Doing Nothing

Doing Nothing

Coming to the End of the Spiritual Search

Steven Harrison

Doing Nothing is for those who have found themselves religiously following practices that have not deeply changed their lives and encourages them to find the truth of life through stopping the search.


Doing Nothing is for those who have found themselves religiously following practices that have not fundamentally changed their lives: new therapies, ancient meditations, exotic religions, or old-time religion. It encourages them to find the truths of life through the simple act of stopping the search.

What do you do after you've tried everything to find enlightenment or happiness? "Do nothing," writes Steven Harrison. "As it turns out, nothing is a surprisingly active place, but it is here that we discover who and what we are. At a young age I was moved by the pain and discord around me and inside me. I sought to find a complete, final and, universal answer to this pain. For 25 years, I studied the world's philosophies and religions. I sought out every mystic, seer, and magician I could find throughout the world. It was all useless. Somewhere in all of this, the discovery occurred that pain and discord were not the problem, but the seeker was. The very grasping for an answer, for a response, for a solution that relieved me of the burden of feeling, was the problem. Without the grasping of the seeker; the nature of the problem fundamentally changes." —From the book

Praise for Doing Nothing

Written in disarmingly unpretentious style, this book is a profound inquiry into the nature of our humanity.

—Dr.Thomas Szasz, author of The Myth of Mental Illness

Steven Harrison studied for years with teachers from many traditions, but it all ended when a Himalayan yogi asked him, “Why do you want power? What are you afraid of?” Harrison encourages us to ask these questions and stop our spiritual searches too, because “without the grasping of the seeker, there is no solution. Without a solution, the nature of the problem fundamentally changes.” Go beyond therapists, gurus, gods, and techniques, he tells us, to investigate our true nature in silence. Harrison’s uncompromising voice is a welcome companion on our journey toward being fully human.

—Yoga Journal (Issue 140)

Discard your ideologies and dogmas, your gurus and ritual, argues Harrison in this caustic exploration of our psycho spiritual obsessions. The solution lies in not seeking a solution.

—Utne Reader

A serious philosophical treatise, the book examines the meaning of life…forget meditation, forget psychiatry, forget spiritual gurus and all the processes that have been billed as paths to inner peace.

—Rocky Mountain News

A persuasive argument for stopping the perennial search for enlightenment.

—New Age Journal

In our last survey, some subscribers asked that we review Steven Harrison. I’ve wanted to do something with him for quite awhile. The problem here is that, in some ways, Steven Harrison is purposefully low profile. Recently, he has graciously given us quite a bit of content to introduce you to his work.

Now, lets take a closer look at the teachings of Steven Harrison. I suspect if you are conducting an investigation to the Great Mystery yourself, instead of parroting the teachings of others, some of this material is going to hit pretty close to home.

One of the great ironies regarding teachers of non-duality is the inverse relationship between a teacher’s desire for promotion and the depth of their teaching. The greater the rarity and excellence of the material, the more indifferent the sage seems to be regarding his notoriety. Steven Harrison is one of these teachers. He is the author of a slew of books including Doing Nothing, Being One, The Happy Child, The Question to Life’s Answers and Getting to Where You are: A life of Meditation.

Doing Nothing is a bell ringer of a book. Steven Harrison is clear: Creation is creating itself with a “purpose” that can not be known:

“…we can look back and try to suggest a purpose, but we can’t really know the purpose because it is unfolding now and the implications are so vast. The instrument that we would use to measure it, our mind, isn’t big enough. It can only look at objects and distinguish between a glass and a table. It doesn’t have anything to measure life by, life is too vast. We only know it’s direction in moments when the mind is silent, and in that, there is a flow that’s apprehended and we can call it consciousness but that’s not it either. So here we are in that flow and label ourselves as a glass, a table, a speaker, a listener, a journalist, but I don’t know what I am.”

Now, this may have been heard before, but, this “knowing” prohibits “living in the unknown as the unknown.” “ That which appears to be real..(is) not.”

Life demands we meet it unprepared.

“…we can try to speak through and from that flow, try to capture it on a piece of paper. To me that’s the challenge, to find the form, the expression of that in my life and not in a book, or in words or an interview. The transformation in the contact of the unlimited with form.”

Awareness of Truth has a way of redefining our actions and direction. So, in a sense, we live at the razor's edge of non-existence. Fear causes resistance to that non-existence:

“We can feel that the consequences of fear: the holding on, the clinging, the going back, the referencing, is caused by a reaction to the vitality of this moment. What we call fear is the interpretation of that energetic movement. That is interpreted by the mind as annihilation. But, if that interpretation is abandoned, then fear is just energy. The same energy that is flowing through life, non-dual. The goddess dies in that. Only the mind sees the goddess as a goddess: as fear, as Kali. The form of energy and the interpretation of that is energy and is what it is!”

Is that beautiful or not?

“Everything is a miracle. Even the mind creating a fragment called a table, that is not the whole, that’s pretty amazing! We sit in a vast energy field in which we can carve out little bits, on which we can sit.”

So, from nothingness, and we mean absolute nothingness, jumps forth everything. Add the ‘sense of me’, time and space, and suddenly the world appears. With time, there can be memory, and with memory, there can be the appearance of multiplicity. But ultimately, nothing ever happened. There is only one.

This truly is a miracle. Steven continues:

“…but what then follows is: what is life then, what is that? I am not satisfied with ‘well, this is just what there is’ as an answer to that question. And especially because this invites lack of responsibility instead of the taking of total responsibility. If your really see that you are one, then you are also responsible for the whole. And, this is what I see happening with people who just use this as a philosophy instead of living it. Living is complete responsibility for what is, and that is a magical world.”

A magical world, indeed.

“When we think about it and talk about it and try to use words to refer to it, there is a before and an after. But I don’t think that time exists in the magical world which is the way I see the world. If there is no time, then everything is everything.”

Wow. Check out what Steven says happens in this magical world:

“What occurs in the magical world is actually seeing our resistance and conditioning. We see things and say: ‘this can’t be’. But, if the mind doesn’t say ‘this can’t be’, then it is so. That is the magical world. So in each of these gatherings, like yesterday, there is human potential. A potential that can make dramatic shifts. World peace is then a fact. But, we resist it, because we say: ‘this can’t, because…. this happens, and that happens, and I happens.’ So, for world peace I have to stop happening. The mind will resist that. That is the magical world, a world that waits…”

Our resistances point to those lessons that remain, those remnants of likes and dislikes, that rejection of the beauty of what is, those things that point to the gap between our intellectual understandings and Truth. Life simply becomes celebration and lessons.

World peace is here and always has been. Steven Harrison is on fire.

—Stillness Speaks

In his lively introduction, Harrison tells us how he “left the security of an Ivy League university…and sought out every mystic, seer, and magician I could find.” He spent “long periods in India and the Himalayas searching, contemplating, being,” and finally finding–after years of frustration–that “it was all useless.”

Then, in a calm moment of self-enquiry, he discovered that it was him as a seeker that was causing his discord. He saw that the “very grasping for an answer” was taking him away from any marginal peace that he may have been occasionally experiencing. Shortly thereafter, Harrison’s apparent “me” passed into “the vastness, the magic” that was his own, ever-present awareness.

In this handsome and penetrating collection of 20-plus essays, Harrison speaks passionately about various aspects of that vastness. The chapters include “The Collapse of Self,” “Language and Reality,” “The Crisis of Change,” “Teachers: Authority, Fascism, and Love,” “The Nature of Thought,” and “Health, Disease, and Aging.”

The chapter entitled “The Myth of Enlightenment” deserves an extended quote. The slashes are meant to indicate a new paragraph in the original text: “We will spend a great deal of time looking for this enlightenment. But looking is useless, because it is not there./We can sit on cushions facing walls, dance in ecstasy, pray, chant. We can travel the world looking for this enlightenment. We can find the greatest of gurus and the most secret doctrines. It is useless…/Enlightenment is a myth because the self is a myth.”

The author has also penned the very fine What’s Next After Now?: Post-Spirituality and the Creative Life (Sentient Publications, 2005). For Harrison, the expression “post-spirituality” points (and justly so) to presence itself. And once that presence is recognized, you see how clear and creative you life can truly be.

—Rodney Stevens, Nonduality Highlights

Here’s some contemporary Turtle Island dzogchen-cum-Krishnamurti style of pithy, unadorned, already-present insight. As a longtime student of the nature of consciousness, Steven Harrison has danced with Sufis, sat zazen with Buddhists, chanted with Hindus, met his animal guides with African and South American shamans, meditated with the sages of India and Tibet, and visited power sites, magical people, and sacred centers throughout the world. He writes:

“I studied the world’s philosophies and religions. I spent long periods in India and the Himilayas, searching, contemplating, being. Through the past 25 years, I have been a student and teacher of all that I have discovered.

“And it was all useless…

“Even though I was discovering greater and greater depths of the mind and consciousness, no experience could solve my dilemma. No matter how far I traveled, no matter how intensely I practiced, no matter what master I found, I was still the center of the experience. Every experience, no matter how profound, was collected by the “me.” The problem was the collector… The very grasping for an answer, for a response, for a solution that relieved me of a burden of feeling, was the problem.”

“You’re already there,” Harrison writes. “Do nothing. Nothing is a surprisingly active place. It is there that we discover who and what we are.” Doing Nothing is for spiritually interested readers who have found themselves avidly following practices that have not fundamentally changed their lives: new therapists, ancient meditations, exotic spiritual practices. It’s about discovering life directly for ourselves, about being here now.

—Branches of Light: News and Reviews from Banyen Books & Sound

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Hardcover, Paperback