To do Something or to do Nothing?

What path to choose when things get tough

Leonardo Del Toro
4 min readMay 3


I saw this little kid fleeing the park and running towards a busy street while his mom talked to a friend. Quickly, without thinking, I grabbed the child as he almost leaped to his death. This was an easy decision, and my action was needed. My intervention was an easy judgment. There was no doubt about what I needed to do.

As I exit the park, I see a couple sitting on a street bench, and they are arguing. The girl says, “You never pay any attention to me,” as the guy says, “You’re always being a bitch!”. In some parallel universe, a version of me says, “Don’t worry; all problems will be resolved. Both of you should pay attention to each other; just go home and make some love.” But in this universe, I pass by and say nothing because my action here is useless. Everyone knows we should never meddle in couples fighting. That is an easy decision in the other direction. To take no action is the right action.

I keep walking toward my meditation class and thinking about how good my judgment is. I have this balanced-tempered mind who knows what to do and when not to do it. I pat myself on the back a few times to stroke my ego.

After mediation, there is usually a lecture by an invited awesome and smart person. Today's topic was about being present and patient with everything that comes our way. No matter what it is. As we sit and contemplate the master and ask questions, this crazy dude walks in from the street with a boom box playing the loudest rap you could ever imagine.

The sound is not only highly annoying for everyone, but this character is not to be trusted. He is weird, aggressive, and probably has a mental problem. Everyone looks at the teacher and then at each other. “Is anyone going to do anything about it?” Ironically we’ve been talking about being tolerant. I’m not sure what to do.

Some people were visibly angry; the guy did not go away. Confronting this dude might be dangerous because he could have a gun, but not doing anything is equally dangerous because he could end up hurting someone. We’re in a big squeeze. Do we patiently sit and wait for whatever outcome arises, or do we call the cops on his ass? What does that say about us learning patience? To everyone’s relief, the guy walks away.

Do we go to war? Or do we peacefully surrender to our enemy?

And it seems we have the same situation at every level of your existence. And being present, even though it is easy when everything is going well, can be an excruciating challenge when we get to the big squeeze. Being present is now being challenged by the mind and its desire to take action. Do we make it happen, or do we let it happen?

That is the holy grail crucial question. When to act and when not to act. We work hard, but nothing happens, so we push harder. But if we just let go, things begin to move. It’s like playing reverse psychology with the universe. We are not in control of anything, yet we can master the Buddhist concept of the Windhorse, creating energy with no effort.

When a woman is having a baby, she pushes. Push! Push! We see this in the movies. I’ve seen five babies born, which was enough for me. But pushing hard is not always the best thing to do. There might be situations when no pushing and letting it happen will work better. (source: my wife, who is a labor and delivery RN)

Sometimes we can interfere when we push things too hard. We should let it happen, but his “letting it happen” is the farthest thing from being passive and naive. It requires a mind that pays attention to every detail we can muster. We should be on constant rest and, at the same time, actively observes everything.

Still, there is no way to predict our actions when confronted with the ambiguity and challenges of our duality and our desires for a certain outcome.

Photo by Sarbajit Sen

Subscribe to Medium for only $5 bucks a month! Get access to all articles and plus. Write and publish on Medium and earn a few bucks!



Leonardo Del Toro

Top writer in Japan | lead an insurrection for the strange | | #nineamulets