While many feel somewhat confused by how the Taoists state things, and believe that it’s not logical in nature, and while that may be true, what it’s really doing is stating something from a perspective that most aren’t used to looking through. Because of how this idea is stated, “action through non-action”, it’s often misinterpreted to somehow mean a meek and passive behavior, or the ability to resist certain actions through a form of self-control, or perhaps through the release of desire and attachment, and not being provoked to take action in relationship to what goes on around us. Yet, what this is really referring to is our actions not coming as a willful act, or as something that’s not natural and spontaneous, but rather deliberate and formed out of discipline, motive, or intention of some sort. Our will, when directed outward, as an intentional and deliberate act that goes against our inner nature through a form of resistance that seeks control of some sort, is karmic in nature. Instead of having to use our will to direct our behavior because it’s not natural and spontaneous, we use our will instead to cultivate our inner nature which produces our outer actions in a completely natural fashion. We act “on ourselves” to cultivate in us certain qualities and traits that form our basic character, out of which all behavior and actions come in a completely natural way. Because of this naturalness, our actions appear effortless.
The basic principle underlying Taoism is the Principle of Yin-Yang, which represents the Dyad as the primary idea inner and outer aspects of our nature as governed by the Feminine and Masculine aspects of our mind and body. It’s our inner nature or soul’s essence that naturally produces our outer behaviors in an immediate and flowing manner. The way to control our actions is not by attempting to willfully override our own tendencies, but rather to develop our very nature as our subconscious-yin mind to develop the character traits as qualities of consciousness that spontaneously give rise to all our outer actions in a natural way.
Likewise, the outer actions and events that we’re being influenced by, serve naturally to activate certain qualities within us in response to them. Through the Law of Action – Reaction, or Cause and Effect, the outer only has the ability to stimulate in us what’s there to stimulate. People and events can only call forth in us what already exists in us to be activated and serve as the pathway for outer expression as our actions or reactions, which comes in an automatic and instantaneous fashion. Instead of taking an attitude of refraining from the reactive behavior or by inducing our will to redirect our behavior, we use our will on ourselves instead operating by way of law to transform our inner nature by cultivating and developing virtuous qualities that come to form our subconscious, feminine aspect of our inner nature, in which only positive qualities exist, and negativity (anger, hate, greed, etc.) can’t be activated so there’s no need to “hold back” or control our own behavior, while the quality whose behavior we’re refraining from still rises in us, fills and possesses us, transforming our inner state to that quality. So even though we resist the behavior we still possess the consciousness that makes it necessary to exercise constant control over ourselves. We are still the conduit through which that quality has life, and in unguarded moments, we’ll still produce the actions of that quality of consciousness while incurring the karma that ensues from it. By purifying our inner nature, we don’t have to intentionally take action, but rather respond in a totally natural and spontaneous manner.
Through an understanding of the Yin and Yang Principles of the Feminine and Masculine aspects of ourselves, which represent our subconscious, body oriented mind as our inner nature and the source of force that prompts and motivates all outward expression as a fluid and natural outpouring; and our masculine aspect of our will and ability to take direct and intentional action, and instead of operating one against the other, we can use one to operate ‘on’ the other. We use our will on ourselves as a disciplined practice of virtuous qualities that develop our character accordingly, which naturally determines and produces all of our outward behaviors as a spontaneous and creative expression. In this way, all of our behavior is natural and effortless. We’re not resisting ourselves or preventing a state that has risen in us from outwardly expressing, but instead, we have abolished the state and the actions associated with it altogether, so it’s not in us to be activated, and never rises in us or is capable of expressing through us. In this way we work in harmony with the law instead of against it. Our masculine aspect provides the seed as an intention that our feminine aspect receives and grows into a practice of some sort, which becomes spontaneously expressed by our outer masculine aspect as our offspring. In this way we act on ourselves to develop ourselves, instead of being developed by others through our reactions to them.
Through disciplined use of our ability to choose, the will to engage in devoted practice necessary to cultivate our character by habituating virtuous qualities, in the presence of which negative ones no longer exist, building them into mind and muscle through practice, so they become a natural part of who we are and how we act. Through Yoga and disciplined arts that train the body to postures, states, and movements, we program our own mind-body system with natural qualities and behaviors that become spontaneous and effortless. Through meditative practices we can develop our own mind and character through the unified motion of the Yin and Yang within our own mind and inner nature.
Points to remember:
• The inner and the outer are in a constant relationship and interaction with each other. One stimulates in the other the same quality.
• All outer behavior and actions are created by whatever is active in our inner state. Whatever quality is activated becomes the basis for outward expression.
• You can only activate in someone what’s there to be activated. If the quality being expressed outwardly doesn’t exist “in” a person, the outside force has no affect on it.
• All outer behavior results from and is the expression of our inner state. One is an extension of the other.
• To change our behavior or actions, we have to change the inner state that’s acting to naturally produce it.
• By working with our inner nature, and cultivating our character, we can directly control and determine our outer, natural behaviors.
• Our behavior flows naturally from our inner state as a natural and spontaneous expression that comes without effort.
• We act from our subconscious mind without effort or intentional thought. The way to produce effortless and spontaneous action is by developing the inward state out of which it naturally arises.
Dr. Linda Gadbois
About the author:
Dr. Linda is a Spiritual Scientist and scholar of Hermetic Sciences and Ancient Wisdom traditions. She’s a professional educator and trainer for all areas of personal transformation, self-creation, mind development, and soul/spiritual evolution. She practices Integrative Medicine with a special emphasis on Psychology and Creative therapies. She conducts ongoing classes, Playshops, and Adventure Seminars, and is available for private or group training, mentoring, and speaking engagements.
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