Freedom from activity is never achieved by abstaining from action. ... In fact, nobody can ever rest from his activity even for a moment. All are helplessly forced to act, by the gunas [Sanskrit: equanimity/clarity, sloth/resistance, restlessness/assertiveness].
*Bhagavad-Gita: The Song of God. "III Karma Yoga." Trans. Swami Prabhavananda, Christopher Isherwood.
The opportunity to live is something vigorous, just like a leaping fish. ... Actualization is not just the manifestation of your individual experience of the truth; it is your life interconnected with a tree’s life, a bird’s life, water’s life, spring’s life, autumn’s life, and the life of the whole universe.
*Dainin Katagiri. Each Moment Is the Universe: Zen and the Way of Being Time.
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When we speak of doing nothing, in one sense this is impossible. Even a glance at your life, as well as other lives human and otherwise, will reveal something is always being done, for the energies of life are always happening. The body could not function without that life happening, even when there is no conscious choice to act or for action. Just one example, try to stop thinking. You could say, "During deep sleep, I do not think." Well, a lot is still happening. The entire body is functioning to survive, without your personal awareness or personal choice. In another sense, doing nothing is the wisest possible action in the moment, and is possible. Before returning to this possibility, a story.
This story, told by Ajahn Brahm, in his Who Ordered this Truckload of Dung?, was told him by a teaching colleague. This friend had been a soldier in the British Army, in World War II.
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My colleague was on patrol in the jungles of Burma; he was young, far from home, and very frightened. The scout from his patrol returned to tell the captain the terrible news. Their small patrol had stumbled into a huge number of Japanese troops. The patrol was vastly outnumbered and completely surrounded. The young British soldier prepared himself to die.
He expected his captain to order the men to fight their way out: that was the manly thing to do. Maybe someone would make it. If not, well, they would take some of the enemy with them into death; that’s what soldiers did.
But not the soldier who was the captain. He ordered his men to stay put, sit down, and make a cup of tea. It was, after all, the British Army!
The young soldier thought his commanding officer had gone mad. How can anyone think of a cup of tea when surrounded by the enemy, with no way out and about to die?
In an army, especially at war, orders had to be obeyed. They all made what they thought was to be their last cup of tea. Before they had finished drinking their tea, the scout came back and whispered to his captain. The captain asked for the men’s attention. “The enemy has moved,” he announced. “There is now a way out. Pack your kit quickly and quietly — let’s go!”
They all got out safely, which is why he could tell me the story many years later. He told me that he owed his life to the wisdom of that captain, not just at war in Burma, but many times since. Several times in his life, it was as if he was surrounded by the enemy, completely outnumbered, with no way out and about to die. He meant by “the enemy” serious illness, horrendous difficulty, and tragedy, in the middle of which there seemed no way out.
Without the experience in Burma, he would have tried to fight his way through the problem, and no doubt made it much worse in the process. But instead, when death or deadly trouble surrounded him on all sides, he simply sat down and made a cup of tea.
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I have been sitting down and drinking tea, so to speak, for almost a half-year. After leaving a full-time job, I have been seeing the power of doing something and doing nothing. As the Bhagavad-Gita teaches, I cannot not do, and when I am not doing, doing is taking place anyway ~ even the "I" is a doing of Life Itself. Life appears to create this "I" for "I" to initiate, to do, to create as an expression of Life initiating, doing, creating. The organs of the body do the same. One does not have to inform the bowels to move, the bowels move. One does not inform the body to be hungry, the body hungers. Life has an amazing way of taking care of Itself, of us, when we are out of the way and with Life initiating, doing, creating.
So, I have done much in the last months, unplanned. Unplanned writing of a book, counseling, cycling, explorations of relocating, beginning friendships, taking a month solitary retreat, ... Yet, the doing is as reflected in the above story. The doing is a being in a flowing, a current of Grace happening. And, ironically, all appears timely and all needed is appearing likewise.
No, this does not mean a feeling of security is always present, or that I do not try to push the river at times, rather than relax in the river. And, also, this does not mean confusion about what to do or not to do does not arise. That arising of confusion is, likewise, Life doing. And, a decision not to do something, to do something, or to delay doing something ~ that, too, is Life happening. And, in some unexplainable way, "I" am one with that doing, even as you are. Even when you refuse to do something, you as "I" are intimate with that refusal, that doing.
We cannot not do, we can be with not-doing. Yet, what is this doing nothing?
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Not-doing, as above, entails being in the flow of doing, a doing naturally taking place without pushing for any action to occur or not occur. This is like the soldiers drinking tea. What is to be done? Nothing but drink tea. Just drink tea, and the opening for a wise action occurs; there is really no delay, for one is drinking tea. The captain is like to Life, knowing this non-action, which is not a refraining from action, but a total engagement in the action of drinking tea is the wisest course of action. In the image of Katagiri above, a leaping fish. Right there, drinking tea, Life arises from Eternity into time and time into Eternity, and being wedded in that sacred marriage of time and timelessness, drinking tea one becomes intimate with everything, space opens in embrace of everyone and everything, including "I." Intimacy does not appear, awareness of intimacy arises; everyone, everything, is present, never needing to appear to be present.
* * *
The paradox, due to language, in "doing" and "doing nothing" is that being in the natural flow of Life happening, is that what we are speaking of is a more subtle doing than either our usual meaning of "doing" and "doing nothing." A "higher" synthesis happens when the time is ripe. The captain was prepared to give the command to sit and drink tea, not try to escape. I was ripe to walk away from a job that likely before I would have stayed with, even if not wise to remain at. I simply walked away, with no necessity to walk away; that is the nature of what we are pointing to. A doing-and-not-doing free of the push, the greed, of necessity. In Grace, all is happening gracefully, for Grace is free of the neediness to act, to prove anything, even to protect Itself. Simply ~ Grace just acts. And, when you are in that flowing, you are the action of Grace and that action is happening all around you and within you, too, in a spatial sense.
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So, we are back to the wisdom pointed to by such words as patiently waiting, living in the moment, mindfulness, and, out of my native contemplative Christian tradition, surrender, sacrament of the present moment, and abandonment to divine providence. Succinctly, I will share some insights applicable to other traditions, though they will use other pointers.
Surrender is choice arising and action to be with and in Grace gracing, Life happening, rather than identifying with the thought that you are in charge. In one, you flow with Life, in the other, you futilely try to manage what you call my life. Yet, the futility is seen, hopefully, after the ups and downs of the effort, that you have no life. You are the appearance of Life, and you have no life to manage. Until we surrender, which is the release of the self-aggression ~ trying to manage the river ~, we suffer the futility of trying to do the impossible, the unnatural. Some might say surrendering is to stop playing God, and trying to play God is godless, doomed from the start.
Sacrament of the Present Moment connotes that Grace, or Life, or God, ..., is fully present here-and-now and always. So, you cannot get anywhere for more Life, you cannot move away to less Life. Love is fully here. So, whether sitting and drinking tea in bush, sharing sex, riding your bike, crying over the death of a loved one, ... ~ anytime, anywhere ~ the innate preciousness of Life is arising. We know this intuitively, even though we ignore this until we stop and a choice arises to surrender into, relax into, the moment as both this ordinary moment and this moment holding within itself the fullness of Life, even in the absence of feeling a feeling we could call Life, God, Grace, Love, Peace, ...
Abandonment to Divine Providence is the surrender into a Wisdom expressing Itself, Life, that is much more than you or I; we are an expression of this Life lifeing. Many call this God, yet, the image of God as distant, as separate, or as an invisible presence looking at, rather than being so intimate that there is no seam to divide God from us, means the word "God" often hinders relaxing into this intimatic Life. We could simply say Intimacy-so-intimate-only-Intimacy. Regardless, Life appears, again like the fish jumping from the waters, to create this earth show for the human "I" to become ripe to realize the Other that is here, and now, is summoning the "I" to yield itself up to that from which the "I" appears. And, only by the grace of Grace can that yielding occur; even the desire for the intimacy arises from Intimacy. Then, the "I" lives within Grace, whereas before, the "I" saw itself as one to whom Grace appeared offering Itself to be used by the "I". Yet, Grace manifests to use the "I", not the other way around. Only Grace manifests gracefulness; abandoned to divine providence, we naturally experience the arising of gracefulness in our person, our actions, our aspirations for other beings.
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I find Mooji, below, to sum up what is being intimated in this writing. Yet, to know this, we must undergo the experience of it ~ this is the way of learning and evolving in this gift of body-and-mind, regardless of what we say we believe absolutely. I know what tea tastes like, for I drink tea, I know what being in the Grace-flowing is like by being in that flowing, being the flowing.
If you live spontaneously, you don’t have to prepare for life. ... From time to time, you may ask yourself, “Who is the witness of all of this?” and the mind swiftly comes to rest in the heart again [so the sense of witnessing ceases].
Your life is a discovery rather than something being made up, scripted, or controlled by you. Even if you could stick to a script, it would not compare to what unfolds naturally. The one who is free is just going to let life be, knowing that whatever may be, they are not going to impose a design on life—It should be like this—and then hold on tightly to a favorite intention. Instead, they just let it unfold.
So go forward with activity, but keep your mind rooted in your heart.
So, yes, we decide and we act, we cannot not. We, however, discover a quality of difference when acting from Grace gracefully. We may even act, at times, without any sense of whether or not what we choose to do is the so-called right thing to do. Yet, we proceed or do not proceed. Regardless, freedom from confusion arises when integrating the "do" and "do nothing" in the oneness of Life, the harmony of Grace, the heart of Bliss. We learn to relax more with Life, enjoying the quiet moments of interlude, seeing that even there fish are jumping and the tea is tasty, the moment our Home.
*The vision statement for Lotus of the Heart is Living in Love beyond Beliefs. These presentations, inclusive in nature, are invitations for persons to explore for himself or herself. Brian does not claim to have answers or the Truth for anyone. He provides pointers to Truth, so as to inspire others on his or her own journey of Truth, to compassionate living with Earth and all creatures sharing this planet.
*All material, unless another source is cited, is authored by the presenter of Lotus of Heart, Brian Kenneth Wilcox, Florida USA. Use of the material is permitted; Brian only requests that credit be given and to be notified at firstname.lastname@example.org . Also, for spiritual guidance via phone, Skype, or in-person, Brian can be contacted via the above email.
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union, is available through major booksellers.
*Move cursor over pictures for photographer and title.
The Sacred in Me bows
to the Sacred in You