“One does nothing and nothing is left undone.”

This mystical injunction points to one of the key components of the path of action: nonidentification with being the actor. I had always assumed that I had to identify with a role while performing in order to do it well. But each of us performs hundreds of acts each day – walking, blinking, driving, or knitting – to which we pay little, if any, conscious attention, yet we usually perform them quite well. It is now clear to me what very complex and creative acts often take place without our experiencing ourselves as actors. I think once again of the Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna, who represents higher wisdom, reminds the seeker after freedom not to be caught up in thinking of himself as the doer. He says, “Only the fool whose mind is deluded by egoism considers himself to be the doer.”

Many actors, musicians, artists and teachers report entering a space during a performance or at work in which connection of the self to the act disappears. At precious moments, I have had experiences in which the act seems to be occurring by itself as a result of its connections with everything else. It sometimes happens when I am lecturing. Under these circumstances I have experienced myself as disappearing entirely or being a dispassionate observer from a distance. Certainly at those moments there is no actor.

The Japanese master Hakuin said, “Your coming and going is nowhere but where you are.”

This statement points to where you stand in the midst of action, even that arising from you. You stand in the quiet center, in the present moment, at peace.

– Ram Dass, excerpt from Compassion in Action: Setting Out on Path of Service, co-authored by Mirabai Bush.