Michael I've never really understood what you have to do to apply this Taoist principle of non action to the work place. I mean, I can see what it's saying about success and all that, but how can you work by not doing anything?
George Doing nothing can mean DOING NOTHING. If you learn to really DO NOTHING, with all your heart and soul, you would be rid of your stress, have no more headaches, and as a special bonus, you would actually enjoy being on your sailboat.
Michael Huh? If I do nothing, I won't get very far in the boat. For starters, it's tied up at the dock. The engine must be started, the lines released, sails raised, and on and on. I could go on for hours telling you about DOING what needs to be done for sailing.
George I can certainly see why you get headaches. To you, sailing is – a series of things to be accomplished. What I'm talking about is an attitude, not a series of actions.
Michael An attitude about sailing as doing nothing? Nice idea but hard to implement.
George Well, consider the prospect of converting all of your daily tasks into joys instead of chores. Simply through a change of attitude. You see, you have this wonderful notion that who you are is defined by what you do. But if you can be really whole, and accept who you are,

All things will come to you. (22)
Michael My boat will just sail by itself?
George Sure. Of course, you said your boat was tied up at the dock because that's part of the essence of "boatness." So in the appropriate time and place, release the dock lines so that the boat can leave its mooring.
Michael But that means I'm going to do something.
George No, No. You are going to experience the act of the lines being released. In the words of the Tao Te Ching:

Move with the present. (14)

Think about that: move with the present. Not "do this," or "do that," but move with the present.
Michael Move with the present, without doing?
George Exactly. You're making progress. When you view the dock lines as an inseparable part of the boating experience, the desire to accomplish anything will disappear. You will not feel obliged to perform a series of chores. You will become part of the whole. Now you are not doing; you are being. And headaches are not a part of the whole, so they will melt away.
Michael This is too much. "Boatness?" You're making up words.
George Continue moving with the present. Release the lines. The engine engages in reverse. The boat leaves the slip. Engine to forward. Everything happens at just the right time, not too soon or too late, or the essence of sailboat will be lost.

Everything happens in the present, and you are a part of it. You're not causing it or affected by it. It's just happening. The present is in you and with you, in the boat and with the boat, in the water and with the water, and the sky, and everything. Imagine! Isn't BEING joyful?
Michael If only I understood what it WAS! It seems to me that you can't just BE without a lot of practice.
George Yes. You will have to practice. You have several decades of confused thinking to overcome. And practice is the only way to get there. But practice NOT DOING. Learn to become a part of whatever is happening and move with it. That's what requires practice.
Michael How will you know when I'm ready?
George I will know right away, just as I know you are not ready now. You will realize when you are there that you never left here in the first place. In the second place, you will realize that there has never been anything to accomplish.
Michael Suppose I learn to BE and DO NOTHING. Won't the CEO be a little disturbed to have a Taoist vice-president of information systems?
George You misunderstand altogether.

Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.

He will never know that you are DOING NOTHING.
Michael But if I sit at my desk all day, make no phone calls, cancel all meetings, and do other kinds of not doing, he will notice in short order.
George Back to square one. You don't DO NOT DOING. Non action does not mean returning to a permanent fetal position from which you will never emerge. It's just like the dock lines. When the essence of telephoning is present, become part of the flow and center on the essence.

Talk on the telephone, take part in a meeting, give your new manager of applications development an assignment.

Just do what needs to be done. (30)

What will your CEO notice? He will notice something, not a change in action, but a change in attitude. Remember it's all in the mind.
Michael Up there with my headache.
George At one level your boss will notice no change, that of the so-called doing. But at another level, he will be astounded by the change in your mental attitude.

Tao abides in non action.
Yet nothing is left undone.

If kings and lords observed this,
The ten thousand things would develop naturally.

This is perhaps the ultimate paradox. Doing and not doing arise together and are in fact one and the same.
Michael This NOT DOING is really going to take some doing.
George Yes!
Michael If my present mental state took three decades to acquire, it may take three or four more decades to return to the source.
George That may be true.
Michael It hardly seems worth it – it's much easier to stick with my valium.
George That's your choice.
Michael Well, I want to change, but you've given me nothing concrete to grasp. You're not talking skills, and I feel like I'm in the dark.
George In the beginning those who knew
The Tao did not try to enlighten others,
But kept them in the dark.
Michael But why? Let's get this secret out in the open. Let's save the whole world from headaches.
George There is nothing more I can tell you, Mike. I've known you for your entire career. The world has had the Tao Te Ching for over 2500 years. No one's hiding anything. When you are ready, the Tao will still be there for you. I've enjoyed our conversations, but I feel they will be over for a while now. Don't try so hard to figure out what I've said. It's all right in front of you.

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