non-doing, patience, and renunciation

Practicing non-doing these past weeks, I have noticed how much that practice goes against my karmic stream. There is a great deal of velocity in “to do.” Not only to get my “to-do lists” done in daily life but also, while doing zazen, I notice my intention to do “better” zazen. Or, to do something! To sit completely quietly with non-doing seems quite unusual, difficult, and not as simple as it sounds.

There is a craving to do something. The Wheel of life calls it “becoming.” My friend and teacher, Dokai at Hokyoji Zen Community, calls it the “craving for being.” Also, its opposite, the “craving for non-being” which non-doing can sometimes mistakenly become. I have been discussing that this non-doing has to be non-doing beyond non-doing. Which means that it is beyond the dichotomy of; doing and not-doing, or effort and effortlessness, or existence and non-existence.

As I have been practicing, I’m noticing that two other qualities come up with my attention to non-doing or, we could also say, letting go: patience and renunciation.

This patience is beyond the patience of waiting. Waiting for something to change. Or the waiting that includes jiggling my leg, unconsciously nervous. A very deep patience is enlightenment itself. Accepting the circumstances exactly as they are. It is noticing that this moment IS the source. I can completely let go of my thoughts and concepts about the naming of this moment or projecting this moment into the future.

It requires renunciation or restraint. I have to stop or renounce my craving for “doing” and all my desires for the future that create that craving. In the Alexander Technique, a type of body-work, they admonish us to inhibit our initial impulse to do our pattern and through that not-doing, see what naturally emerges. We don’t have to try to do a new pattern or a better pattern. We just release the old pattern and allow something more organically integrated to arise. Trust emergence, my teacher Greg Kramer, says.

What I have found in this experiment is that releasing the old pattern without replacing it with a new pattern is anxiety-producing for me. When I stay with non-doing and just be, anxiety arises. I am not trying to control what happens next. It feels like truly letting go, and my habituated patterns of control really want to rebel. So, for the time being, this non-doing reveals my restlessness and my wish to maintain my ego-centered structure of “doing.”

It is terribly exciting, and anxiety-producing! I am deeply accepting restlessness. I think I will just have to wait for this new type of flow and trust to normalize, before I might find non-doing as true peace.