The Union Path

Finding Balance Through Action and Passivity

Our culture values action over passivity, but to live a full, joyful life, we need to develop both. Recognizing where we're out of balance and nourishing the unbalanced part of ourselves is important to reach our goals. Life is a conversation between projecting and receiving; it's a balance between pushing and pulling.

We can become stagnant by being too focused on action and striving, which can generate long-term stress. We can choose to be active or passive in life, and should learn to let go of our problems and allow ourselves to relax. We often feel pressure to constantly be active and achieve, but taking time to rest and relax can be just as important.

Intentionally not doing something can set us up for more effective and efficient action. Taking a break from doing allows us to see more options and expand our possibilities. To create different outcomes in life, we must learn to shift out of active states into a more passive one.

This can be done through practices such as meditation, taking a walk or a bath, playing with children or animals, and allowing thoughts and sensations to be experienced without agenda. This leads to greater awareness and appreciation of life and can be a powerful tool to solve problems and heal pain. Being is just as important as doing; we can reconnect with our passive state at any time and use it to become whole again and create change, rather than relying on our frantic action.

We can free ourselves from our overdeveloped action and learn to return to passivity and being. We strive for change to feel whole, but wholeness already exists within us. Connecting with our being through passive moments helps us find the balance and direction needed to achieve our goals.

Key Lessons
  1. Intentionally taking breaks, meditating, or simply allowing our thoughts and sensations to exist without agenda can help us achieve balance and direction.
  2. Wholeness already exists within us, and by connecting to our passive moments, we can find the balance between action and passivity.
  3. Developing this balance can help us lead a full and joyful life.
Full episode transcript available at:

What is The Union Path?

Mindful monologues to awaken your consciousness and nourish your soul.

In this introspective podcast, I aim offer you heartfelt rumination to inspire your own growth and self-discovery.

Are you seeking deeper meaning, truth, purpose or peace in your life? Join me as I unfold observations and awareness along the spiritual path - what I have learned, struggled with, found insight into.

Let these moving soliloquies gently prompt self-inquiry as you contemplate the deeper questions we all face: why do you suffer? How can you cultivate more inner calm and wisdom?

There is no dogma here, only my pondering as I illuminate and ponder our shared experiences living.

My hope is that by modeling raw exploration rooted in courageously questioning “why?”, these thoughtful meanderings awaken self-understanding and nourish your soul.

Consider these unconventional audio journal entries as a way to inspire and awaken your own internal wise teacher, taking your hand to guide you in looking within your own mysterious inner landscape in a new way. Feel less alone. Find inspiration to expand your self-awareness and consciousness with me each week.

The Union Path Podcast

"Honoring Passivity in an Active World"


John Coleman 0:00:20
In our culture, in our American culture anyway, there's a strong emphasis, there's a strong priority, there's a strong preference for doing, for getting things done, for achievement, for action. And of course, action has its place. You can make the argument that action is the whole reason we're here, that we're here to do things, we're here to create things or at least shepherd the creation that flows through us into manifestation. But like a lot of things it's really easy to get unbalanced when we over focus, when we overly utilize one specific aspect of life. Because of course, along with the active there's also the passive. And to be the wholesome well rounded, fully developed people that a lot of us are aspiring or trying to be it really requires developing both skills, developing both abilities. At the very least, for some of us it requires a perspective shift where we equally value both activity and passivity. They're both useful, they're both helpful, they're both requirements of life and they're absolutely both requirements of a good life. You could almost make the argument that to live a full, joyful, peaceful, wonderful life that really feels like it's ours, really feels like it's us. Both of these qualities are required in equal measure because where we get out of balance is when we utilize or prioritize one over the other. We become too active, we're doing too much, we're trying to control too much. We're trying to, quote unquote, make things happen or we become too passive, we become reticent, we become stagnant. We refuse to make a decision and instead to sit in the quandary, sit in the cul de sac of the quagmire of indecision. So both qualities are equally important and both qualities are equally required in my opinion anyway to live the life that we really want to to live the life that's really, truly, fully ours. And so if we do find ourselves out of balance, then it's important to see it's important to recognize and acknowledge exactly where we're out of balance.

John Coleman 0:02:58
Because, of course, we can't solve a problem that we're unaware of. And we can't do anything until we know what to do or at the very least, have things that we want to try. And so for me, a big part of my evolution is learning to see the value in the passive. Learn to take a more well rounded view of my own life, well rounded view the things that I want and the path that I'm taking to try to get there. It's kind of a funny thing to say that I had to learn how to be passive but it's really more than that. It's really more than just gaining the skill or the awareness of passivity. It's really more about gaining the appreciation for passivity, learning to actually value it, learning to get these ideas out of our head that if we're passive, we're irresponsible, we're lazy, we should get up and start doing something the sooner the better. The more the better. When our action, when our activity isn't fed through a sense of knowing, isn't fed from a sense of energy behind it is just us frantically trying to do something for the sake of doing something, then I think we all know that doesn't usually turn out all that great, or the release doesn't end up being that great of a use of time. So these ideas around the virtue of action, the virtue of always doing something I think in experience we can see those ideas fall flat aren't really as true as the idea. A lot of us are sold that the way to get everything that we want is through doing as much as we possibly can, often as fast as we possibly can. But in order to go through life, in order to build a wellrounded, wholesome full life we have to develop ourselves fully. We have to look for areas where we're out of balance and then work to develop the unbalanced part of ourselves. Learn to not only spot imbalances, but figure out what needs to be nourished and developed within us to bring ourselves back into balance. Or conversely, what needs to be deprioritized and diminished a bit to bring us back into balance.

John Coleman 0:05:20
And sometimes these habits can be really difficult to break. This pernicious habit of always doing, always looking, always trying to solve a problem, always hyper aware of what to do. To be able to affect whatever change we're trying to create is not only exhausting but it's actually pretty counterproductive in a lot of ways life is like a conversation. In order to live life fully we need to learn to talk and listen. We need to be able to consider and develop our own beliefs and ideas while also learning to consider the ideas of others. It isn't just us injecting our own selves everywhere we go it's a cooperation. It's both projecting and receiving and it's the same way with life. I think it becomes pretty obvious pretty quickly that there's a real give and take, a real push and pull to almost every aspect of life. We can see it if we look hard enough that for almost everything in our world there's its opposite. And a lot of times when we're walking through life it isn't that we're either one thing or another is that we live on a spectrum of opposites and we find ourselves somewhere in between, somewhere to one side or another. But when we find ourselves struggling, when we find ourselves going through life trying to constantly solve problems, trying to constantly create change, we can actually create a lot of stagnation. We can really separate ourselves from the very change that we're trying to create by being too focused on action, too focused on doing something about it, too focused on striving, too focused on trying, too focused on seeking and searching for the answer that's going to finally solve this problem once and for all. And we can see it in ourselves that even if we aren't constantly doing something, if we're constantly thinking about our problems, if we're holding our problems up against everything we hear, everything we experience constantly scanning the environment like some sort of terminator, looking for its target, then we never really allow ourselves the opportunity to shift out of that active phase. We're never really getting to the passive side. We're never really resting.

John Coleman 0:07:58
We're never really allowing our senses and our awareness to just chill out, stand down for a minute, just relax. And unfortunately for a lot of us, this is where a lot of our stress comes from. And of course, a lot of us lead very stressful lives. And that stress is very clearly coming from things outside of us, whether it's from our families, whether it's from our work, whether wherever it comes from, we can see stressful things happening to us in our world. But a lot of the stress we carry around is internal. A lot of the stress we carry around is self generated that it isn't so much the things that happen to us, it's our constant resistance or our constant attempts to solve those problems that really creates a lot of the long term stress that a lot of us feel. We've all experienced this, right? We can have something happen to us that's very upsetting, and sometimes that upsetting thing happens. We take whatever amount of time is required to get over what happened to us, and then we move on. Other times, an upsetting thing will happen to us and we'll hold it. We'll latch onto it. We'll almost have a death grip around it, refusing to ever let it go. And we can hold on to that as long as we want. Days, weeks, months, years, decades. It's up to us.

John Coleman 0:09:33
We can choose to let that go. We can choose to put that down whenever we wish. And going through life, it's really the same way. We can choose to be as active or passive as we want to be. But for many of us, it doesn't feel like a choice. For many of us, our social obligations or our social pressure might make it feel like we constantly have to be active, that we can never be seen resting. We can never be seen not doing something. We can never be seen taking it easy. We can never be seen not being complete manic stress monsters because there's a value in that. There's a value in the perception around our achievement. There's a value around the perception and how much we get done. There's a value around the perception of how much personal power we seem to hold and wield in our own life. And that power is expressed through our action, through what we do, through what we get done, through the magnitude of the change that we ourselves make happen. But in my opinion, this is pretty misguided. At the very least, this is pretty incomplete.

John Coleman 0:10:53
That of course action and achievement in Doing Things Is wonderful. Most of the joy of life comes from doing things. But Just Because Something Is Good and enjoyable doesn't Mean That's The Whole story doesn't Mean that's The Whole picture in fact, I would make the argument that that good and enjoyable action and achievement was actually fed out of a time of passivity was actually fed out of a time of intentionally not doing something. Perhaps we were forced to not do anything. Perhaps we just burned out and couldn't do whatever we were doing anymore. But however, we get to a passive state however, we get to a state of finally letting go, finally Relaxing, finally Resting, finally Listening for a Change can be the thing that makes all the Difference, can be the thing that actually sets up our next Action to not only be effective, but to be far more efficient, far more pleasant. Because when we're stuck in action all the time, when we're stuck in doing all the time, it can be so easy to just lean on routine and habits. And if We've developed unhealthy or unhelpful routine and Habits, well, now we Have Two problems. Because on one hand, we're not really living the life we want. And we're not really setting ourselves up to get there either. We're accruing a debt. We're doing something that's actually driving us further Away from what we Want rather than Bringing US closer. This is a Tough Sell to anyone who worships at the altar of doing, worships the Deities of Hustle. Culture and Achievement that there's actually value in Passivity, there's actually value in intentionally Doing as little as possible, intentionally taking a minute to Just stop trying, stop doing, stop solving, stop Pushing, and shift more into a state of being. Because we need both, not only in order to live a full Life, but to live a Life where we Actually feel nourished where we actually can thrive.

John Coleman 0:13:16
We need a healthy balance between being and doing. But More than that, if We're Just going out into life doing all The Time, we're Just Injecting Our Own Preferences, our Own Personality, our Own Ideas of how things should be, I think we can see how that severely and drastically limits our options because we only Know What We Know. And usually that's a very small fraction of what could be known. We can think we know so much more than we do. We can think we're able to predict what's going to happen so much better than we can. But the Truth is, most Of The Time we know far less than we Think we do. The options we've identified are far fewer than the truly available options. And the scenarios we've developed are far fewer than the possible scenarios of the way things could go. And If We get too locked into action, too locked into Our Own Doing, we lock ourselves into a very small subset of options we lock us into a very small subset of outcomes because we're just following the fixed path of our own thinking. We're following the fixed path of our own knowing. We're following the fixed path of our own habits and routines and preferences and probably doing things that we've done over and over and over again. But the essence of creating change, the essence of creating different outcomes, of experiencing something different in life I think it's pretty obvious that that typically requires a different approach that typically requires different thinking, different ways of doing things, different perspectives about what's good to be done and how to do it. And if we're never really stopping, if we're never really listening, if we're never really open to anything outside of us, then we set ourselves up to get stuck in these loops stuck in these loops of our own preferences. And personality stuck in these loops of living the same reality, the same life, the same outcomes, the same experience over and over and over again. So how do we actually do this?

John Coleman 0:15:49
If we've been trying and trying and trying and looking and looking and looking and searching and searching and searching how do we break out of this? How do we actually do something different? How do we shift out of this active phase into a more passive one? Well, that's the beauty of passivity. It's actually pretty simple. We stop. We stop all of that. We focus on our being. Some of us can do this through a meditation practice. Some of us can do it through going on a walk. Some of us can do it by taking a bath or a long shower, swim in the ocean, playing with your kids, playing with your dog, staring at a candle. Whatever it is, we know it when we feel it. We know it when we shift out of this frantic searching frantic trying to solve problems, trying to get something done, trying to do something. Because we can feel our whole body relax. Even if we're doing something with our bodies at the moment we can just feel that stress melt a little.

John Coleman 0:16:56
We can feel our bodies almost sigh and just exhale. We know what that feels like and depending on the kind of person we are we can find whatever modality creates that feeling. For me it's some sort of soft and gentle movement. I'll head out on a walk with no real agenda and just focus on what's happening. Focus on the feeling of my feet hitting the ground, the wind's blowing. How does that feel against my skin? I look around. Are there trees? Are there flowers? I listen. Do I hear birds? And just walk. Walk from an open state. Keep my mind as clear as I can, let thoughts come and go. But my focus isn't on my thoughts right now.

John Coleman 0:17:54
My focus is on all the sensations of what's happening. My focus is on my senses. What do I see? What do I feel? And naturally this opens up greater awareness. I may be able to see and feel more and this naturally leads to a sense of appreciation. Can really look at a flower, can really look at a leaf, can really look at a tree and see how not only incredibly sophisticated it is but how remarkably beautiful it is, how many different colors there are, how many different textures there are, how many different shapes there are and just stay in that state. Take in as much as I can with what's happening right now. And the most important part, the part that probably took me the longest to learn is to truly do it with no agenda. Because for a while I would think boy, I sure am in my awareness right now. I sure am noticing right now. I bet a whole bunch of good stuff is going to happen really soon. No, that's still holding on. That's still me holding on to my active state. It really is important to let go.

John Coleman 0:19:19
It really is important to fully let go. And sometimes this can be really hard when I'm dealing with really big problems, really big challenges. Letting go can be really difficult. But for me anyway, I have found it is the most reliable, helpful, soothing, healing thing I can possibly do. It is the most effective way to solve problems. It's the most effective way to deal with pain and it is a skill. We may very well be born with it. But it is also something that is relentlessly coached out of us. We are routinely and repetitively trained away from passivity that we can get it back again. That's the beauty of it. It's not really something we have to learn. It's really more about all these things we have to unlearn. It's not really something we have to do. It's learning to get comfortable with not doing. Because as long as we're alive we're always being we're always being something.

John Coleman 0:20:36
So that being state, that being sense is always there. It's inescapable. We don't even have to reach for it because we're already it. We're already doing it. We're already being. This is our ground state, this is our I am. Because no matter what we're doing, whatever that blank is after I am is what we're being. It's ever present, it's inescapable. We can't lose it because we are it and we can reconnect with it at any time. We can be more fully it, more consciously it whenever we choose. We can bring our awareness to our being, shifting it away from all of our doing anytime we wish. And if we've overloaded ourselves with doing if on some Level we've driven ourselves crazy with always trying to do Something, always trying to get Something always trying to solve something, always trying to achieve Something and spending time being spending time in our passive state can be a welcome relief. At the very least can be a reintroduction, a reknowledgement that we are far more than what we do. We are far more than what we get done. We can also remember that these solutions, this change that we're so frantically chasing doesn't actually have to come from our action, doesn't have to come from our doing.

John Coleman 0:22:21
It can originate from a passive state. It can originate through listening. It can originate through taking in all that's happening to us and letting whatever action is necessary naturally emerge and we'll know it when it does. We don't have to leap after and leap into every single action that occurs to us. We can let our action be better informed. We can let our action be more inspired. We can let our action originate from something deeper than our own anxiety, our own fear, our own habits, our own preferences, our own needs to be seen a certain way. We can cultivate our relationship with passivity whenever we wish. We can use it to ground ourselves. We can use it to become whole again. To know that being passive is just important as being active, being is just as important as doing. And they feed off of each other so beautifully that our doing is so much better, so much more enriching, so much more enjoyable, so much more pleasant when it's fed out of a sense of being and our being is enriched through our inspired, aligned doing. These two are constantly feeding off of each other. This is the yin and yang. This is the balance of life balancing between being and doing.

John Coleman 0:24:07
And if we've gotten caught too much in our doing, if we've forgotten how to let go, if we've forgotten how to lay all of our problems down, all of our aspirations down, all of our needs to get certain things done or to be seen a certain way or to accomplish a certain thing, we've lost our ability to truly set those down. And those are our masters. We've become slaves to them and we don't have to. We can liberate and free ourselves whenever we wish. We can free ourselves from our overdeveloped action in our lives by learning to return to passivity, return to being. And especially if we're trying to create change, especially if we're trying to create a different outcome, create a different future, create a different life, create a different experience. Oftentimes the best thing we can do is come at this change from passivity, from being. Really get centered, really get focused, really get grounded in our own being, in just our own state of I am without anything after just being itself and spend time in this foley again, not pretend or act out passivity because we really want to get something done. The passivity, the being is the point is the goal is what we're trying to get done, we're trying to fully be because ultimately that's what we're really looking for. Because why are we striving after all of these things anyway? Why do we want all of this change? Why do we want things to be different? Why do we want to achieve anything? Why do we want to accomplish anything? Because we want to feel like a more full version of ourselves.

John Coleman 0:26:07
We want to feel whole. Well, that wholeness already exists in our being. We can't gain it because we already have it. And we can't lose it because it never leaves us as long as we exist, we are being. And by connecting with our being fully, by living our being, by spending time being passive, spending time being open, spending time listening. Not only will this balance out the action oriented parts of our lives and parts of ourselves, but will ultimately lead us where we want to go and along the way, show us what to do to actually get there.