I’d like to note for your information that part of the point of my books is to raise money for some worthy causes. All of the royalties from the books are donated to one of several charities.
I’d like to tell you about one of them, only because it has impacted my life so much. The organization is called Rokpa, which means “helping” in Tibetan, and it is run by a Swiss woman who has over the years become a friend as well.
Among other things, Rokpa runs a soup kitchen, medical tent and intervention program to take street kids off the streets in Katmandu in Nepal. The operation runs out of several tents and a few rented houses and is all volunteer. Kids who would otherwise be beggars, thieves or, perhaps worse, essentially slaves in carpet factories are taken off the street, housed, clothed and sent to school.
We sponsored a kid named Ram Karki who is now a young man but who was found living in the dump, stealing and begging to get by, a runaway from a carpet factory where he had been indentured by his stepfather for less then a dollar a day.
He was afraid, but he knew he had to make a change. He had the guts to run away and later when we put him into school, he had the guts to not run away and to stick it out. He speaks English now, and has a chance at a life. The cost for his education, clothing, food and support is not much more then a dollar a day, the value of a cup of coffee here in America at Starbucks.
An equally striking story is Dorje Dolma, a little girl brought into the medical tent for help. Her spine was profoundly twisted with scoliosis which was literally crushing her heart and lungs, she had tuberculosis, lice and malnutrition. She needed help which wasn’t available in Katmandu. She had come to the city from a remote area near the Tibetan border and had encountered her first motor vehicle on her month long walk to Katmandu. It was a bus which she took to be a large animal, the headlights where the eyes. She was afraid, but wasn’t stopped by this encounter with the unknown. She had no education. She didn’t speak a word of English. She didn’t know there was a world outside her high mountain village. But she was fearless.
Today she is my daughter. She is in sixth grade. She has had four operations and is on the road to a healthy life. She knows that buses are machines, but can remember when she thought they were animals. She is still fearless.
What does this have to do with this book, Doing Nothing? Again, this book, I hope will raise money which will go directly to help more children who need a chance to live and learn, who deserve a childhood with food and without pain. I hope that some little bit of our society’s vast excess can go to help. The money from this book is dedicated to that.
The content of the book, the substance of it, is related to these children too. It is book about fearlessness. In the end, if we don’t have the courage to look directly at who we are and how the world in which we function is constructed, then we will never leave the carpet factory of our lives, the place that we toil without creativity, without joy, without hope. We will never leave the security of what we know, the remote village which is the only world we have ever seen, but where we experience pain day after day as our heart is crushed. If fear rules us, then we are already done in our lives, we have already lived and all that is left is to repeat the known, over and over.
If you want fear to rule your life, this book is not for you.
Doing Nothing is intended to take you on a journey through your own thought structures and into the quiet space in which thought occurs. It is short and to the point. It leaves some of the work to be done by the you.
Carl Sandberg, the famous American poet, used to recite what he said was the world’s shortest poem- it went like this- “Born, Troubled, Died”
This book is about the thing we are troubled about – life. But the troubles we experience are not generally in our life, they are in our mind.
We try so many things to fix our troubles. We try to solve our problems by acquiring money and things money can buy, but we find that materialism doesn’t work. Who is actually happy? How many things can you collect?
We turn to religion, but religion doesn’t seem to work. We pray, but who is listening? We try meditation, new therapies, exotic religions, angels, channels. Nothing works.
Thousands of spiritually interested individuals have found themselves religiously following practices which have not fundamentally changed their lives – and never will. Equal thousands have become cynical as they discovered their teachers and peers mired in sex, money and power scandals.
I assert that we will find the truths of life not through any process, philosophy, or religion, but through the simple act of stopping the search. Every approach to psychological cure, religious faith or spiritual enlightenment is entirely useless. These techniques can’t get us from where we are to this better place. Why? Because, the better place is a myth, a story, an idea. Where we are is the only fact, the only actuality, and it is here that we must begin. We must begin where we are, there is no other place.
We have such difficulty being where we are, we are a culture of action, of doing, of achievement. Faced with the conflicts we experience in our life, we decide we must do something. We join a meditation group, a church, a religious or spiritual study group. We are going to do something about the problems of our life.
But, what happens? Don’t we take those problems with us? Aren’t we the problem ? That which is looking for the solution is the problem. The self, the me, the mind with all its needs and wants has one more want, it wants a solution. But this “me” that is looking is the problem.
Is there a solution? Perhaps a better questions is, “Is there a problem that needs to be solved?” Or is there just the craving of the mind, always looking, grasping, wanting?
What should we do about this grasping mind? Why not do nothing?
The agitation is there, the drive to do something is there, the need to find a solution is there. The pain, the confusion, the hurt is all there. Let it be there. We don’t need to do anything with it. We don’t need to fix it, to change it, to make it better. Do nothing. What happens?
Shall we find out?
Take just a minute now, simply stop, close your eyes, and do nothing.
As it turns out, nothing is a surprisingly active place. But it is here that we can discover what we are. In the resistance to doing nothing, the fear of doing nothing, of being nothing, we begin to discover the parameters of the self.
We discover that are world is thought, that our self is thought and that all of this thought is arising and falling away in this vast field of awareness which we call consciousness.
Nobody knows what consciousness is. Science doesn’t even have a working theory of consciousness. Religion usually glosses over the issue, except for some of the eastern religions, in particular Buddhism and some of the yogic and vedantic philosophies. Western religion is generally more interested in ritual, belief and theology then in this soup of stuff where everything seems to be happening.
We could think of consciousness as that annoying time between naps.
Isn’t it interesting that we are so caught up in our thoughts and we forget about the backdrop to the whole show?
It isn’t just that we have forgotten about consciousness, it is also that it is difficult to talk about. If we call it something, lets say we call it—consciousness, we can talk about it, but the it we are talking about is really the word we have created and all the language that develops around it. We find that instead of exploring consciousness we are back in thought. So there is a conundrum here.
And it isn’t just that we have forgotten about this backdrop, or that it is difficult to talk about, that keeps us from exploring this vast field of awareness.
It is also that we don’t have the space to go into this question. Our world is a cluttered world. It is full of hopes and dreams, ideas, thoughts, feelings, fears,, anxieties and all types of mental clutter. We are about full. We can’t find a bit of space in which to explore consciousness.
So, we come up with some glib truism: Consciousness is god or the love of God, or Shiva, Buddha, consciousness is the energy of life, or whatever bit we are satisfied with. We are now free to return to our mind clutter with out this annoying question?
So, to get to the question of the underlying nature of our existence, this quality which we are calling consciousness, don’t we have to declutter, create some space in our minds?
How do we do this?
We try yoga and breathing, meditation, vegan diets, negative ion generators, blue green algae and a little multi level marketing on the side to pay the bills. Aren’t we still cluttered with our asanas, our techniques, or purity, our specialized diet and the products we have to sell to maintain our newly spacious lifestyle?Are we spacious? Have we found the answer? Have we even found the question?