“Industrious people build industry.
Lazy people create civilization.”
– Kaz Tanahashi
Shocking, isn't it?
The idea and practice of not doing is truly blasphemous in our 'do-aholic' culture.
I mean, think 'not doing' and notice what reactions come up within you.
"Well, how will anything get DONE?," we might ask. "Everything would fall apart!" "You have to do something!"
Can you feel your heart palpitating at the very suggestion of NOT doing -- or the thought that 'being lazy' might have its strong points?
I don't know about you, but I definitely did not get that memo when I was growing up!
There's a part of me that finds it compelling, though.
After decades at the Altar of Perpetual Doing, I saw that the Puritan Workaholic Ethic that is so ingrained in our culture has got a pretty big shadow side.
After hitting the Workaholic Wall going 1000 miles an hour, I was literally forced by circumstances -- including my own wellness -- to consider other perspectives.
The Taoists, following the wisdom of Lao Tzu and others, talk about 'wu wei' -- nondoing.
One idea of wu wei or non-action is that you 'do without doing and everything gets done'.
Can you feel your brain cramping and well-conditioned synapses smoking at the thought?
Stay with it...
In order for this 'nondoing' magic to arise, we have to be still and receptive much more often, so that we can connect to our oneness with all things and allow Life to lead us through inspiration, intuition, and synchronicity.
This is a pretty radical thought for Western-conditioned minds.
Just look around, or tune in to yourself, and you'll see just how terrifying and uncomfortable most of us find it now to be still -- still the body, still the noise, still the mind.
It's enough to give most of us jitters and hives, if we haven't immediately 'plugged in' to relieve the discomfort with some more stimulus and action.
Yet most of us would also say that we want to experience 'flow', synchronicities and, dare I say, maybe even miracles.
We'd all like things to be just a bit easier, a bit less hard, a bit more graceful than they seem to be, particularly these days.
We all want inspiration and intuitive-guidance to lead us into passionate, purposeful right action and graceful timing.
These require stillness, not doing, so that we can be receptive to that guidance, our deeper yearnings, and more subtle frequencies.
The challenge is to reclaim the wu wei wisdom through stillness, listening, and closer observation of what arises within us and what arises, then, around us.
And it couldn't be more alien -- even excruciating -- to us.
This has deeply challenged me, often, over the years.
Despite a natural contemplative vein that runs through me, I learned early on that being still, daydreaming, sitting or wandering quiety, and things of that more contemplative genre were in the same pigeon-hole as being unproductive, suspect, or lazy.
In comparison, I was encouraged and rewarded in those 'activa' pursuits that were considered industrious -- no one really seemed to care whether action was wise.
Perhaps you, too, heard, "Don't just sit there, do something!"?
And now, of course, we're surrounded with the outcomes of a cultural addiction to perpetual left-brain-informed action, workaholism, and stimulation without the balancing, wizening benefits of contemplation, reflection, and wisdom (aka 'the Feminine' or right-brain gifts).
To heal it -- individually and collectively -- we have to practice our way back to a healthier balance, to reclaim those right-brain Feminine gifts.
As the saying goes -- with a fun little twist -- don't just do something, sit there!
Blessings on the Wu Wei.
Image Credit: Kazuaka Tanahashi at the San Francisco Zen Center. Photo by Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle. Kaz Tanahashi is a Japanese Calligrapher, Zen Teacher, Author & Translater, and former student of Aikido Founder Sensei Morihei Ueshiba. "Moon on Water" image from GeekSailor's blog.