The Art of Being
“In the bigger scheme of things, the universe is not asking us to do something, the universe is asking us to be something. And that’s a whole different thing.”—Lucille Clifton
Being vs. doing … it could be what I struggle with most.
For me, doing is fun. I feel productive. I get shit done. I love crossing off items on my lists, creating a feeling of accomplishment.
Being is elusive. It’s difficult to measure. And it frequently fails to synch to time, something I give great value to. When I am in a state of being, it seems that time either flies by or creeps at a snail’s pace. There’s no way to predict how long it takes to be.
I suppose I inherited this trait from my dad. He was a “doer.” Constantly on the move, my dad was always fixing, solving, building, or envisioning. Whether entrenched in an addition to our home, designing a new watering system, or creating spreadsheets to track his finances, there was always something to do.
Of course, I thought that’s how all men spend their free time. In fact, I remember my first vacation without my husband—our six-month-old son and I went to Florida. During that week, I kept wondering what Scott was doing during our absence. After all, when three-year-old me went away with my mom and grandmother, my father converted our attic into an incredible bedroom/playroom for me. But when I returned and asked Scott, “What did you do while we were away?” I became confused when he failed to mention completing any grand project. Little did I know he understood the art of being, something I found unimaginable.
My husband is certainly productive, but he also knows when it’s time to pause. Scott’s able to find his peace, meditate without distraction, and “turn off” at night. Yet, I feel guilty when I’m not busy. It’s impossible to quiet my monkey mind, especially when I’m on my meditation cushion. And I like to fall asleep to reruns of my favorite television shows—the noise soothes me. But maybe that’s why our relationship works … we balance one another out.
Nevertheless, the more I “do the work,” the more I realize how important it is to pause and be in the present moment. By quieting the mind and slowing the body, we have a chance to recenter ourselves, lower our cortisol levels, and witness life from a more balanced perspective. Those obsessive thoughts seem to slow, our worries appear to abate, and the nagging fears subside, perhaps even causing us to wonder why they troubled us in the first place.
It's hard to get off the merry-go-round of life, especially after the holiday season. Perhaps that’s one of the beautiful aspects of a new year … it allows time to regroup, examine our thought processes, and observe our behaviors. Do we feel scattered? Is that negative voice in our head overpowering our calm intuition? Are we reacting instead of responding?
When we are in a state of being, we aren’t as weighed down with these concerns. Instead, we feel more peace, grace, and calm. We know it will all get done. We permit ourselves to feel our emotions, and we allow our analytical minds a well-deserved time out.
Balancing being and doing is indeed a gift. Some people, like my husband, come by it naturally, while others, like me, must figure it out. This is hard work, but worth it. It’s how we find our alignment (my word for 2023).
While I don’t believe you can bypass the process learning how to be, I have a few “go to’s” that help me find my center when I catch myself constantly doing. Perhaps they may prove useful for you …
Meditate … time on my cushion helps create a sense of calm when my mind is all over the place.
Yoga … it allows my body to move (which encourage emotions to flow) while grounding me.
Walk in nature … wise Mother Earth knows a thing or two about helping humans relax. Just walk. Let your senses come alive. Then notice what happens.
Read a great novel … fiction creates a beautiful escape from real life and lets your mind travel to another world where your problems have no place. And it can also provide an ounce of perspective.
Journal … put your pen to paper and see what happens. Permit yourself to write freely, allowing your stream of consciously to flow. Afterwards, note how you feel.
Pet a dog … there’s nothing like giving unconditional love to another living being. Somehow, this sweet emotion comes back to you … ten-fold.
As much as I thrive while doing, it is when I am in a state of being that I am happiest. Free from worry, expectations, and fear, I am better able to meet the world as I am, neither focused on the past nor apprehensive of the future. Being in this pure state, curious to what is, I become open to possibilities. My faith is unwavering. And I know it’s all going to be OK.
No one ever said being was easy. But give it a try … and watch how your world shifts.