“Doing” versus “Acting”

June 23, 2008

I had a strange day yesterday. I was dealing with a lot of trauma coming up, childhood stuff, right in my face. It was very intense and hard to stay present with. It felt like being in a room fool of crying, yelling, babies. Can’t leave the room, can’t ignore it, can’t shut them up either, but being present with them hurts, physically hurts. It gave me one hell of a headache. And then I would think: I have to do something, I am wasting the day away sitting on a couch and reading fairy tales, while there is so much work to do. Every time I thought that I would become immediately aware that “doing something” is not the thing to do. I felt very strongly that I’m supposed to be still, I could not stand sitting at my desk, my computer repelled me, it felt absolutely wrong to get engaged with it. It felt right to do nothing and be still. And so I sat on the couch, read my fairy tales and tried to stay present. Finally, exhausted and with a headache that was beyond my ability to handle, I took some painkillers and went to sleep. I didn’t have to sleep – I wanted to. I did not want to be present with the babies anymore, I wanted to escape them. It was about 8pm. I woke up at 11.30pm, my headache was gone, so were my babies, I was refreshed, rested and all together light and happy. I went back to bed knowing that I’m not going to fall asleep for hours, because of my nap, but that was okay with me. I enjoyed lying there, feeling cool night air (wonderful after a series of incredibly hot days) and feeling myself, cause I felt different. The babies were gone, the trauma was gone, everything was open and spacious, and still. The feeling of stillness was so much more intense, all-encompassing in fact. It was who I was, I was stillness. From the stillness I looked at all my activities: working, moving, driving, walking, doing, progressing, developing, growing, healing, and realized that they are not movement. They are me “spinning wheels”. They don’t move who I am. They don’t change who I am. They don’t change anything in fact, they keep me busy and distracted. Who I am is still. I don’t change. An analogy came to me: its like sitting in a chair and moving my hands, wiggling my fingers. I can move them and wiggle them as fast as I want but it doesn’t move me out of the chair, it doesn’t change me. I am still. I don’t move. The wiggling fingers don’t affect me and aren’t very significant really. I am sure, however, that from the finger’s point of view their movement seems very important, feels like changing, growing. And then I recalled times in my life when I moved inside of the stillness, when my whole being shifted, when not only fingers but the whole body moved into a new direction. It happened twice, or twice I was aware of it happening. Both times a choice was made, both times it felt that I, or what I considered to be “I” at the moment, was completely not involved in making said choice. I said “yes” without having the faintest idea of why I did that. It felt as though something took over my mouth and said “yes” for me. My mind was absent, I did not wonder, did not analyze, did not try to understand. I said “yes” — and my life turned around and changed completely, both times. And when I say completely, I really mean completely: where I lived, my profession, the language I spoke, what was important in my life, my plans and goals – all that changed completely out of one “yes”. One choice, one action. Do you recall the old saying, I think it’s Zen, may be older or more universal, about how butterfly’s wings fluttering can create a hurricane on the other side of the world? This is what acting Is, I think. A simple action, seemingly small movement, but the movement of the whole being – changes reality completely, as opposite to wiggling fingers which is just that: wiggling fingers.

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