THE THREE MODALITIES OF AWAKENED DOING
Being Content, No Matter the Circumstance
This piece is an excerpt from Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth.
There are three ways in which consciousness can flow into what you do and thus through you into this world, three modalities in which you can align your life with the creative power of the universe. Modality means the underlying energy frequency that flows into what you do and connects your actions with the awakened consciousness that is emerging into this world. What you do will be dysfunctional and of the ego, unless it arises out of one of these three modalities. They may change during the course of a day, although one of them may be dominant during a certain stage in your life.
Each modality is appropriate to certain situations. The modalities of awakened doing are acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm. Each one represents a certain vibrational frequency of consciousness. You need to be vigilant to make sure that one of them operates whenever you are engaged in doing anything at all–from the most simple task to the most complex. If you are not in the state of either acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm, look closely and you will find that you are creating suffering for yourself and others.
Whatever you cannot enjoy doing, you can at least accept that this is what you have to do. Acceptance means: For now, this is what this situation, this moment, requires me to do, and so I do it willingly. We already spoke at length about the importance of inner acceptance of what happens, and acceptance of what you have to do is just another aspect of it. For example, you probably won’t be able to enjoy changing the flat tire on your car at night in the middle of nowhere and in pouring rain, let alone be enthusiastic about it, but you can bring acceptance to it. Performing an action in the state of acceptance means you are at peace while you do it. That peace is a subtle energy vibration which then flows into what you do.
On the surface, acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it is active and creative because it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, that subtle energy vibration, is consciousness, and one of the ways in which it enters this world is through surrendered action, one aspect of which is acceptance. If you can neither enjoy or bring acceptance to what you do–stop. Otherwise, you are not taking responsibility for the only thing you can really take responsibility for, which also happens to be one thing that really matters: your state of consciousness.
And if you are not taking responsibility for your state of consciousness you are not taking responsibility for your life.
The peace that comes with surrendered action turns into a sense of aliveness when you actually enjoy what you are doing. Enjoyment is the second modality of awakened doing. On the new earth, enjoyment will replace wanting as the motivating power behind people’s actions. Wanting arises from the ego’s delusion that you are a separate fragment that is disconnected from the power that lies behind all creation.
Through enjoyment, you link into that universal creative power itself. When you make the present moment, instead of past and future, the focal point of your life, your ability to enjoy what you do–and with it, the quality of your life–increases dramatically. Joy is the dynamic aspect of Being. When the creative power of the universe becomes conscious of itself, it manifests as joy. You don’t have to wait for something ‘meaningful’ to come into your life so that you can finally enjoy what you do. There is more meaning in joy than you will ever need. The ‘waiting to start living’ syndrome is one of the most common delusions of the unconscious state.
Expansion and positive change on the outer level is much more likely to come into your life if you can enjoy what you are doing already, instead of waiting for some change so that you can start enjoying what you do.
Don’t ask your mind for permission to enjoy what you do. All you will get is plenty of reasons why you can’t enjoy it. “Not now,” the mind will say. “Can’t you see I’m busy? There’s no time. Maybe tomorrow you can start enjoying….” That tomorrow will never come unless you begin enjoying what you are doing now.
Joy does not come from what you do, it flows into what you do and thus into this world from deep within you. The misperception that joy comes from what you do is normal, and it is also dangerous because it creates the belief that joy is something that can be derived from something else, such as an activity or thing. You then look to the world to bring you joy, happiness. But it cannot do that. This is why many people live in constant frustration.
The world is not giving them what they think they need. Then what is the relationship between something that you do and the state of joy? You will enjoy any activity in which you are fully present, any activity that is not just a means to an end. It isn’t the action you perform that you really enjoy, but the deep sense of aliveness that flows into it. That aliveness is one with who you are. This means that when you enjoy doing something, you are really experiencing the joy of Being in its dynamic aspect. That’s why anything you enjoy doing connects you with the power behind all creation.
How to Bring Empowerment and Creative Expansion into Your Life
Make a list of a number of everyday routine activities that you perform frequently. Include activities that you may consider uninteresting, boring, tedious, irritating, or stressful. But don’t include anything that you hate or detest doing. That’s a case either for acceptance or for stopping what you do. The list may include traveling to and from work, buying groceries, doing your laundry, or anything that you find tedious or stressful in your daily work. Then, whenever you are engaged in those activities, let them be a vehicle for alertness. Be absolutely present in what you do and sense the alert, alive stillness within you in the background of the activity. You will soon find that what you do in such a state of heightened awareness, instead of being stressful, tedious, or irritating, is actually becoming enjoyable. To be more precise, what you are enjoying is not really the outward action but the inner dimension of consciousness that flows into the action. This is finding the joy of Being in what you are doing. If you feel your life lacks significance or is too stressful or tedious, it is because you haven’t brought that dimension into your life yet.
Being conscious in what you do has not yet become your main aim.
The new earth arises as more and more people discover that their main purpose in life is to bring the light of consciousness into this world and so use whatever they do as a vehicle for consciousness.
The joy of Being is the joy of being conscious. Awakened consciousness then takes over from ego and begins to run your life. You may then find that an activity that you have been engaged in for a long time naturally begins to expand into something much bigger when it becomes empowered by consciousness.
Sometimes for a few years their sphere of influence remains small; and then it can happen that suddenly or gradually a wave of creative empowerment flows into what they do, and their activity expands beyond anything they could have imagined and touches countless others. In addition to enjoyment, an intensity is now added to what they do and with it comes a creativity that goes beyond anything an ordinary human could accomplish. But don’t let it go to your head, because up there is where a remnant of ego may be hiding. You are still an ordinary human. What is extraordinary is what comes through you into this world. But that essence you share with all beings.
The fourteenth century Persian poet and Sufi master Hafiz expresses this truth beautifully:
“I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through. Listen to this music.”
Then there is another way of creative manifestation that may come to those who remain true to their inner purpose of awakening. Suddenly one day they know what their outer purpose is. They have a great vision, a goal, and from then on they work toward implementing that goal. Their goal or vision is usually connected in some way to something that on a smaller scale they are doing and enjoy doing already. This is where the third modality of awakened doing arises: enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm means there is deep enjoyment in what you do, plus the added element of a goal or a vision that you work toward. When you add a goal to the enjoyment of what you do, the energy field or vibrational frequency changes. A certain degree of what we might call ‘structural tension’ is now added to the enjoyment, and so it turns into enthusiasm. At the height of creative activity fuelled by enthusiasm, there will be enormous intensity and energy behind what you do. You will feel like an arrow that is moving toward the target–and enjoying the journey.
To an onlooker, it may appear that you are under stress, but the intensity of enthusiasm has nothing to do with stress. When you want to arrive at your goal more than you want to be doing what you are doing, you become stressed. The balance between enjoyment and structural tension is lost, and the latter has won. When there is stress, it is usually a sign that the ego has returned, and you are cutting yourself off from the creative power of the universe. Instead, there is only the force and strain of egoic wanting, and so you have to struggle and ‘work hard’ to make it.
Stress always diminishes both the quality and effectiveness of what you do under its influence. There is also a strong link between stress and negative emotions, such as anxiety and anger. It is toxic to the body and is now becoming recognized as one of the main causes of the so-called degenerative diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. Unlike stress, enthusiasm has a high energy frequency and so resonates with the creative power of the universe. This is why Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
“Nothing great has ever been achieved without enthusiasm.”
The word enthusiasm comes from ancient Greek – en and theos meaning God. And the related word enthousiazein means “to be possessed by a god.” With enthusiasm you will find that you don’t have to do it all by yourself. In fact, there is nothing of significance that you can do by yourself. Sustained enthusiasm brings into existence a wave of creative energy, and all you have to do then is “ride the wave.”
Enthusiasm brings an enormous empowerment into what you do, so that all those who have not accessed that power would look upon “your achievements in awe and may equate them with who you are. You, however, know the truth that Jesus pointed to when he said, “I can of my own self do nothing.” Unlike egoic wanting, which creates opposition indirect proportion to the intensity of its wanting, enthusiasm never opposes. It is non-confrontational.
Its activity does not create winners and losers. It is based on inclusion, not exclusion, of others. It does not need to use and manipulate people because it is the power of creation itself, and so does not need to take energy from some secondary source. The ego’s wanting always tries to take from something or someone; enthusiasm gives out of its own abundance. When enthusiasm encounters obstacles in the form of adverse situations or uncooperative people, it never attacks but walks around them, or by yielding or embracing, turns the opposing energy into a helpful one; the foe into a friend. Enthusiasm and the ego cannot coexist. One implies the absence of the other.
Enthusiasm knows where it is going, but at the same time, it is deeply at one with the present moment; the source of its aliveness, its joy, and its power. Enthusiasm ‘wants’ nothing because it lacks nothing. It is at one with life and, no matter how dynamic the enthusiasm inspired activities are, you don’t lose yourself in them. And there remains always a still, but intensely alive, space at the center of the wheel; a core of peace in the midst of activity that is both the source of all and untouched by it all.
Through enthusiasm, you enter into full alignment with the outgoing creative principle of the universe, but without identifying with its creation; that is to say, without ego. Where there is no identification, there is no attachment–one of the great sources of suffering. Once a wave of creative energy has passed, structural tension diminishes again and joy in what you are doing remains. Nobody can live in enthusiasm all the time.
When the return movement toward the dissolution of form sets in, enthusiasm no longer serves you. Enthusiasm belongs to the outgoing cycle of life. It is only through surrender that you can align yourself with the return movement – the journey home.
To sum up: Enjoyment of what you are doing, combined with a goal or vision that you work towards, becomes enthusiasm. Even though you have a goal, what you are doing in the present moment needs to remain the focal point of your attention; otherwise, you will fall out of alignment with universal purpose. Make sure your vision or goal is not an inflated image of yourself and therefore a concealed form of ego, such as wanting to become a movie star, a famous writer, or a wealthy entrepreneur.
Also make sure your goal is not focused on having this or that, such as a mansion by the sea, your own company, or ten million dollars in the bank. An enlarged image of yourself or a vision of yourself having this or that are all static goals and therefore don’t empower you. Instead, make sure your goals are dynamic, that is to say, point toward an activity that you are engaged in and through which you are connected to other human beings as well as to the whole.
Instead of seeing yourself as a famous actor and writer and so on, see yourself inspiring countless people with your work and enriching their lives. Feel how that activity enriches or deepens not only your life but that of countless others. Feel yourself being an opening through which energy flows form the unmanifested Source of all life through you for the benefit of all.
This piece is an excerpt from Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth.