I was standing over a cliff in New South Wales, Australia, watching the sea pound at the rocks. I suddenly thought of the principle of engagement, like the water that gets into every crevice and relentlessly does its work. There is no need for thoughts, intentions, or beliefs when you simply immerse yourself into a project. The work gets done, productivity without effort. This is the difference between trying, planning, wanting, and engaging. Drop a child into water and the child swims. Go to Japan and you will learn Japanese. Get your hands into a stagnant area of life, and it will move. What area of your life needs to move? Don’t worry about it. Don’t think about it. Just get into into with your whole heart and experience the magical power of engagement. The brilliance of engagement is that it doesn’t require any extra focus or exertion, stress, or worry. It’s a simple motion, like jumping into water, that brings inevitable results.
Engagement is independent of results, making it easy and pure. For example, I need to learn how to organize and budget my finances into spreadsheets – not my skill set – and while I strive for the clean and complete tables of Excel pros, I am not discouraged as I fumble towards improvement. The patchy outcomes are unimportant. It is all about getting into it and trusting that the project will grow with the life touch of my engagement.
Engagement requires trust. That has less to do with skills in a given area of productivity than your resources as a human being. Forget what anybody thinks about you, all those who have accomplished more or less. Forget feelings of strain as you grow and build. If you know it’s right – trust it. You will develop a base of energy and resilience independent of success and failure. That foundation will serve you in everything you do. Your productivity and you will grow endlessly from the ground of trust in life, trust yourself, trust in the meaning within all things. By simply engaging, you trust resources in you and around you, rather than demanding from them, which exhausts you.
As you stand on a foundation of trust, engagement unlocks your subconscious. Your resources will always be limited, especially where you lack experience. By focusing on skills you possess or lack, you recruit a very small portion of ability that exists in your conscious mind and body. Even when you act from your ability, you’re struggling against the inability associated with it.
When you engage without worries, you open yourself to the brilliance and ability in your subconscious. This includes muscle memory, impressions from experts you have seen, creativity from other activities, or subtle senses that move through the world like radio waves. Even on a conscious level, striving and wishing may have you pushing away guidance from an expert because you feel competitive. Engagement makes you available for any help you can get. If you’re open, the resources will flood in.
Engagement saves you energy. In everything we do, we carry a load of thoughts and stresses that only bog us down. When you strike a nail, it doesn’t help to consider all your wants and worries about carpentry. Commit. Drive the nail down. Heavy thoughts add nothing. Even ten misses and a throbbing thumb are nothing to consider. Every nail you strike is the only nail you’re striking, the only thing you’re doing, all that needs your attention. Engagement recruits all of you, while exertion divides you and weakens you.
This reminds me of a passage I just read in Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, a profound text I have just discovered:
Act without doing;
work without effort.
Think of the small as large
and the few as many.
Confront the difficult
while it is still easy;
accomplish the great task
by a series of small acts.
The Master never reaches for the great;
thus she achieves greatness.
When she runs into a difficulty,
she stops and gives herself to it.
She doesn’t cling to her own comfort;
thus problems are no problem for her.
Focus is distraction. Why? Because when you feel like you are “focusing,” you may just be summoning all your investments as if they add power to your punch. The “focus” of straining, wanting, trying is simply giving energy to the personal story, and so focus becomes distraction. Engagement is being in it, body and heart. Take your personal exertion out, and all the resources in you and around you can come in. Let go, and it all gets handed to you. Relax, be in it, and you are whole – you are focused.
Physical fitness is a prime example of the principle of engagement. Just move your body, however you like, every day. There is no calculation necessary. There is nothing to figure out. Put your heart into your body, and put your body in motion. After some weeks or months, if you are not toning up, it’s because you are not engaged. If you are engaged, you will be panting, sweating, losing fat and building muscle, and it will be as easy as breath.
It will be easy because engagement comes from the heart, not your head full of ideas about yourself. Engagement is settling into your heart, and jumping into life. Take a stone and throw it in the water. That is you, engaged in the beauty and responsibility around you. The stone drops effortlessly.
It requires you to get yourself together, be whole regardless of results, and send yourself in.
“Just do it.”