Authentic Inaction: Undoing the Doing in a Do Crazy World

Renée Dineen
7 min readSep 27, 2021



It was the final session of the Wisdom Women retreat at Esalen, a non-profit retreat center and intentional community in Big Sur, California. This was the first time Esalen had supported an all-women’s retreat and I was there with my 11-year old daughter. The feminine energy enveloped the room.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning. The air warm. The sky a bright welcoming blue. You could hear and feel the ocean waves crashing against the rocky beach below.

I walked into the main session room taking in the intentional set up — two circles of pillows on the ground, one inner, one outer, with an alter in the middle. My daughter had left our room an hour earlier to help with the preparations. Upon walking in I sensed her energy immediately, despite not having a physical eye on her. Her joy filled the room.

I chose a pillow in the outside circle and noted with some curiosity, a healthy dose of trepidation bordering on physical irritation.

The session started. An Australian woman kicked things off by taking a mammoth breath that bellowed from her belly and mouth in rhythm. My trepidation grew. I felt triggered.


I welcomed curiosity — first about her. Was it she who triggered me? My curiosity moved to the experience itself. What about it bothered me? I sat with the questions but the answers did not come. I settled into that reality and tried to trust the process.

I re-positioned myself on the pillow, closed my eyes and took my own mammoth breath which settled me. When I opened my eyes, I was aware of my daughter’s eyes on me.

The purpose of the last session was to conclude and integrate the weekend. That felt important. The session leader invited each woman to come into the circle and share a word or two that described what they had received from the weekend — a gift they were taking away. Upon each woman sharing, other women were invited to join her in the circle as a sign of support. They could hug her, bow around her or say the word again — reinforcing its power I supposed.

I got lost in the expression on my daughter’s face. She seemed completely in tune with each woman, her smile never leaving her face. Her appreciation was genuine and pure. I smiled at her tranquility and generosity despite not having those things to offer myself. Instead, I struggled to not visibly roll my eyes. So I closed them. Still unaware of why this situation created such angst in me.

One-by-one, women stepped into the circle to share their word.

Sisterhood”. Her share then followed by a handful of women entering the circle, bowing, reaching their arms towards her, oohing.

Love”. The same response followed although the number of women surrounding her, reciting her word, grew as each woman shared.

Clarity. Friendship. Inspiration. Peace.

“Huh”. My head titled like a dog does when it’s confused. I caught my judgment and closed my eyes again. Don’t do that Renée.

My daughters voice floated into the room. “Fun” she said. I smiled. Taking in, for the first time, the warmth of the experience. A few shares later, again her voice. “Baths”. I giggled. She had experienced the baths of Esalen. That was indeed a gift.

The warmth of the experience while growing in me, still left me emotionally separate. My eyes remained closed. When I opened them, maybe it was the reason they opened, the intensity of my daughter’s eyes on me had grown, expressing her own curiosity, and with it, a definite prodding. Through her eyes and the tilt of her head I could hear her saying to me “mom, get up, share”. I smiled at her and looked away.

Then came the other voices. Those internal but externally impacting ‘shoulds’ that undoubtedly and often unknowingly, rule our choices, including our understanding of what choices might be possible in a given moment.

My inner critic went to town.

Get up. Dont get up. Why cant you decide?

If you dont get up, you are not contributing.

This is silly. It doesnt matter. It does matter.

What would I say? Why would I say it? What would other women do in response? I would feel stupid. This is stupid.

And the loudest one…

If you dont get up, you wont be a good role model for your daughter.


I could feel the wrestle start to ensue — that familiar battle of wills between my head, my heart and my body. The tension burned in my belly like I’d eaten something I shouldn’t. The weight pushed down on my shoulders like a hard days work. Hands gripped my heart and squeezed.

I reached into my toolkit for that mammoth breath I could access earlier but she was not prepared. Nothing shifted. With my daughters eyes still on me I got up and walked towards the exit door. I winced at the thought of what she might be thinking but didn’t stop. I definitely didn’t look back at her.

Moments later I found myself outside. Without knowing how I got there I had made it to the well-loved wooden railing that separated Esalen from the rocky cliff and beach below. I gave my mammoth breath another shot and this time something shifted. It was small but it was enough.

The burning in my belly started to dissipate. The weight baring down on my shoulders lifted just enough to free my head to swivel around on the base of my neck. The hands around my heart however, held their place. In acceptance, I placed my own hands on my chest and continued to breathe.

What was going on? Why was I so gripped by this experience?

Authentic Inaction. “What?”

The phrase came again. Authentic Inaction.

What the heck does that mean?”

And there it was. The alternative to my beast — my visceral, relentless, and rarely satisfied drive to act. That innate, biologically determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy an immediate need, always and at any cost.

This was the beast who ruled much of my life. Whose presence while gratifying, also brought suffering. My willingness, ability and darn right mastery to take action was not just something I was known for, I was admired for it.

It had gotten me through many painful experiences. My willingness to not stay stuck, to do something ‘about it’, had served me well.

So what was this alternative? What did Authentic Inaction really mean?

In a world full of opportunity and explicit and implicit expectations to take action — to drive something forward, to speak up, to contribute, to initiate something even if it isn’t needed — what if the more authentic response for a person was inaction?.

What if Authentic Inaction were a truer and ultimately more resourceful and impactful option to getting what we want? To making a contribution? What if Authentic Inaction brought into alignment who we are with what we did?

It was not an intuitive concept. It was less familiar, certainly for me, and possibly a more challenging means to getting what I really wanted in life. But what if it was the bridge between my authenticity and my power? My purpose and my presence?

It was compelling. And, I knew it would require a lot from me. For this I was certain.

By this time, that beautiful Sunday in January of 2018, I had been on my own journey to find a meaningful alternative to getting what I wanted in my life. To not only be fulfilled, but sustained by that fulfillment without having to keep “doing” more.

As a professed ‘doing addict’, this had been my personal journey since leaving my $1,000,000/year executive role in 2015 to start my own coaching and consulting practice. I didn’t leave because I didn’t love my work. I was grateful for my work. Passionate about my work. But I was tired — literally exhausted from the inside out. I was so weary that my bones ached most days. I was moving from one thing to the next without time to process, reflect, or celebrate. I was running at a pace I couldn’t keep, and my body had paid a huge price.

Part of going out on my own was to do more of my ‘life’s work’’. Another part was about rebalancing — changing the energy and flow of my day-to-day life. It was also about being more present with people I cared about most.

For the first few months after leaving my corporate life, the change in pace was challenging. While I yearned for a slower, more organic way of being and working, it took me a while to adjust. I felt like an overheated car engine in the garage. For months I would check on her to find her still smoking and popping.

While my calendar may have cleared, my nervous system needed a lot more time to settle in. In the meantime, I nervously and habitually looked for opportunities to take action, any action that would feed my discomfort.

Had I finally found the words to name the distinction, the alternative I had been desperately seeking?

I took another mammoth breath and made my way back to the double circle of pillows. Needless to say, I didn’t step into the circle. In that moment, that was me honoring Authentic Inaction.

This is the Prologue to the book I am writing that takes my Tedx Talk and doubles down on getting underneath and out from our systemic and unhealthy addition to “do” no matter the costs. I will be publishing Chapters as I travel this writing journey. I would be honored to have you follow me if you want to be a part of it!

Link to related TedX Talk:



Renée Dineen

Recovering workaholic and action junky that left her executive level career to give herself a genuine shot at doing work that mattered most to her heart.