Pure Action, Part Two—Act, Not React

Our last Spirit column (Dec. 1) examined the concept of “pure action,” especially as a means of finding our way out of crisis.

We noted how in modern life almost all of our activity is spent not in acting but in re-acting to external events: information that may or may not be true, entertainment that is passively consumed, and fulfilling the tasks of work and home life that feel more like putting out fires than kindling the embers of creation.

In contrast to reaction to external circumstances, pure action comes from deep within, from the soul’s realm of will and imagination. It is characterized by two modes that make it an imitation of that form of action attributed to the gods. First, it is done without desire—or any other human passion, such as anger or ego gratification. It’s been said that in order to sculpt David, Michaelangelo simply looked at a block of marble, saw the figure in his mind’s eye and freed it from its stone encasing, with the artist’s hands merely the instruments of divine inspiration. Second, pure action is done for its own sake, without concern—certainly not worry—about what the outcome will be.

A closely related concept that helps us understand how pure action feels is the difference between doing and being. Modern life makes us a cross between intelligent apes and robots, always engaged in some task and completely shut off from the sense of being, that feeling-state that carries within it the sense of eternity. Tradition, on the other hand, teaches us that humans are a microcosm of the universe, and that an intuitive sense of freedom beyond the barriers of space and time is built into our consciousness.

The reason spirit-seekers spend so much time in meditation, contemplation and reflection is that their default mode is this sense of being, and it is from this space that they live and act. When we’re in crisis, the being-state becomes closed off, and the easiest way to escape from identifying with one’s depressed state is the pure act of simply going outside and sitting on a park bench with no intended purpose other than to simply sit and be. Here, by doing nothing, we actually rise to a higher level of existence by simply being, by partaking in all of creation itself. Then we’ll begin to de-identify with our negative emotions, seeing them as mere clouds passing through the sky of consciousness, wholly separate from the being of light at our deepest core, which longs to live and act in liberation.

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