What if I Do Nothing?

by Christopher Lovejoy on May 12, 2013

“Master the art of doing nothing … beautifully.”

When I saw these words run across an ad for a resort located miles from civilization on 5,000 acres of pristine wilderness, I laughed.

These words were music to my ears!

These words resonated with a Spanish proverb that I am especially fond of – How beautiful it is to do nothing and then rest afterward – and tipped my hand in making a reservation.

I’ve sometimes wondered: what is it about doing nothing that holds so much appeal?

In this post, we have a chance to find out.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 37

Lao Tzu is often quoted as saying, the way to do is to be.

This is our first clue in getting to know the appeal of doing nothing, and if doing flows naturally, spontaneously, and effortlessly from being, are we not, in a sense, doing nothing?

The Tao
does nothing,
yet leaves
nothing undone.

If the powerful
could center
themselves in it,
the whole world
would transform
by itself in its
natural rhythms.

When life is simple,
pretenses fall away;
our essential natures
shine through.

By not wanting,
there is calm,
and the world
straightens itself.

In silence,
one finds the anchor
of the universe
within oneself.

Edited slightly to enhance flow and to reflect more inclusive language

Ref: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

This verse is a clear invitation to align (and stay aligned) with something, but what exactly?

My Impressions of the Verse

Verse 37 rings true for me, resonating with the wisdom of a natural spontaneous order infused with love.

The Tao
does nothing,
yet leaves
nothing undone.

The cycle of life – birth, growth, decay, death – is a most perfect expression of eternal Doing flowing from essential Being.

If the powerful
could center
themselves in it,
the whole world
would transform
by itself in its
natural rhythms.

Ironically, the most powerful are never really powerful as and when their doing is contaminated motivated by fear of lack or loss.

The invitation here is for the powerful to stop and listen, to center themselves in a place where nothing is left undone, to lose the fear, to infuse being with loving, and to let it all flow from there.

When life is simple,
pretenses fall away;
our essential natures
shine through.

Striving (doing) conditioned and motivated by fear gives way to being (having) infused with love from which doing (allowing) flows naturally.

By not wanting,
there is calm,
and the world
straightens itself.

By releasing any sense of wanting, which implies a sense of lacking or losing, a sense of calm appears to arise naturally, restoring peace to your version of this world.

In silence,
one finds the anchor
of the universe
within oneself.

Be still, and know that you are present.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

I’m glad I made that reservation. I wrote about it in my introduction to this post.

Without knowing it at the time, my experience there opened me up more fully to the nature and meaning of a couple of key distinctions: (1) being and doing; and (2) loving and fearing.

I got a taste of doing flowing naturally and spontaneously from being even as I was made more keenly aware of the difference between loving and fearing as a mutually supportive contrast.

Without fear, how would I ever know love?

I realized more fully that I am fulfilled as and when I give love expression through my being for my doing.

As I allowed my doing to flow from my being, and as I turned fearing into allowing through the influence of my loving, I approached mastery in the art of doing nothing … beautifully.

How beautiful it is to do nothing and then rest afterward: could this be a way of life?

Next up: Un.Self.Consciously (Living Within Your Own Nature)

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This post is one of many in an ongoing series that began here.

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