The Myth of ‘Doing Nothing’

The Myth of ‘Doing Nothing’

Colin Drake

I recently was talking to a friend who was complaining of existential anxiety; which was dispelled by reading a good book on nonduality or attending an inspiring satsang, but which always returned. So I asked him what he ‘did’ on a daily basis to establish himself in nondual awareness, whereupon he grinned sheepishly indicating that he did nothing. Which made me ponder the teachings of many modern teachers of nondualism who say there is nothing to ‘do’ and everything just ‘happens by itself’. Indeed even in my book Beyond the Separate Self there is a chapter entitled ‘Nothing to Achieve, Find or Get’ which could give the impression that there is nothing that one needs to do … However I can assure you that if one continues to live in the same headspace without ‘doing anything’ then there will no change in one’s outlook and anxiety levels. For as I say in the book:

At a deeper level than this flow of fleeting objects (thoughts and sensations) we are this constant subject, awareness itself; this is already the case and as such cannot be achieved. All that is required is to realize this!

So awareness is central to our being, whilst thoughts and sensations are peripheral. This is self-evident for without awareness our thoughts and sensations would pass unnoticed. Thus we cannot lose this awareness; we just need to stop overlooking it.

It is impossible to get that awareness which you already are, and thus have in full abundance. All that is required is to recognize this. In this respect you do need to ‘get’ this, but this is in fact nothing as it is not a thing but the ‘ground’ from which all things arise, in which they exist and back into which they subside. So there is in fact ‘no thing to get’ and you do need to ‘get’ nothing(ness)!

So although there is:

‘nothing to achieve,’ we do need to realise the deeper level of pure awareness, for this to be the case.

‘nothing to find’, we do need to stop overlooking the awareness that is always present.

‘nothing to get’, we do need to recognize that we already have this awareness.

This realization, or recognition, of the deeper level of pure awareness is easily accomplished by directly investigating our own moment-to-moment experience. My book aims to provide a simple straightforward framework in which this investigation can take place. However even after the recognition of this deeper level we do need to cultivate, and establish, this by further investigation/contemplation for as it says in The Tibetan Book of the Dead:

All those of all [differing] potential, regardless of their acumen or dullness,

May realise [this intrinsic awareness].

However, for example, even though sesame is the source of oil and milk of butter,

But there will be no extract if these are unpressed or unchurned,

Similarly, even though all beings actually possess the seed of buddhahood,

Sentient beings will not attain buddhahood without experiential cultivation.

Nonetheless, even a cowherd will attain liberation if he engages in experiential cultivation.

For, even though one may not know how to elucidate [this state] intellectually,

One will [through experiential cultivation] become manifestly established in it.

One whose mouth has actually tasted molasses,

Does not need others to explain its taste.

Even after one has ‘tasted molasses’ this taste will dissipate after a time, requiring further ingesting for the taste to reappear. In the same way the effect of ‘awakening’ to the reality of the deeper level of pure awareness will dissipate if one ‘nods off’ again and re-identifies with the mind/body. So one needs to continually inquire into/investigate/contemplate the nature of Self and Reality for this ‘awakening’ to become established. It is only in this established awakening that all existential anxiety is banished.

Beyond the Separate Self, by Colin Drake is available at http://nonduality.com/btss.htm

7 thoughts on “The Myth of ‘Doing Nothing’

  1. Nitram

    Actually Collin, not wanting to be a party pooper, but must disagree on some points, it is very unfortunate if that anxiety disappears, that discomfort is a grace in many respects and its loss or anesthetic cover up, may be seen as unfortunate by some.

    Also even when teachers say they are doing nothing,and perhaps teach from this perspective, they are doing “something” very subtle perhaps, very hard to see but they are always using a method or technique. I have yet to meet anyone who has not got something going on internally, even though they may teach otherwise. There is always a refined strategy in motion.

    That observation of hidden or refined methods and strategies in oneself and that of others can be very useful, perhaps one of the most useful things a man or women can do if interested in Liberation.

    Not meaning to be cheeky, but wanted to pick you up on this too :

    “At a deeper level than this flow of fleeting objects (thoughts and sensations) we are this constant subject, awareness itself; this is already the case and as such cannot be achieved. All that is required is to realize this!”

    This simple realization as stated above does not really change anything, does it? It may give one a temporary easing a sense of liberation, but is that not just an “intuition”, that would be like saying one could live on the mere “sniff” of food, or the thought of food, it’s not actually food or in this case Realization is it? If I could be a little more forthright this has always seemed like “bollocks” to me. Feel free to show my error back to me (of course)

    These are just my own observations and not with unkind intention, and wish you well with the book.

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  2. Jay O

    It’s lonely at the top, of a mountain, from where one can look out, to see where one was, and now been put, up to the task of transcendent talk, in silence, with birds, clouds, mice, insects, sun shining everywhere inside as outside of awareness. Having slept through the noise of delusion now awake, in all equally, past is present forgiving future now.

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  3. Tim

    Nitram sound like you are awake, I like to know if that true. I like to know if in nonduality death have a different meaning to Budhaism.
    Tony Byrson said that the self of nonduality you get when you die.
    there such fear about death I like to know.
    If it is true what tony says in theory we should worry less and may be even be a little corrupting ourselfs on alkhool and women.
    what you say.

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  4. Tim

    what happens after death-
    should we be afraid or not at least in the abstract. I have many times in the last 35 years since 1975 very deep experiences speiclly in their freshness between 1975 and 1980- very alive incomparable to living
    in the normal life now-
    but still death fear is not clear.

    even now somtimes I have expereince were i cant remmeber what happens and then it is goen.
    I am not intrested in the expereince looking for the biggy-
    i am such loser.

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  5. Nitram

    Depends Tim what you mean by “Awake”, somewhat or sometimes, freely “aware” would be the most honest answer. As for death and fear, natural enough to be frightened of death, no one can give a conclusive answer about it, in my opinion close to the Tibetan Book of The Dead (as a basic rather than specific outcome)no instant Nirvana just be dying, most likely a quick and unconscious re-birth for most people. As for alcohol and addictions, best to live a disciplined life, just for ordinary happiness, functionality and as a firm basis for any Transcendental Occupation, all the best to you.

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  6. Colin

    The simple realization of the deeper level of ‘pure awareness’ allows one to see the body/mind for what it is (experienced as), just a flow of ephemeral objects (thoughts/mental images/sensations). Whereas pure awareness is the constant conscious unchanging subjective presence. This allows us to overcome identification with the body/mind and identify with this pure pristine radiant awareness. However:

    ‘Even after one has ‘tasted molasses’ this taste will dissipate after a time, requiring further ingesting for the taste to reappear. In the same way the effect of ‘awakening’ to the reality of the deeper level of pure awareness will dissipate if one ‘nods off’ again and re-identifies with the mind/body. So one needs to continually inquire into/investigate/contemplate the nature of Self and Reality for this ‘awakening’ to become established. It is only in this established awakening that all existential anxiety is banished.’

    When I say that ‘existential anxiety’ disappears I do not mean physical/mental pain as these are part of life. I mean anxiety concerning one’s personal existence disappears.

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  7. goldenagebeyond

    Colin, I believe there is much in what you say but from my point-of-view, the only “existential anxiety” that can said to exist is that of the bulk load of “unexamined conscience” and if this “layered” pain structure is examined or penetrated it will be seen that this is a “cloud” which obscures what you might well call “the deeper level of awareness that, as Adi Da would say “always already is”.

    But truly, the cloud is not dispersed even by “directly investigating our own moment-to-moment experience” (of the profound) or by “cultivating it” as by taking continual peeks at a diamond otherwise hidden in one’s pocket ensures that its radiant glory is constantly on display for it is not – it is hidden in the pocket ie. The pocket ever remains in spite of the glances that one deploys either deeply, superficially or continually. There is only one sure way to rid oneself of the cloud and that is exactly to undertake self-investigation, to fractionate the cloud into logical elements and to then take full responsibility for the origin(s) thereof. In this Adi Da has it directly right and as Nityan observes the “simple realization as stated (above) does not really change anything”.

    Furthermore (to call a spade a spade) it is the cloud and nothing but the contents thereof that engenders fright at the approach of death and any lingering trace of that cloud whatsoever will certainly obviate a stable realization in either Nirvana or the self of nonduality (as Tim alludes to above) and that will act as the driver to initiate the “next life”.

    The Self is not like the “taste” of molasses it is an ever-burning presence that can be obscured only by impurities carried around within the personal framework of being. And of course, no-one, even the most profound of non-dual teachers, is without some attributes thereof.

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