health meditation T'ai chi Zen philosophy

day three: inaction in action

Another delightful paradox of preparing for a move: some days, all you need to do is to continue doing what you are doing. Nothing more is required.

As our agent wrote yesterday in response to last week’s house inspection, “So nothing to do now.”

This message reverberated with me deeply and made me feel very peaceful. I love it when someone tells me to do nothing!

(Now that I think of it, people have been trying to tell me this for some time: witness the black plastic wu-wei bracelet I’ve been wearing since a wise friend gave it to me back in February. Boy, can we humans be slow to catch on.)

It is all about responding appropriately to life’s events, instead of thrashing out blindly in fear and self-protection.

I read and pondered this while practicing today’s 30-minute standing meditation (part of the morning routine):

“The essence of the distinction between these two lies mostly in the quality and state of mind. If an action is free from fear and obsessive desire (and I do not mean free from feeling fear or having desire; I mean not bound to, motivated by, or influenced by them), and receptive to the real condition; and most importantly, if the mind and energy are not disturbed or disrupted in any way by the stimulus that calls for action; then it is responsive. Thus, if the stimulus does not call for action, no action is taken; whereas a reaction occurs whether action is called for or not.”

“Maintaining this condition of relaxed balance and postural integration is as delicate as it is effective.”*

If this all sounds too cerebral or abstract for you, try a living experiment instead. Stand up, put your feet together so that your heels touch, and bend your knees so they feel springy like in a jack-in-the-box. Put your feet at 90 degrees to each other, with your tail bone tucked under your spine. Feel your spine click into comfort. Hold that posture for a while.

(As per the advice of T’ai chi Master Peng, I do this while looking out a window every morning for 30 minutes. Although this is much less than the three hours he does each day, it has had miraculous effects on my balance, hip-joints, and all-around sense of well-being.)

As you stand, you will feel your balance shifting back and forth between your feet and legs. You will realize it is a continual movement that keeps you upright. You are always doing that thing; you are always staying upright! So give yourself some credit for that. Let your role in life slide into observing instead acting, when it is appropriate.

* Peter Ralston, Principles of Effortless Power, 48.