The Art of Nonaction
by Christina Carson
While reading the Tao Te Ching this morning, I grasped a new subtlety, one that spoke to me about this hectic life I have created around day job and emergent writer. I haven’t liked what I’ve done, but didn’t see a way to approach it differently. In fact, I was so preoccupied on the hamster wheel of writing and promoting in every spare minute that I wouldn’t justify the time to ponder it. But this morning as I approached the Tao Te Ching with an interest in reading something that would help nurture a greater sense of ease in my life, Episode 48 came up on the roll of the dice. I was using R. L. Wing’s translation, and she titles the episodes. Imagine my chuckle when the title that accompanied Episode 48 was: “The Art of Nonaction.” I then supplemented that reading with another translation of the Tao that I enjoy, the one by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English. One line in their approach to the episode jumped out at me:
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.
I’m accustomed to the seeming enigmatic nature of the Tao, so I sat quietly and let my inner sense play with those words relative to my current problem. And this is what emerged:
One doesn’t try to make it as a writer. [That’s doing.]
One accepts their status as writer and that in itself is a life that will unfold. The only real doing then is in my willingness to accept that truth, meaning beyond all doubt. From that perception, my actions and attitudes become those that nurture that truth rather than undermine it.
It is not unlike being a bird. They don’t craft themselves as flyers. They are born as creatures of flight. Their acceptance of that fact is that they open their wings and step off the edge. Some are reluctant. On day, I watched a baby owl that appeared to have his doubts. When he had sat too long on the fence post, his mama flew by and knocked him off. He opened his wings then. The flight was fine; the landing a tad inelegant. The branch was too small, and he ended hanging upside down. His mama came to his rescue once again and jarred him loose. This time he flew and landed splendidly. Nature is not a place of doing and there is nothing left undone…is there. Life lived from not-doing is the life of marvels and seeming magic that we all yearn for. It’s not an impossible dream, but it does require that we know the difference between doing and not-doing. Do you see?
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