Action and Inaction


We often hear “surrender,” “be at ease with whatever comes,” “wanting causes suffering,” “let go and just be…” It seems to make sense in a yoga class. But when we hear the same being said off the mat, we often have something else to say. We have family responsibilities, friends, jobs, clubs, hobbies, dreams, plans, and goals… What does it mean to let go and to be at ease with whatever comes? Is everything really perfect? Just one look at the news and you start doubting. Your dysfunctional, habitual patterns, procrastination, failed attempts at achieving your goals, job losses, divorces, kid troubles, how can you accept yourself as perfect? You keep going to yoga classes and letting go while you are there and you keep your ambitions, frustrations, goals, and greed to your self.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna, the great warrior who is no longer sure he should fight, that any action is better than inaction. He also tells him that he has the right to work, but not to the fruits of his work. That selfless service is sure to grant you passage to immortality. Krishna tells Arjuna that the ego-mind uses the senses for self-gratification, and those who dwell in the ego-mind find no grace, no contentment, no joy and are subject to the continual cycles of rebirth. So, how do you act without acting? “Established in the Self,” Krishna answers, one is in a state of equanimity, at all times. In equanimity, there is calmness and there is space full of potentiality. When one is established in the Self, one is connected with Divinity at all times. Therefore, one is at ease with whatever comes, knowing that impermanence is the name of this game.  Everything will eventually pass.

When in this state the mind does not flicker uncontrollably and frantically in all directions.  Established in the Self you see your situation for what they are and through the calmness of equanimity, you also see what needs to be done, what must be done, and how. In essence, the necessary actions reveal themselves because you have allowed the space for that to happen. You will be wiser in your choices and you will be acting with compassion, faith, and certitude. You will also not grow attached to anything you do and anything you have.  Instead, you will live with gratitude.  Your actions will no longer be for you alone. They will be in service and with purpose.  When acting in the line of your dharma (duty) no bad karma can be accumulated, teaches Krishna.  When acting in selfless service all karma is dissolved.  Established in the Self the mind becomes a useful tool, which you can put away when you are done and call upon it when it’s needed. The mind is not a bad thing; it’s just a busy thing that needs taming. As Eckhart Tolle puts it in the Power of Now – you are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold – that is how important you are….

This sounds amazing and simple! Unless you don’t believe in Divinity or the willingness of the Universe to help you out. And if you are confused as to what actually constitutes your all wise, centered, and Equanimeous Self, what would you surrender to and who can you trust for inner guidance?

In that case, trust yourself. Your own life with its twists and turns has a way of showing you what you need to know. Look at your relationships. Look at past events when you felt hurt, angry, misunderstood, justified to commit random acts of unkindness. Look at how you handle similar situations. Look at the results you get from such handling of similar situations. Ask people close to you for feedback. See a therapist, a life coach, or read a book or two, or a dozen. Educate yourself and study yourself. Examine your life because you’re worth it. Then make the choice to do better. “Action is better than inaction,” said Krishna to Arjuna. And I concur.

And while you are at it, keep your eyes on the prize – a better life, a better job, better relationships, better fun, and yet, remember that only your actions are within your control. Things can happen regardless of what you do, and how hard you try. You may do better than expected. You may get lucky. You may find something along the way you did not expect and get sidetracked. You may do worse or never reach your destination. But just trying, just learning, just figuring things out, changes you forever.

You can never step in the same river twice, says a Chinese proverb. This includes the river of your life. Every day a new You lives to see the sunset. Rejoice at this opportunity. Make the most of it. Let go of holding on to your old mistake. Let go of holding on to old stories. Make new ones – mistakes and stories. That’s what you are here for. And that’s what being a human means. You’ll never get anything right, even though some people will tell you can or you did. In your own mind, you’ll always know what you could have done better, the shortcuts you took, the imperfections. Let go of holding on to the idea of perfection. Being awesome is not the same as being perfect. Being perfect is unattainable. And that’s perfectly OK. Everything is perfectly imperfect at all times, including you.

If everything is totally perfect, as in no need for any changes, improvements, enhancements, modifications, and experimentation beyond what already is, then what would you do with this life of yours? That’s the very perfection of the situation!




One comment

  1. Thank you for writing this post. It was what I needed to read. I try to be perfect. I fail. I curl up in bed. Thinking what have I done to be like this. Then do nothing. One action towards a better, none perfect life, is what I need to do. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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