Another conversation brought out further points around action. They mentioned the “Law of Reversed Effort” in this short article*. “The harder we try the less we shall succeed.”
“The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed. Proficiency and the results of proficiency come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, or combining relaxation with activity, of letting go as a person in order that the immanent and transcendent unknown quantity may take hold. We cannot make ourselves understand; the most we can do is to foster a state of mind, in which understanding may come to us”
– Aldous Huxley
I would frame this a bit differently: “the law of effortless action.” By acting without strain and allowing nature to respond how it will, we let life take its natural course. The depth of this unfolds through the higher stages in consciousness. We use the principle of “do less and accomplish more.” When consciousness becomes clear enough, simple attention becomes increasingly potent. When we’re able to use attention to direct the flows of consciousness, we can command the field of action itself.
We have to act to achieve in the field of action. But if things are not going the way we want, increasing force does not help. In fact, it can increase resistance and thwart our efforts. We live in a culture with the “Protestant work ethic.” Often “Try, Try Again” becomes force harder rather than take a different angle.
Bhagavad Gita Ch. 2 v47
“You have control over actions alone, never over its fruits.”
External resistance to our actions is often a sign that we need fine-tuning. A different angle, a different approach, or an entirely new direction is in order. I mentioned my grad school example in Action and Support. What used to work for me had stopped working so I had to take a step back and look at other possibilities. I then got a third-parties advice on my options. That led me to my lowest-ranked option. But in nature’s artful way, that took me to the doorway I wasn’t seeing. A few weeks later, I was in grad school.
We also don’t understand consequences. We think A action should equal B result. But the field of action is universal, entwined with all other action. How the result shows up will vary in time. It will be proportional but organized in a way that balances the whole. It will come at the right time for the whole. And it’s an expression of the laws of action – it’s not personal.
Sometimes, results will show up as we expect but sometimes they won’t. If we allow nature to organize as it will, it often comes up with something better than we thought of. Or it brings karma to resolve that clears the way for the next step.
Buckminster Fuller spoke of the results of action as through precession.
It’s still valuable to do planning and research. Yet we then act and see if we can avoid getting caught up in the form we’re expecting the outcome to take. Then we reduce pain and allow life to surprise us.
All of this is much easier when we shift into Self Realization and wind down our attachments to results and thus suffering. But noticing how we are here and there can make our dynamics more conscious and shift our habits of attention.
There is also another way of seeing action that is not familiar to many people. Action itself originates on the causal level, the level where our universe first begins. This is the field of primordial space and fine vibrations. Experienced internally, we know this as the bliss body. Those fine vibrations experienced as myself are bliss.
Yet the Taittiriya Upanishad 2:8 describes layers of bliss, each 100 times the previous. This is because one of the fundamental aspects of consciousness is Liveliness, Shakti. That liveliness expresses forward into all levels of life and extends back into the source of the source, ParaBrahman. Bliss is universal, ever present. It is the nature of life itself.
But as the conversation touched on, bliss should not be the goal. It’s a side-effect of unfolding clarity. Bliss is an aspect of expression so it will come and go. Grasping after it will cause suffering.
At a certain point, some value of bliss becomes ongoing. But just as our attention becomes focused on a task and away from awareness itself, so too does the prominence of bliss shift around. It becomes like a good friend who may drop in unexpectedly but is there when you call.
There are just a few principles of action to learn that will deeply change our experience of life. But they take time and patience to learn well. We need a good practice that takes us outside the field of action so we come to know our deeper reality, purify the channels of experience, and soften our attachments to control.
We can’t solve a problem on the level of the problem.
* I disagree on the articles point about stepping back when you’re immersed in a task. If you’re immersed in a task and time is flying by, you’re in the flow and force is not in play. But when you’re identified with the task and trying to force it, then you do want to take a break.