An article by Sandra Gonzalez
“Right action happens in accord with the present circumstance.”
— Lao Tzu
Lets explore first if by right action we mean an action that is compassionate and responsive, which is at the same time, an action that is in harmony and in touch openly and choicelesly with the present moment, with what is happening. Isn’t this so? In this moment just as it is, not as we think or feel it is happening, which involves interpreting, comparing; always in reference to our ideas and beliefs.
Then, the action or no action that the circumstance of the moment is calling for springs from this openness (listening) that has no center but wisdom, intelligence and love. “No center” meaning without agenda or motive, free from the mode of self-preoccupation.
Living from openness, listening, interest, and curiosity, in direct touch with what is here this moment, there is no need for an external authority in order for us to be respectfully and sensitively with others. Being here, in touch with what is, is self-sufficient; it is all that is needed, it takes care of everything. Isn’t that the essence of responsibility?
It contains all the so-called virtues: compassion, humility and true intelligence. And as Toni Packer responded when a friend asked if there was a need to practice compassion and mindfulness to be ethical, “Living from awareness is ethical.” It was an explosion of truth when that sentence was heard, the profound simplicity of that fact.
In looking into living from listening, there is consciousness of what is going on within and without. In fact, there is no in or out, just listening, togetherness, connectedness, and space from which responses arise. Perception is not fragmented, it is whole, meaning not distorted by prejudice and desire. Then there is clarity of action; a clarity that is the natural outcome of being here, not identified with our beliefs but aware of them.
Responses from this space of no-identification (with our countless “should” and “should nots,” images and stories) are spontaneous actions, since, in living moment to moment, we cannot know what is next. Consequently our responses cannot be planned, thought out, or programmed: who is there that knows and can tell us how to behave or what is the right thing to do? They are devoid of fear since the self-concern mode is not operating: the self-concern mode of “Am I right? Maybe I should do a different thing; or what if I am totally mistaken? What are friends going to think of me…?” on and on.
This paralyzing fear of being wrong, disliked, or unloved narrows our perspective, preventing us from responding to what truly is. Instead it filters and distorts the facts according to interpretations based on past experiences; reacting to any given situation from those beliefs and images stored in our memories, codes of conduct that tell us how to behave, think, and feel. These reactions hold hostage energy that could be used, intelligently, to meet the challenges that life presents us moment to moment.
These reactions that come from experiences, positive or negative, have been stored in the body as memories: felt memories of emotions and feelings as well as commands of “should” and “should not” that comprise our belief systems. These systems working together result in automatic reactivity, based on the past and projecting a future based on that past. Others and the world are evaluated from those images and beliefs—we have built a “known” world that we believe to be true.
These images of ourselves and others are stored in the subconscious, shaping our entire lives. They condition the way we function and respond to circumstances. Identification with these images and stories of ourselves and others is reinforced to the point that we begin to behave as such images/programs ourselves—automatically, unconsciously. Then, our life energy is used to defend them, to keep them intact and to polish them, to become better: a better person, kinder, more intelligent, striving towards perfection. And if we fail to live up to our ideals we enter an endless cycle of wanting to be better, seeking safety in images that are bound to be fractured, destroyed.
An endless cycle of ME. A cycle of self-concern, self-preoccupation, a cycle of becoming this or that, or not this, not that. Never happy, never satisfied, never quite yet there, feeling unfinished, incomplete, always lacking. Competitiveness, jealousy, guilt, anger, sadness and frustration are some of the emotions and feelings that are part of what we can call the conditioned human mind— suffering.
Amazingly, all this happens unconsciously, on auto-pilot, no one to blame or take credit, nobody doing it, just the cycle of ME recreating itself endlessly, feeding on itself. Until Light comes in illuminating the automatic cycle of Me. Light/Presence that comes from nowhere and from nobody just Life revealing to itself the truth of what is. Just that!
Living moment to moment is not living from the dream of my LIFE. It is seeing what arises moment to moment for what it is: stories as stories, habits as habits, facts as facts. No confusion. Then there is just being, responding to whatever this moment calls for. Our lives become simpler, with humility and compassion toward our self and others. With an open, flexible mind that isn’t fixed in anything, but ready.
Here! Empty! Not knowing!