Action is when a situation demands it and you act, you respond. Activity is when the situation does doesn’t matter, it is not a response; you are so restless within that the situation is an excuse to be active – it has no rationale and no purpose. Action comes out of the silent mind. Activity comes out of the restless mind. Action has relevance, activity does not and is potentially destructive, whereas action is creative in nature. Action is moment-to-moment, spontaneous; activity is loaded with the past. The distinction between action and activity is vast but the balance is delicate.
This article, in two parts, explores the distinction between action and activity. It is only possible to be in true creative action if you have observed and realized the phenomenon of activity; how it dictates our lives and stifles creativity.
Activity is never spontaneous, it does not come from awareness of the present, it comes from the past. Thoughts, conditioning and bias accumulate in the mind that appear in the present. This results in active responses that spurn creative action. You flare up in anger in response to a situation; an antagonistic, adversarial person “revving you up. You (and everyone else) become aware that the reaction or should we say reactivity, was not needed. It was irrelevant, unnecessary. However, our mind forces a rationale that attempts to make us unconscious of our response to the situation. So, the next time we do it again. Inappropriate anger. Our heads are so filled with mindless thoughts and we are so wrapped activity, we don’t have the space to step back from a situation and then act with purpose.
Our challenge is that we suffer from peer pressure. Our society demands activity, virtually 24 by 7. ‘Why are you just sitting there idle? Why are you wasting your time? Life is passing you by!’ And so we are spurred into activity. If there is activity, you are not able to relax. Because we have this obsessive need, we want to do something, have to do something, whatever it is.
The distinction between action and activity is fine. We partake in sporting activities to stay healthy, reading to stay abreast of current affairs or study to build up our intellect, socializing to stay in-touch, etc, etc. You may argue that some of these activities are actions. And I would agree. However, doing ‘nothing’ during a break from work during the day, in the evening after work or on a weekend creates anxiety due to inactivity. So we email, trawl social media, watch television, plan more activity. We are so hyped that we fidget in business meetings or feel compelled to text or twitter or facebook. All the better for more opportunity to fill our time with mindless activity.
Our obsession with quantity (activity) rather than quality (action) is disturbing. Activity is when action has no relevance. If 90% of our energy is taken up in activity, when the time comes for real creative action we have no energy!
Action is like a flowering, you cannot force it. Action is a spontaneous natural response. An empty, uncluttered mind is a requirement for relaxation but also for spontaneous creative action.
‘A relaxed person is simply non-obsessive and the energy starts to accumulate within him. He conserves his energy, and then when the moment for action comes his total being flows into it.’ – Osho
There are many obstacles to creative action including self-consciousness, our striving for perfectionism, intellect, our belief and our need for peer recognition.
‘We are all given energy to be creative. It becomes destructive only when it is obstructed, when no natural flow is allowed.’- Osho
Part 2 of this article starts to uncover relaxation in action as the source for abundant creativity.
Inspired by ‘Creativity, Unleashing the Forces within’ – a book by Osho that provides insights for a new way of living.