Do We Do?
Throughout most of my life, I focused on “getting it done.” You know, the enormous pleasure you feel after enthusiastically crossing off every last item of your “to do” list? Well, I thrived on that sensation. Not only did this ritual give me huge pleasure, but it also – in some weird way – helped define my self worth. Because I was DOING, I felt successful. But in my thirst for achievement, I was missing out something much more important – I did not know how to BE.
You might be wondering where I’m going. After all, isn’t it a good thing to complete those never-ending tasks? Don’t we, as a society, frown upon laziness and procrastination?
Absolutely. It is critical to take care of the important aspects in our life. Otherwise chaos can erupt. I’m a huge fan of alleviating the mind of the mundane so that it can be free to explore, create, and inspire. This cannot happen if we are constantly thinking about everything that must be done. However, it’s easy to fall into a trap of endlessly doing – the need to be constantly busy – never permitting a moment of idleness.
When you notice yourself going into this mode, consider pausing and asking why. Why am I so focused on getting things done? Is it simply because life is busy and there is an inordinate amount of “stuff” that needs my attention? Maybe you’re planning for something big, crazy at work, or emerged in a major life transition – all of which require you to be busy. But if you’re not, take the time to turn inward and pause. Could you be living in a default mode? Might your busyness be what you do, maybe even who you’ve become? I know that was the case for me.
During the many years that I spent in this cycle, I found myself uncomfortable when life slowed down. My body seemed off. I was unsure how to handle the stillness and the quiet. Used to thriving on urgency, I knew little about calm. My solution would always be to find something else to keep my mind occupied and then dive in deep. It became a pattern. Not only was every hour of every day planned to the max, but I was also rushing from place to place, constantly stressed that I’d be late. When I look back, many of these years became blurred into decades. In some way, busyness defined my thirties and my forties.
But something happened around the time that I turned fifty. Perhaps it was a series of unfortunate events that led me to the conclusion that life as I was living it was not the answer. While I hadn’t quite figured out what I needed, I could see what was no longer working. So, I decided to stop, pause, and reflect. In essence, I no longer focused on doing and started to learn how to just BE. It didn’t happen overnight. It took some time to quiet down my monkey mind in order to consider the concept of letting go.
This process is a constant conscious endeavor, and I continue to struggle with “not doing.” I find that at times my ego longs for the chaos and feels the need to accomplish in order to feel satisfied. Sometimes this is because I have a lot on my plate, and I need the reassurance that I am not ignoring what must be done. But other times, my doing is distraction, keeping my attention from where it really needs to be - on something inside – something that I’m avoiding.
Transitioning from a life of doing to a life of being begins with giving ourselves permission to slow down. We tend to demand a lot from ourselves, and sometimes we fear that if we lessen our pace, we’ll get behind or forget something important. Perhaps we may feel that if we’re “not doing” then we’ll lose our edge, our advantage, our drive. What I’m suggesting isn’t about vegging out in front of the TV, watching endless episodes of your favorite series on Netflix - which by the way is totally OK – some of the time. No, what I’m referring to is stopping the endless motion to look inward in order to observe, listen, ask questions, and then try to accept what is.
Slowing down helps us refocus, ultimately allowing us to do more in less time (a benefit for Type A’s like me). And it can permit us to consider possibilities that we never knew could be. One of the true rewards that I found is that when I am in my BEING, miraculously my DOING becomes prioritized. I learn to let go of the tasks that don’t matter - those things that fall under perfectionistic tendencies that can become overwhelming but are truly unimportant (for example - perfectly coordinating wrapping paper for every present, ensuring that when the packages are under the tree, it looks magnificent). Somehow, I know that these activities aren’t where my attention should lie, and suddenly, I have freedom to do more of what I want and need. And when this happens, then I can be more present for others. In essences doing less and being more makes me a better wife, mother, daughter, and friend.
So how do you do this? How do you BE?
Nike said, “just do it,” but my suggestion is “just schedule it.” Block out a time period in your busy calendar with a big “X” – nothing attached, but it is held – for you – to be. Keep this time as sacred. It is a promise you make to yourself and is not a negotiable time slot to reschedule or add other activities.
Then grab a cup of coffee, tea, lemon water - whatever - perhaps a glass of wine if you really need to chill – and sit and see what happens. If this sounds too awful, then go for a leisurely walk in nature (not a power walk – this isn’t workout time – you cannot multi-task while being), and see what thoughts arise. Where does your mind go? What happens inside?
Start with small time segments and then slowly build. And make sure that you allow a few moments at the end to reflect on how you feel. Were you anxious? Did you resent not having this time to get things crossed off of your list? Did emotions surface? Did you remember something that you’d forgotten – not a task, but an “aha”?
It is in the moments of being that we learn to arrive. We cannot truly see “what is” when we are in constant motion. But if we pause and become still, the busyness settles, allowing what is important to surface. And so often what rises is the very thing that we do not want to see.
In order for us to grow and move forward on our path, we need to allow time for the layers of “our onions inside” to peel away. And so often what occurs can surprise us. It might be an issue that we thought we’ve already identified, felt, and put to rest... yet there is more to learn from it, so it comes to us once more, just to make sure that we’ve truly gotten the message. Or perhaps it’s something new, a part of ourselves that we’ve buried, left behind as a shadow, hoping to ignore. Yet, it wants to be seen, to be felt, to be forgiven so that we can move on.
Regardless of what pops up during moments of being, there are valuable messages to be seen. And it is only when we quiet the mind that we can see the roadblocks that are slowing us down in our journey. Stopping the busyness and looking within allows us the ability to feel, to accept, to heal, and then to move on. It shows us where we still have some work to do. It may even dangle some of the answers, as we have everything we need within. But it is up to us to pay attention in order to receive the information.
As we approach the busy holiday season ahead, instead of focusing on the chaotic and unmanageable, remember to schedule time for YOU. Give yourself permission to sit and just be. Take a breath, shut your eyes, and look inside. You’ll be amazed with what you find. And then after the pause, the reset, you can move forward, a better, stronger, and more focused version of you.