Walking the Way

81 Zen Encounters with the Tao Te Ching

Doing Not-Doing

Over the last week or so, now that “Walking the Way” has been published, I’ve been struck by how much work is involved. So it’s led me to reflect a good deal on “doing not-doing.” It’s somewhat strange to publish a book on the Tao, which urges “do less,” and find myself very very busy. When I first took Buddhist precepts, my teacher Sojun wrote on the back of my rakusu (the robe we sew to signify our commitment) “When busy-ness does not cloud your mind -- that’s your chance!”

There’s a Zen koan where one monk sees another sweeping and says, “too busy!” The sweeper responds, “Is there one who is not busy?” The first monk says, “if so, there’s a second moon.” The sweeper holds out his broom and says, “which broom is this?”

Perhaps being busy is not a matter of how much we do, but how we engage in the effort. Yes, most of us do too much, and it’s good to simplify. But doing less (“not-doing”) is only halfway to “doing not-doing.” When we immerse ourselves in nonstop flow, stillness and movement meet. The key is to be whole-hearted without too much attachment to how things will turn out. Immerse in flow, no stopping and no starting, no excess and no lack.

Another koan: Shakyamuni and Maitreya are both servants of another. Who do they serve? My teacher Sojun says, “they serve each other.” But even beyond that, perhaps, is to serve no purpose whatsoever.
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