the institute for non-action

You’ll probably think I’m kidding, but I’m not.  Well, also I am, but it’s the dialectic of opposites that proves essential if we hope to unearth and share in the abundant treasure that hovers all around us, waiting patiently for us to savor it in the vivid and immediate realm of life we are living.

I like to tell stories, and I like to explain things—I guess I like to have a little attention now and then and I also like to feel like I’m earning my place at the communal table; but what I really want is to belong, to love, to give, to participate, to feel soft and safe and to have a lot of fun.

In this way, you see, at the quintessential level, we’re really rather the same, you my lovely reader, and me.

And while I don’t particularly wish to start anything new, or lead any particular charge for change, I have been a little bit preoccupied with an idea that feels like some whispering echo from the 1920’s surrealists—or maybe from the pre-historic cave painters.

Now that Steve Jobs has changed our world and then died, I feel some terrible tenderness toward his spirit.  Perhaps he will be the last great egoic maverick to change the world.  From here on out it’s a family affair.  The way of the future is not the individual, but the relationship.  In a deceptively simple word:  Love.

Science begins with counting, but healing and transformation begins and ends with Love.

Science measures “things,” even if they are “forces,” and declares non-existent that which cannot be “proven” or counted.  So while Love cannot exist for the scientist, life cannot truly be lived without Love.

Since a relationship is impossible to meaningfully measure, science tends to miss the forest for the trees by smashing atoms and searching for ever-receding stars.  Sometimes I think the neurons in our heads are a forest of trees in their own right as well and yet we tend to miss the forest that exists between all things for the trees of our own individuality.

Great humans of the past had dreams, shared dreams and changed the world.  But the great change that rises amongst, and between, us now grows like grass, interwoven and modest.  There are no tall trees to cut down; there is instead a soft green blanket of love quietly knitting itself together like snow falling in James Joyce’s The Dead—quietly blanketing everything.

I Love my readers.  Truly.  I Love the world and know that you do as well—and this gives me courage to speak with you, not to you or at you.

The pretext of this blog, for me, is to attempt to give, to help, to connect.  It is in the service of “parenting” as an attitude of compassion and care for all our collective children, for all creatures, even the respect for all things, and also for all ideas.  In some ultimate Truth every idea must be included; the dialectic of opposites calls for a collective heart so big and soft that it can hold all ideas, all feelings, all dark and unfathomable things in a Love no individual can muster without bursting or going mad.

Hence I float a modest proposal:  The Institute for Non-Action

The parameters are simple, not much beyond reading these words (and I thank you for your time and brain energy, for that is a most precious intangible):  All you have to do to “join” the Institute for Non-Action is to think it so.  You can think to join later, you can think to pass, you can think to quit any time you want—you can never have read, thought or heard of it and that is perfectly in keeping with the spirit of non-action.

Lacking in any formal structure, leadership, goal, agenda or parameters for action, it is the softest way for us to realize that we are spontaneously organizing ourselves and that things like the internet are mostly metaphors of interconnectivity, symbols of a pre-existing condition of radical and complete interconnection.

There is no need to bring this into being; there is no way to stop it by asserting that it is otherwise.  It is what it is, the rest, including my words and the billions of other “opinions,” are merely that—opinions, fragments of a totality upon which no one has any final or definitive word.  The great variable is not so much our agenda for changing or healing the world, but rather our consciousness, and that is greatly facilitated by non-action.

The entire point of The Institute for Non-Action is to practice non-action from time to time, trusting that you do so in concert with some uncounted number of others:  trusting that you are loved and that you are not alone and that you don’t need to do anything more to be worthy, complete, lovable or on your “right path.”

Moments, however fleeting, of non-action allow us to make conscious this inexorable, but often overlooked truth:  we are not our bodies, we are not even our minds; our true Self might be better understood as the living breathing world itself.

The second principle of The Institute for Non-Action is that it never asks you to do anything at all.  It especially never asks for money or implies that money will solve anything.

Non-action has nothing against money; it’s just that non-action is not about money.  No matter how much, or how little, money you may have at any moment, non-action is equally available to the billionaire, the impoverished and the prisoner alike.  Money is a symbolic representation of energy.  The coin of this world’s realm is approaching zero interest—the poor can’t get a hold of it (perhaps because there is no there there) and the rich don’t much want it even for free, for it is becoming more and more like the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz—bombastic, bellicose and something of an impotent trickster, but to tell us we already have what it takes to get home:  not even clicking red shoes and saying magic words—non-action.

One of the chief merits of non-action, whether in parenting or in anything else, is that when you do nothing, you do not do the wrong thing.

Certainly one can quickly make overly dramatic arguments about the evils of standing by as brutes perpetrate evil, but were they too to practice non-action they would not perpetrate evil.  Further, non-action is an excellent place from which right action can organically and spontaneously arise (like the love that knits a million crisscrossing connections, each woven assuredly to a scant few, yet each patch robustly connected to the next in a subtly, but powerfully, surging swell of pragmatism and compassion).

Non-action can be compassionate and engaged; a contemplative and openhearted love for what just simply is.  When we are open to our children, to the taste of our coffee, to the beauty of sunlight dappled through leaves we pulse in the great fellowship of non-action.

All failure, in essence, is a failure to love.  Loving can lead to action, but it is rooted in non-action.  Love is rooted in relating.  And loving is a soul-to-soul, or essence-to-essence relating—a relationship that exists between all things, especially when one slows down and allows non-action to lap like bathwater at any given moment, soothing and engulfing us in tranquility and loving kindness.

This sort of talk can hardly compute in the masculine side of men and women’s time-ticking ever-achieving left-brains.  However, in the realm of love, boundaries blur and one’s sense of Self expands to transcend ego and individuality.  Non-action does not make one a robot or a drone, that is the work of the masculine principle when disconnected from love.  That is the failure of the last two centuries; that is the fundament upon which the new grass grows, humbly, quietly, but pervasively all the same.

Non-action does not mean that you are not a warrior, but it allows for the noble warrior, the warrior rooted in love and balanced by altruism.

Non-action dreams not of revolution and does not project the Shadow on the “other” nor seek to destroy it.  Non-action is a place of safety, for if one is truly threatened non-action is impossible.  One might freeze in terror, but this is not at all what is meant by non-action.

So, listen to the music and the wind, listen to the wisdom of our children; smell the leaves, the smoke from chimneys, the roasting of foods and the simmering of soups; taste the sweet yeasty bread of sunlight, earth and rain; the sea salty harmonies and languid bitterness of greens; truly hear the ticking of our million clocks, the ringing and buzzing of our devices as well the whispering of ever-changing winds; feel the softness of our children’s cheeks, the coziness of fabrics, the brail of tree-bark and the moisture of tears; soften the gaze to let light pour in, un-counted, un-interpreted, un-intentionally received like grass fields rain.

Life demands much of us, and we will most certainly do what we will do.  But when we find ourselves doing nothing at all, trust that there are millions of us intermittently napping for world peace, sighing for children and parents, gazing—with love, in love, for love, free, in quietly flashing moments, in our unbound spirits, mingling in ways impossible to explain and equally impossible to stop.

Non-action is the love we put into the food we cook, the soul we lend to our touch, the grace we experience in between the lines of books and in between the lines that form on our ever-aging faces, the crows’ feet that carry us skyward with the ravens and the utterly simple and understandable light they bring.

When I write I do not practice non-action, I merely prepare the canvas for the nothing I hope to put on it.  As I sign off I sense that you know just what I mean, even though I cannot possibly convey it while writing, or even through writing.

But I shall lounge with you in the splendor of our eternally open clubhouse of non-action, relaxing in perfect silent understanding in those brief yet eternal moments when we are simultaneously transcendent and alive—when beauty is so complete that even melancholy is but a perfect sweater and love an old pair of jeans.

Namaste, BD (and your Self, truly)


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8 Responses to “the institute for non-action”

  1. Michele Says:

    Oh my…this was a splendid poetic essay that perfectly captured my mood this morning as I was enjoying the gray, rainy day that didn’t call me to action outside and allowed me to savor a second cup of coffee and write a long, meandering e-mail to a dear friend.
    Thanks so much for your words of wisdom and delight.

  2. Mark Brady Says:

    To paraphrase Rilke … “For one clinical psychologist to love a scientist, that is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof; the work for which all other work is but preparation.”


  3. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    As Michele wrote, this is a perfect meditation for a rainy morning, a day designed for napping for peace and lounging for love.

  4. Meagan Frank Says:

    While soaking in this piece (peace) this morning, I accepted your invitation to the institute for non-action. Before reading, I was feeling this compulsion to act and to make a move that could potentially be the wrong one…I took no action. There is peace without action, and if I can teach myself to sit, think, contemplate, reflect, and ultimately put on love first, then in either action or non-action, the growth is better. Thanks for this.

  5. Wolf Pascoe Says:

    “All failure, in essence, is a failure to love.”

    I will be thinking about this for a long, long time.

    Thank you.

  6. BigLittleWolf Says:

    I love the concept Bruce (and the witty way in which it is presented), but as for me, I know myself to be inept at non-action. Not inaction, which I use as a tool when appropriate. But non-action, or “being” is far more challenging (something I struggle with increasingly).

    However, as you place “loving” in the realm of non-acting (interesting double meaning there), I do believe I’m good at “loving.”

    So I can’t quite put the two concepts (or my own disconnects) together – except perhaps to say that what presses from the inside and from the outside often squeezes out some sort of non-action, and only action feels like it protects us against our own disappearance.

  7. Occupy Parenting and We Occupy the World « Privilegeofparenting’s Blog Says:

    […] Privilegeofparenting’s Blog On Becoming Our Best Selves Through Raising Children « the institute for non-action […]

  8. Being Rudri Says:

    “Moments, however fleeting, of non-action allow us to make conscious this inexorable, but often overlooked truth: we are not our bodies, we are not even our minds; our true Self might be better understood as the living breathing world itself.”

    My favorite paragraph of this essay. I struggle with non-action, but know it is the true pathway to detachment. Thank you.

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