way of action
The way we treat people is the way we treat God
Teilhard de Chardin
Our actions are our most defining characteristic. They manifest our thoughts and desires; they demonstrate our motivations. Actions also reinforce the thoughts, desires, and motivations which have given rise to them, embedding them more deeply in our mind, increasing the inner pressure to repeat the same sequence of thoughts, motivations and actions.
The mind is a remarkable thing. We simply have to indicate what direction we want to go and it sets in motion a progression of notions, feelings, incentives, and actions that move us toward our goal. But mostly we don't consciously take control of this process. We allow the experiences of our senses, our accumulated emotional library, and the inducements of the moment to simply activate the process automatically and take us along on a track that is increasingly predetermined by our past actions.
Our thoughts and intentions affect ourselves, but our actions affect the wide circle of others with whom we interact. They can set up both external and internal conditions that have long lasting repercussions. It is probably in our best interest to begin to take a conscious role in the patterns that shape our lives.
The process of taking intentional control of the direction and flow of our thoughts, words, and actions begins with setting the mind in a particular direction. The mind will find the bits and pieces at its disposal to affect the movement of our life.
However, although the intellect has a wonderful capability to tell us the best way to accomplish something, it is useless in choosing our goals. The mind can tell us how to do many things, but only the heart can tell us what is worth doing.
The spiritual path of action begins by cultivating a consciousness of our actions and the thoughts and motivations which construct them. We have to start acting consciously. Then we have to set aside our ever-talkitive mind and ask the heart what is truly worth doing, what is the direction of our life, what is the inner purpose that our soul most wants to accomplish. At every step we have to re-engage this mindfulness: bringing our actions into conscious review and setting aside the intellect, asking the heart for the truth of the soul at this moment.
The next step is to direct the mind to choose attitudes, inclinations and actions that encourage us to leave behind the limited ego-self, and awaken the living soul. The long tradition of established wisdom on the path of action indicates that we must begin to develop a deep abiding concern for the well being and benefit of others, serving others, helping others, uplifting others. The more we care about others, the less we naturally think of ourselves. The path of action is the path of selfless service.
We are meant to act in the world as the conservators, the care-takers. Our human capacities for language, abstract thought, conceptualization, and intentional complex actions have evolved to much greater degrees than other creatures. Our spiritual awareness has also evolved, allowing us to see how our actions affect others and making us care about that.
But selfless service can be tricky. The latent ego-self can very easily and quickly become attached to such ideas as "I am living a worthy life", "I have made better choices that these other people", "I am progressing spiritually through this lifestyle". It's really hard to avoid or shake these thoughts. And every time this "I" asserts itself, it ties our identity more closely to the limited ego-self and prevents the soul from directing our actions toward our true self.
Actions, in the usual scheme of things, arise from a motivation of actualizing self-interests. For actions to be used as a means toward the spiritual path, both the actions and their motivations have to be re-commissioned, realigned to instead eradicate self-interests. The path is a gradual one; we learn to increasingly redirect our choices and actions, our motives and expectations, and we find our attachments to the results of our actions wearing away by degrees.
The spirit sees God or eternal Truth, everywhere and in everything. In serving others, we are serving God, Truth, the Universal Life. The spirit sees itself residing in God. The life of the spirit does its actions for God. We begin to notice each thought, motive and intention, each action as it arises and dedicate each to God, the universal heart of all things. These are no longer ours, but are Godís. The actions are Godís; the results are left in the hand of God.
Each action of the day, even the most mundane and trivial, when dedicated to God becomes an act of the spirit. Every action becomes a path to remembering God, dedicating that moment to God, relinquishing our personal interest in that moment and giving all to God, to Truth. As the gaze moves more and more away from our own personal interests and is fixed on God, every action becomes a means of transforming conscious awareness.