At Sunrise Ranch we are currently in a series of discussions on the subject of taking action. Living on the ranch during the 7 months of the Full Self-Emergence program is a little like riding the waves on a surf-board waiting for the right one to surf to shore. Topics rise and lift us and some resonate so well with us that we are taken forward on our own life path. Taking Action is just such a surf-worthy topic.
On the surface (pun intended) it seems simple enough, as Nike’s tag line says, Just Do It. We have been taking action our whole lives. We try to take the right actions when we can, we often just re-act instead. I have been pondering the deeper implications of taking action.
The eastern term for action is Karma. Often this is misunderstood as meaning ‘bad deeds’ but in fact every action creates a change, every action influences the world within us and usually outside us as well. The biblical quote, a man reaps what he sows, describes well the western sense of Karma. However, one does not always reap what one sows, sometimes the actions we take keep the seeds we sow from thriving. In fact, if we want something to grow naturally from our deeds, we need to take further care.
The teaching in Full Self Emergence is that in our human life we prepare the ground first by feeling the flow of being in our hearts and understanding our feelings well enough to take ‘intelligent action.’
I can interrupt the flow of being/spirit/life force as it passes through my subconscious emotional body and deflect it—clothe it in threatening garb as it meets my internal personal history. When that happens, my mental body can’t fully understand what I am feeling and works to protect my broken heart by any number of mental strategies. In psychological parlance, these are defense mechanisms. When I act from that wounded and protected place, I’m not in the flow of being, I am back-pedaling from the energy of life. When I take action from that position I create a form that is limited by my internal manipulations. I am making karma that leads me toward a cycle of condition-response, cause and effect.
Oh the tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive. Because we are deceiving ourselves when we confuse our protecting thoughts as facts.
There is a Taoist and Zen term that is particularly pertinent to this sense of karmic reactivity. The term is Wu-Wei (pronounced “wooo way”). It is usually translated as non-action. In my studies of eastern philosophy, I have observed that the common translation is never adequate to understand these concepts. Westerners are often satisfied with the first or simplest translation and thus may miss the deeper meanings in eastern philosophy. The common-sense interpretation of this non-action is literally that to avoid karma you should not do anything. It plays into the simplistic notion that eastern philosophies are only about “contemplating your navel.”
The deeper meaning is much more interesting to me. Wei is also associated with the sense of ‘striving’ or ‘busyness’—it is about ‘making something’. Wu-Wei translates as not forcing the situation, not reacting with our smaller self. In this context, the warning is that when we just go about making things from our self-protected mind and wounded heart what we create is very likely going to boomerang back at us.
The antidote to this ‘bad’ Wei is not inactivity but reconnecting to the source of the flow of life. In the east, this is referred to as the Tao. Actions that originate in the source—the river that flows from possibility to the present moment, not deflected by our internal subconscious psychology—are intelligent actions.
Can we act in tune with the needs of the present moment, in service to the source, from our emotional wisdom and a higher perspective? We will still be creating karma. We will be causing ripples in the field of our world. But these vibratory ripples are more like prayers, they radiate out into our lives and create an invitation to others to drop their strategies and armor and join us in the flow. These ripples are the stuff of heart coherence with others and connects to the great spirit of life itself.
I stand on the surf board in balance above the chaos.
The forces move me toward the shore but only if I dance quietly on the board.
You can’t make yourself reach shore any quicker than the wave.
Atom Terpening has over 30 years of experience as a software and database developer and project manager in the healthcare and non-profit, association-management industries. Most recently he worked as the Corporate Information Officer of a company, CMI, that manages membership and events for non-profit health care associations. Atom is a proud father of two grown children and a new granddaughter named Ziggy, and he has spent most of his adult life developing a practice of awakened consciousness through mindfulness, heartfulness and appreciation for the miracle of life.