Right Action

August 13, 2012

Is there such a thing as right action? An action that is compassionate and responsible?

“Right action happens in accord with the present circumstance.”
— Lao Tzu

To be in harmony with the present circumstance, we need to be in touch openly and choicelessly with what is happening in this moment, don’t we? Just as it is, not as I think or feel it is happening, which involves interpreting, comparing, always in reference to my 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 with no agenda or motive, free from the mode of self-preoccupation.

In 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 behave respectfully and sensitively with others. Being here in touch with what is in itself 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 her 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 profoundness and 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, there is just listening, togetherness, connectedness and space from which responses arise. The perception is not fragmented, it is whole, meaning not distorted by my prejudices and desires. Then there is clarity of action. A clarity that is the natural outcome of being here, empty of identification with our belief systems but aware of them.

Responses from this empty space of no identification with our files of “should” and “should not,” 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 fear of being wrong, not liked or loved has paralyzing effects in responding to what is needed. It narrows the perspective; it prevents direct touch with what is as it is. Instead it filters and distorts the facts according to interpretations based on past experiences; reacting to any given situation in life from those beliefs and images that are stored in the memory as files of codes of conduct that tell us how to behave, think or feel. These reactions keep the energy hostage that could be used intelligently to meet the challenges that life presents us moment to moment.

These are reactions that come from experiences, positive or negative, that have been stored in the body as memories: felt memories of emotions and feelings as well as commands of should and should not that turn into our belief system; all working as a system of automatic reactivity based on the past and projecting the 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 life. They condition the way we function and respond to circumstances in life. This identification with these images and stories of ourselves and others is reinforced by others in the course of our life, to the point that we begin to behave as such images/programs—they drive our life automatically, unconsciously. Then our life energy is used to defend them, to keep them intact and to polish them in order to become better: a better person, more kind and intelligent, trying to be perfect. And if we fail according to our ideal pictures of how I should be or not be, we engage in a repairing mode, an endless cycle of wanting to be better, searching to find safety in images that are bound to be fractured, ended.

An endless cycle of ME. A cycle of self -concern, self-preoccupation, a cycle of becoming this or that, or not this nor that. Never happy, always unsatisfied, never quite there yet, feeling unfinished, not complete, lacking something. 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 automatic pilot, there’s nobody to blame or to take credit for it. Nobody doing it, just the cycle of ME recreating itself endlessly, feeding into itself, until Light comes in illuminating that fact. Light/Presence that comes from nowhere and from nobody. It is 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 sees what arises moment to moment for what it is: stories as stories, habits as habits, facts as facts, No confusion. Then there is just functioning, responding to whatever this moment is calling for. Our lives become simpler, with humility and compassion toward our self and others. With an open flexible mind that is not fixed in anything but ready. Here! Empty! Not knowing!