Nothing to Do

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There are three classes of doing. The first one consists of all the things we feel we need to do to continue with our existence – get money, eat food, establish a social context (maybe), protect ourselves from the elements, go to the doctor when not well, and so on. In reality, these things will happen anyway – no real effort is needed on your part, your will-to-life will look after it all. We may complain about life, become a nihilist, a misanthrope, depressed, or whatever, but we still eat, shit, sleep, seek shelter, seek medical help. While our mind might be busy complaining, the body just goes about its business. The body rules.

The second class of doing consists of all the efforts we make because we believe something we have been told or have read. Because the life of the body seems dull and uninteresting, so we seek out ideas on life that are more sophisticated – spiritual growth, loving kindness, philosophical pursuits, religion, ideology, selflessness, self-discipline to achieve some goal – anything our imaginations can dream up. By adopting one or more of these imaginations we set up an inner conflict. Let’s imagine we have adopted the idea of selflessness, and to be specific, the notion that we should put other people’s interest before our own. And so we listen attentively to people when they rant endlessly about their latest vacation, we invite people to move in front of us in a queue, we smile at strangers, and above all, we put our own desires on the back-burner so that others can service their desires. Initially, we might experience a sort of self-righteousness, a glowing ego moment – but it doesn’t last for long. Within a week we are ready to rip the face off the next person who smiles at us and says hello. Our mind has been on a self-gratification trip while our body, our desires, become more and more frustrated. There are many other examples, and they all derive from some act of self-hypnosis through believing that we should be other than what we are.

The third class of doing is “not doing”. This is the most difficult of all, and because of this, there is no ego gratification, no self-righteousness, and no effort involved. This not-doing consists wholly of letting our body and our life just go the way it goes without intervening because we have ingested some bullshit idea about how we should behave. There is a name for this non-doing, it is called self-observation. The best definition for self-observation I ever came across was from a guy called Rodney Collin. He defined self-observation as the simple act of accepting things as they are. This implies, nonjudgement and no intervention. Sounds simple, but it the most difficult thing a human being can “do”. And just to clarify on the word “do”. The word implies intervention – some effort in the world of phenomena. To observe is to look. There is no intervention.

If this is accepted we can immediately dismiss all “spiritual practices”, all notions of self-discipline (where one part of us bullies another part), all self-improvement schemes (there is nothing to improve), and in short all efforts to achieve some goal our mind has dreamed up.

Some might object that our life would fall into ruins if we adopted this attitude. Not so. Our desires will still cause us to eat, shit, sleep, have sex, work for money, seek shelter, socialize (maybe) – and so on. We can just sit back and watch the beast go about its daily business. Any attempt to interfere is a doing, and all doing and ambition come from the beast.

By MB

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