The Tao of Flow – The Philosophy of Non-Doing
Empty and be full
Wear out and be new
Have little and gain
Have much and be confused”
“The Tao Te Ching”, Lao-Tsu
“Human doings” rather than “human beings” may be a more appropriate description for most of us. The sense of achievement, success or satisfaction one may derive from the task being complete.
Doing perhaps, as if driven by some deep, often karmic or unconscious propulsion or force. Driven inexorably to pursue, achieve, succeed, accumulate at all costs, by those deep reasons, which demand that we be better or braver, more intelligent or capable than who we actually are. No time allotted, allowed, not even a mere pondering upon the possibility to take stock, pleasure or sit back and enjoy what has been achieved. Little or no time to sit and feel and get “inside oneself”
Until something happens, like a tidal wave, a bolt from the blue, a wake-up call, which sweeps us up and away and shakes us out of this behavioural zone. An event, be it a sickness, a death, a redundancy, a relationship break-up, which at the time seems insurmountable, yet perhaps in retrospect or hindsight, appears then to have been a miracle in disguise. This miracle may release us softly and gently from any further need to conquer the world, from “doing” in the old way. The relief that comes in the wake of this visitor, bringing the message that the compulsion, the addiction or the obsession may have gone, the wildness tamed. The spirit then finds itself resting in No-Thing. In ItSelf, a place heretofore, unknown, unfamiliar. No need to try so hard any more, no need to live that way anymore.
Finding the “middle way” between Yang : doing, striving and struggle and Yin : non-doing , yielding and letting-go is an art. The Tao or Way of the spiritual aspirant encourages us to be in a state of subtle internal creative alertness. We can then be open to receive that which waits to be poured into us in the form of truth, indeed a challenge for the “doer”.
When we are identified with ego, our ordinary doing or what we call action, separates us from any receptivity of the conscious creative energy of the universe. The Tao encourages us to move beyond the mind which is governed by desires where we can only perceive the world of appearances. To remove the veil of appearances or illusion and discover what lies beneath : An All encompassing Awareness.
How to get out of our own way and become conduits of this undifferentiated Supreme creative power? All aspects of knowing truth, of feeling good, of accomplishing all that is effective and useful must flow from this place. Any other action moves from a place of struggle or wilful action.
Receptivity within us is required whereby we can open ourselves to the flow of all the constituents and ultimate forces of nature and the universe. It is the movement away from the tyrannical and rational mind and from discursive thinking and dialectic.
To become one with the Tao and feel flow or become natural in our lives is not an innate state. It is something we must work on within ourselves, through deepening awareness and inner consciousness.
“The Tao abides in the non-action
Yet nothing is left undone.”
Flow in any and all of its forms are synonymous with spontaneity, emerging from a place of non-doership. Focus, concentration and undivided wise attention through action, is the reward of itself. It is self-fulfilling, neither needing nor searching for any ego gratification nor outside approval.
If we are then not the doers of our actions, then we are not the benefactors of the results. The consequences simply are. A paradox thus appears co-existentially: the subtlety of being there yet non-doing!
When actions arrive from a place of motive, urge or gain, we are separated from our heart, from innate spontaneous action, from our naturalness. The ego forces the energy to filter concepts through the personal ‘I’. As we let go of the doer, we may feel joy, gratitude, compassion, the dance of life alongside risk, vulnerability, exposure and fear. As the personal filter of the resistive ego gradually dissolves our hearts are cracked open, the light of wisdom can pour in. The flow of life can then pass through us and we participate naturally and spontaneously within it.
As we release the small ‘i’ , what remains is the harmonious flow of life. We become one with the Tao.
© Mohini Chatlani 2010
Credits : quotes from “The Tao Te Ching”, translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane England