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Originally posted on Feb 17, 2022

Today I am talking about a pair of art pieces that I recently made: DOING by Not DOING.

The one on your left is pronounced DOU and means moving, doing, or a state of action. The one on your right is pronounced SEI and means being quiet, Not moving, or in a state of inaction.

These two words are placed at opposite ends of the energy scale, so to speak, with doing representing a more active, energetic, or powerful state while Not-Doing represents a calm, peaceful, and inactive state.

We often use this DOING and Not DOING scale to describe things like who we are and what we do: by saying you are an energetic person or you aren't very active on social media. What we do in life is never completely on one side or the other of this energy scale; things often fall somewhere in between. But society seems to view everything we do in the perspective of DOING vs Not DOING and in the process, it seems to put a significantly larger value on the DOING side.

So our daily life consists of so much DOING: you have people to meet, places to go, and things to do at work and at home. We are encouraged to work hard, be productive, and to make things happen rather than waiting for things to happen.

Staying busy doesn’t always translate to good, meaningful work. But the culture of our society encourages us to feel that Not DOING isn’t an option for achieving something..

Achieving goals by Not DOING

But let me ask you a question: Is progress or achieving something a product of DOING only? Or is there a fundamental flaw in this way of thinking? What if we can actually get something out of Not DOING?

I am going to explore the idea of a whole different way of “making progress” and “achieving goals” by Not DOING.

First, we need to go back to the question: Why is it that even our best efforts can end up in marginal results and failed expectations? Why is it that being productive and DOING more don’t always bring better results? And we instinctively know the answer: that’s because we don't have control over everything in life. There may not be a perfect explanation for this but I know that we humans don't exist independently and everything we do, even if it seems independent, has an impact directly or indirectly on all other existences including people, surrounding situations, and everything that exists in the larger environment. We live interdependently.

This is a core teaching of many philosophies of the world including Taoism; that all living creatures ought to live in a state of harmony with the universe, in one big equilibrium, and in a natural flow of energy where things aren’t controlled or enforced but “allowed”.

In this view, our individual activities of DOING are merely a part of one big natural law of the universe. Regardless of your intentions or desires, the universe has a way of its own.

This doesn't mean however, your actions or desires are meaningless or you don't need to be DOING anything or making any effort. The energy that you put into what you do is a big part of how nature works. Even in the smallest of ways, as with the butterfly effect, your actions will cause reaction that goes on to cause more reactions. The result is a chain of events that influence how everything unfolds. If you are influencing something, then you are equally being influenced. Nothing arises without an equal opposite, which is how natural law works.

So if our habits of DOING only don’t always get us where we want to get in a world that is governed by this natural law of the universe, is there better way to go about? What’s the alternatives? The answer is “DOING by Not DOING also”, which is the key concept of Taoism, and letting nature do its own work as much as possible, letting things fall in places rather than trying to control things.

Whether it is a personal relationship issues, academic or career challenges, or societal & environment issue that you want to improve, the essence of DOING by Not DOING is to learn to work with both our own intentions/desires and the natural laws operating around us, which might involve letting go of your intentions/desires, willing to be flexible like water, and allowing natural energy to flow as freely as possible without us grappling with our own ideas that go against the flow.

But how practical is this approach ??

It sounds AMAZING but, practically speaking, this is a very difficult thing to do. Think about the relationship with some difficult people in your life: maybe your colleagues or boss, or maybe with family members or partner. We all have different opinions and ideas and you do not have control over what they think or do. You might have the best intentions in the world yet can't agree with them and the situation can get intensified.

So how “DOING by Not DOING” will help in this kind of situation to solve the problems? Are we supposed to do nothing and just let others do what they want and roll over you? Is that the natural law? Why not stand up for yourself and do what you think is the right to do or say what needs to be said?

Eckhart Tolle said, “You cannot transform yourself, and you certainly cannot transform your partner or anybody else. All you can do is to create a space for transformation to happen, for grace and love to enter.” “First you stop judging yourself and then you stop judging your partner (meaning stop thinking who is right or wrong). The moment that judgment stops through acceptance of what is, you are free of the mind.”

This may seem counterintuitive or too passive in the standard widely accepted in our society… but in fact, the DOING by Not DOING is a very smart way of “winning” because we are essentially following natural laws and utilizing it wisely and strategically to our advantage in order to allow changes to occur. Furthermore, by “becoming free of the mind” and not clinging to the desires and ideas, you have already achieved something quite remarkable.

This approach not only allows us to make progress with less effort but also allows us to avoid conflicts and save ourselves from fighting unnecessary battles.

The Power of Not DOING

Another important element of DOING by Not DOING is understanding that Not DOING is not merely a passive, non-active state. It is a state that reserves explosive and significant power to be exerted with specific goals when it comes DOING time.

Here is a great example. The state of Not DOING and staying calm is an essential part of practicing martial arts and very critical in order to defend yourself successfully.

Imagine the situation when you are facing your opponent. What you need to know first-hand is how to control your internal stress response in a “fight or flight” kind of situation and stay calm. No martial arts use uncontrolled and wasteful motions. Instead, they preserve all energy and focus on making extremely meaningful and deliberate movements. Not DOING and staying still, centered and balanced, will allow you to observe the situation, assess the clarity of your surroundings, and be open to using any circumstances to your advantage. This is the power of the Not DOING state that enables DOING to be precise and effective.

DOING by Not DOING is a whole new way of “achieving goals'' or living life. It all starts from seeing ourselves as an interdependent existence with the rules of the universe. It challenges us to recognize that we can only accomplish so much by DOING and that the progress is NOT a product of DOING only. When you understand the value and power of Not DOING and truly open up our mental space for a new realm of Not DOING to allow things to happen, DOING and Not DOING will work complementary to each other to create something more optimal. The more we allow it, we become more open to possibilities of things unfolding in life that might be beyond our intentions or expectations.

Thank you for watching!

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