned through watching these births: women are tougher than men.

Another thing I learned: sometimes it’s just as important to know when not to push.

Say the words childbirth or labor and everyone immediately pictures a woman in a hospital bed pushing for all she’s worth. What we don’t imagine is that moment just before when the doctor or midwife is telling her to wait, to rest, to save her strength for the time she needs it most.

All too often, we forget about the importance of not pushing. We live in an active society full of entrepreneurs, fixers and go-getters. If something doesn’t work, we need to do something about it NOW. Activity trumps inactivity…or does it?

I am a fixer. Always have been. When I sense that something is wrong, that something is off, I want to make it right. If I get into a situation that I don’t know how to fix or can’t seem to affect, I get frustrated and angry and feel very powerless. This is a completely defensive response that doesn’t help me or address the situation.

I think I recognized this trait in myself long ago and that recognition is part of the reason I’ve studied Buddhism on-and-off for the last 15 years. For some reason, I completely forgot the importance of not-pushing over the last year. If I couldn’t fix something, I got pissed about it and resigned myself from the situation.

A wise friend recently told me that creating space is an act of love. Creating space is much different than disengaging. When I’ve grown frustrated in the past, I have disengaged and withdrawn myself from uncomfortable situations. Creating space is instead all about compassionately listening, breathing and waiting for the appropriate time to act. And even knowing that for each unique situation, the time to act may never come. These last few days I have been really working on staying engaged but knowing when not to push.

There is value to be found in quiet moments to myself, breathing in silence. I can’t hear the wisdom of the universe if I’m too busy railing against my life’s perceived injustices.

Not pushing prepares us for the times when we need to act. Unfocused actions driven by fear or doubt only create more confusion, more fear and doubt, and rarely solve anything. Focused direction coming from a place of compassionate calm sends energy to where we need it at the time it is most needed.

Save your energy. Breathe and listen to the world around you so you know when to push…and when you should wait.

**Image By Charlene McBride – Some Rights Reserved (cc)


  1. Jasmine on March 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    I think it goes along with the principle of holding space. Holding space is a form of being present but not necessarily actively engaging a situation. It can be one of the most formative principles of character building as it forces us to face our internalized values that are attached to themes of power, effectiveness, and impetus for change. It is that place in yoga where the pose you are holding doesn’t seem that “powerful” but what you find is that engages so many muscles and your sense of balance that your whole body becomes changed in the practice of that pose.
    Keep moving forward, friend… I think you are on the right path.

    • Brad on March 22, 2012 at 8:23 pm

      Thanks, Jas. Actually just finished my first yoga class in 5 or more years. Had all kinds of blogalicious realizations coming out of that one.

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  3. Garrett on March 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm

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