Recently I was talking with some women friends who have accompanied one another in our spiritual lives for nearly 20 years, and the conversation turned to something several of us are experiencing right now: the impulse to be, rather than to do.
I have noticed it in myself of late. It is as though something in me is putting the brakes on any sort of initiative. It is a season in which inner patterns are dissolving and even imagination seems to be taking a hiatus. I haven’t a clue what comes forth from it all. I am simply yielding to it and allowing it to be.
As I was noticing this impulse to not-do, an image arose in my mind of a tree, and I could feel how doing and action in our usual human sense of those words were foreign concepts for it. The tree was not going anywhere. It was becoming more deeply rooted in its own beingness.
My friends and I talked about how this shift from doing to being might be the result of many factors: our stage of life, this time of COVID that has taken us more deeply inward, the re-emergence of the Feminine, which is all about the power of being.
We also talked about how difficult it is in this culture to not-do, how inculcated we are with the idea that external accomplishments and achievements are the only thing of value, how we have to contend with the inner judgment that arises when we honor the impulse to be.
We have not been socialized to understand the inherent value of being. We are socialized to demonstrate our worth by doing, and our impulse to always do (which I believe is often rooted in fear) keeps us from discovering and sinking down, like that tree, into the essence of who we are. Yet, if we don’t know who we are, if we have never sent the roots of our own awareness down into the deep soil of our soul, our actions will forever be misaligned with our true Self.
Another thing my friends and I talked about is how we frequently experience a spontaneous uprising of gladness, gratitude and praise in our hearts. I know for myself this gratitude isn’t tied to any specific situation or condition. It simply is. It is a quality of existence that surges up, unexpectedly and unbidden, like a solar flare in my Heart.
When I was on retreat this past February, one of the things I was made aware of is how frequency gives rise to thought, which then gives rise to form. For many years I have worked with the mind and its thought processes, but now I am letting thought be and focusing my attention instead on attuning to the higher frequencies of union, belovedness, Self, allowing them to resonate in my cells and reconfigure my neural network. It has been quite remarkable to notice how this practice has been bringing about profound inner shifts.
The other morning I was journaling about all of this against the backdrop of of our global context, so fraught with fear and conflict, and it seemed to me that we may be at a point now in which our greatest contribution to the world is to be, to incarnate these frequencies of gratitude, praise, blessing, joy (as I write these words I feel my Heart radiating in agreement).
It may be that action is much too slow now, and that sinking into our beingness and incarnating these frequencies bring about transformation much more swiftly than any actions we may undertake. In a sense, we become like prayer bowls resonating the frequencies that can uplift the entire world.
Kip Leitner says
This column reminds of an event that happened in the late 1950’s about 5 years before I was born. Right around that time, there was a conference in Mexico of Psychologists and Psychiatrists and the keynote speech was given by D. T. Suzuki, one of the people who introduced the West to some of the basic principles of Buddhism. Later on he rewrote his speech into book form and, along with Eric Fromm and Richard De Martino, the three of them published a short book entitled “Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis.” Much of what this blog explores in a more intertwined way here is the way that, 60 years ago, there was still a more identifiable distinction between the way the East and the West looked at the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ worlds.
Suzuki wrote about the way two poets — one in the West and one in the East — look at a flower discovered in an out of the way hedge of rocks and brush. The westerner writes a poem about pulling up the flower by its roots in order to examine the flower in its totality so as to have an intimate experience analyzing it whereas the easterner begins an imaginative experiment where his attention and consciousness fuses with his awareness of seeing the flower. He begins to imagine “being the flower.”
The psychologist C. G. Jung claimed that these two ways of experiencing reality are fundamentally distinct from one another, each with its own value. One is analytical, reductive — the other is enlarging and mystical. So if, for instance, one is thirsty, it’s a good idea to get analytical and locate a source of water and find a way to transport some water to the mouth using instruments and containers. However, if the goal is to imagine the value of water as a symbol of fluidity and, non-efforting and easeful movement, you probably want to simply sit with the water, hear the sounds of it running in the stream — or feel the weight of it in a deep heavy lake, as it sinks and stills itself in silence.
Suzuki wrote (60 years ago) —
The western mind is analytical, discriminating, differential, inductive, individualistic, intellectual, objective, scientific, generalizing, conceptual, schematic, impersonal, legalistic, organizing, power-wielding, self-assertive, disposed to impose it’s will on others, etc . . . Against these Western traits those of the East can be characterized as follows: synthetic, totalizing, integrative, non-discriminative, deductive, non-systematic, dogmatic, intuitive, affective (emotional), non-discursive, subjective, spiritually individualistic and socially group-minded . . . etc.
And while Jung said he believed it to be a quite arduous and probably futile exercise to try to experience reality from outside one’s cultural frame of reference (because it’s such a difficult imaginative exercise, having been raised a certain way to “experience” reality in such-and-such a way, to imagine it any differently), I think it’s worth pointing out that Jung did not always exclusively follow his own cautionary approach and in fact himself took a pilgrimage to the the interior of Africa and the Nile River valley in order to get outside his own excessively rational culture of Switzerland in the early 20th century with it’s burgeoning industrial productivity.
So while it’s true that America is defined by what it produces, as individuals we are defined by who we are, and I feel this blog makes this point very well. At least, it landed with me.
I also like the picture of the tree that accompanies this blog. The poet of the East that Suzuki wrote about was Basho (1644-1694).
Here’s the poem he wrote:
Nazuna hana saku
It means –
When I look with care
I see the Nazuna bloom
There, by the hedge !
A blooming flower does not run, walk, strive, manufacture, produce or distribute.
What it does is bloom.
penny gill says
Two really good pieces here. So, Kip…I think I’d add, that Suzuki’s old distinctions between east and west are in such good alignment with what I might name feminine and masculine modes of being, even of living…Maybe the west’s enormous swing to one end of that huge continuum of perception and even of civilization is now slowly starting to shift back, towards some point of balance, some middle position? We won’t experience it, but I think we can see signs and hints.And, I may be so bold to say, if we don’t do this, we will surely destroy our lives on this planet!
p.s. Jung cheated on his “rule” constantly!
Dolores Broberg says
One of my friends has this quotation from Lao-Tzu written on the bottom of each e-mail:
“Do you have the patience to wait
Till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
Till the right action arises by itself?”
Marilyn Bouchard Lugaro, Ph.D. says
Patricia, this is a beautiful blog and life’s synchronicities sometimes bowl me over! I was having a conversation with two dear friends on Skype just an hour before I received your blog and we had this exact conversation! We ended with an Italian phrase that has suddenly become meaningful to me in a new way in these last few weeks: l’arte di fare niente —the art of doing nothing.
Like any art, doing it well takes a lot of practice.
Big hugs, Marilyn
Lovely blog, as always, and everyone’s comments makes your message so much richer.
I will soon be first time grandma in 8 weeks and it’s already been established that our granddaughter will call me “Grandma Be” to distinguish me from her other lovely grandma.
Although my name starts with B, but I will let my granddaughter know that the “B” is not about my initial, but more about “Be”-ing.