What is Doing?

In my work, I set out to define the word action, or, doing. What feels like doing is not necessarily what we are really doing. A feeling of something tends to come from our effort, i.e., our inner muscular tension. This sensation is so familiar to us that we often mistake it for our actual actions.

Real doing is our body’s physical activity in real time: “I am writing in the notebook,” “I am typing on the computer,” “I am drinking tea.” These activities always involve our whole body’s weight on some surface (a piece of furniture or the ground), and generally some physical interaction with an object such as a pen, a notebook, a computer, a cup of tea, etc. Real doing can only happen by our body in the present moment.

Inner doing is the assertion of tension that accompanies all our activities. This is basically a muscular contraction in the body that emits an impression of action (doing), but it is only tension. If you look at the surface you are on, and the entities (even people) you are physically interacting with (the pen in your hand, the screen you are looking at, the dog you are petting, the child in your arms) you can clearly see your actual activity. This is different than the tension that we feel.

Once we can see that tension is only a muscular contraction, an internal squeezing of our muscles around our bones, it is possible to differentiate that reaction from our doings. There is something about this tension that can distract us from our awareness of what we are actually doing. It is also interesting to notice that this muscular contraction puts us into a state of thinking, which is of course part of the distraction I refer to. This mental distraction can precipitate an illusion that we are not doing what we are in fact doing, because our thoughts are elsewhere, sometimes convincing us that we too are elsewhere. But we can never be elsewhere. We can only be physically here, wherever that is, doing what we are doing.

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