Time, Action and the Illusion of Effort

In my work I talk a lot about the clock, and the fact that it moves by itself, by virtue of the fact that our planet naturally rotates around itself and the sun, which is how we track time.  If we stare at the clock, or our watch, we can have proof of this by seeing that the numbers just change, and we don’t have to do anything (apply effort) to make that happen, similarly to the way our heart just beats, if we are alive.  I put these kinds of facts into a category I call involuntary functions, as they are things that happen by themselves, without our doing, even if it feels like we propel the behavior.

The importance for me about involuntary functions is that they remind us that we are not the doers of so many things our mind assumes we are.  The function I believe we are most programmed to believe we generate is action.  We naturally believe we are in control of our actions, as our thoughts convince us on a moment-to-moment basis that we are.   I will explain why it is apparent to me that actions occur involuntarily.

As the clock moves by itself, we are automatically present in the new time, and, by default, engaged in our next activity.  If we could keep our attention consistent on the clock’s involuntary progression, we would notice that our body was just continuously “there” in the space, involved in some action.

Though this is a basic reality of nature, our mind is wired to believe things happen differently.  We assume we are moving ourself forward, almost pushing time and our body ahead with our effort.   I call this type of effort, “inner doing” because it is only in our head that we are making our actions happen.  When we leave ourself alone, we can sense more immediately that our body just exists in the next moment without any doing on our part.

I am certainly not the inventor of the belief that we are not the doers in our life.  I simply offer a way to see that our physical activity, what we call our doing or our action in the world, is simply a by-product of being alive, i.e., physically existing in time and space. Beyond that, the sensation of doing in our body is just tension.

My practice that I call Mindful Reality incorporates this awareness as a way to realize that we do not need to effort up to make things happen.  One must get very grounded in the awareness, however, as our thoughts will convincingly make us believe we need to think up strategies to cause things to happen in our life.

I find it fascinating to internalize the truth that the clock moves without our participation, and that as that is happening, our body comes along for the ride for free.  We are just there, in the new time and space, doing something.  If we are in that activity, at least for that moment we cannot be in some other activity.  This means that when our thoughts are telling us we should be spending our time differently, they are wrong, as that is physically impossible.

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