The Delicate Art of Doing Absolutely Nothing

February 28, 2017

The first time I was engulfed by the realization of Radical Inclusivity was during a sixty-day meditation retreat under the guidance of my spiritual teacher. As I sat from morning until evening following the simple instruction “Let everything be as it is,” I found myself transported to an experience of consciousness that I had no way to anticipate.

Sitting hour after hour with my legs crossed I made supreme effort to follow those simple instructions. I simply allowed whatever I was experiencing to be exactly as it was without making any effort at all to do anything. The goal was to truly do nothing and resist the temptation to engage in any way with any part of my experience.

It is a practice of perfect passivity—literally asking me to do nothing at all.

As the hours of meditation became days of meditation, I saw over and over again how I would catch myself in the earnest effort of trying to do nothing. Every time I would catch myself I would realize that “trying to do nothing” is still doing something—and doing something is not doing nothing. So with each realization I would stop doing something and start doing nothing.

After relentless hours spent revolving through this cycle of entrapment and escape, I began to realize that every time I “stopped doing something” I was doing something. Stopping doing something was still doing something, and the goal was to do nothing. If stopping doing something was still not doing nothing, then how could I do nothing? I spent prolonged periods locked in the mental gymnastics of trying to do nothing, while realizing over and over again that trying to do nothing was still doing something. It was supremely frustrating, like trying to look at the back of your eyeballs. It seemed that the spiritual physics would not allow me to do nothing.

Eventually I realized something that was so obvious that I couldn’t see it before. If the instruction is to let everything be as it is, I literally couldn’t fail. Absolutely everything that happens is already the way it is, and there is no reason to do anything about it.

Whenever I realized that I had spent the last twenty minutes locked in an imaginary struggle to let everything be as it is—then that is the way it was. In the moment of realizing it there was nothing to do except see what happens next. Anything that you experience and anything that you do will always be the way it is. Meditation is not different from just being—it is a practice of perfect acceptance.

Once I realized this, my experience of meditation changed completely even though nothing was different. I was still struggling in all the same ways. I was still having breakthrough experiences of bliss and illumination, still living through prolonged, tormenting bouts of doubt and frustration. Nothing was different except it all stopped bothering me.

It was so obvious. The instruction is to allow everything be the way it is, and the way it is is already the way it is. Sometimes we are sitting quietly aware; at other times we get lost in thought and struggle; and other times we wake up from being lost in thought. That is the cycle of consciousness that we experience all the time. That is the way it is.

The realization of Radical Inclusivity in the context of this meditation practice is the realization that no matter what I experience, it is the way it is, and there is nothing I could do to make it otherwise. No matter what appears to be happening, everything will always already be the way it is, including thinking that it is not. At this point in my meditation practice something finished. I stopped feeling like there was anything I could do. I stopped wanting anything to be different from the way that it already was.

Everything was different, and nothing had changed.

In the way I teach meditation you stop needing to do anything when you accept that everything is already included in the instruction of letting everything be as it is. That is the realization of Radical Inclusivity. It is the recognition, in one context or another, that everything is already included in some larger whole— that the perception that there was ever anything outside that needed to be included was always an illusion because life – as it is – is already whole, complete and full.

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