Am I doing or am I being?

When we embrace Mindfulness and practice it, we immediately access the door of the “being mode” with both our attention and awareness. It is a real transition and we shift from “doing” to “being” afterwards.

What does that mean concretely?

There are seven mental aspects that characterise “doing” as opposed to “being”:

  • Automatic pilot (a set of automatisms we are unaware of) vs conscious choices (being consciously present and aware, in complete alignment).
  • Analysing (judging and comparing the reality with our expectations, risking to fall into the “tunnel vision trap”) vs perceiving (being naturally curious to explore).
  • Fighting (resisting) vs accepting (allowing thoughts for what they are and consciously choosing making us free from any potential fears and obsessions).
  • Considering thoughts real and concrete (turning thoughts into reality) vs considering them as events in the mind (seen thoughts as organic occurrences and therefore we are not defined by them).
  • Avoiding (it is a troubleshooting mechanism that keeps us focussed on the objective and is very effective in some real life situations, but not mental ones) vs approaching (in a state of being we observe the thoughts and create a space which supports us not making negative moods affect us)
  • Being mentally elsewhere (the mind is unstoppably thinking of new goals, past or future actions, causing us to feel stressed) vs being present and aware (simply fully experiencing the present moment with a detached observation of past memories and future plans, preventing us from experiencing any pain). )
  • Doing activities (we get completely absorbed by our goals and even risk to postpone the tasks due to energy consuming thoughts) and that are draining rather than nurturing ones (balance and equanimity are achieved via Mindfulness and there is an acceptance of the limitation of the resources that makes us feel fresh and balanced)

In the podcast “Being More, Doing less” (from “Being Well” with Forrest and Dr Rick Hanson), Forrest and Dr Rick Hanson discuss about it.

In the “Being Well” podcasts the practical side of the science of steady wellbeing is covered.

This is starting with a mention to the dichotomy of modern life, where we are busier and more efficient than ever covering all areas of our lives. The Western Culture (“go go go” life style) praises in fact the doing part. We feel we are experiencing fewer hours in general. It feels also like a dance “doing” and “being”, which is a real topic of interest of the two hosts of the podcast. This leads into a reflection. How about focussing more on being and resting on an experience for some consolidation?

In the podcast Forrest starts with the question: “How are you doing? “ And Dr Rick Hanson jokes about it replying: “How am I doing? How am I being?”

Doing intentions begin with the goal setting process (New Year’s resolution, for instance)

How to set new goals?

It would be good to consider the distinction between “I want to do more… “(for instance exercise, stick my head out, see friends) and “I wish to be more loving or friendly, or benevolent to people.

In order to experience the” being” there are two key factors:

  • Experiencing who we truly are and feel more rested.
  • Focussing more on being to get more and more relaxed in general, slowing down

We just seem to do constantly and repeatedly as opposed to working on qualities of character.

How about for instance: “Am I being here?” (Meaning in the broadest sense of who you are and get more relaxed and centred). Opening in this way to the wellbeing ongoing-ness of the universe. Dropping into that results is a real shift and more relaxation. The beauty of being in touch with “beingness” vs “doingness”, concretely meaning starting more statements with those (e.g. the previously mentioned New Year’s resolutions, shifting to “beingness”).

A sense of resting and being, simply by being.

Including our experiences as natural phenomena, a stance, an orientation, an intention. There can be a real discrepancy between doing vs being.

In summary, doing gets very often in the way. We have to survive for awards to survive. A goal directed doing, so a sense of drive to achieve that (for example, work hard for a holiday)

During this time of lockdown (due to the forced slowing down) I get into conversations with many people and it seems that this is all being rediscovered (myself included). So many people missing out on the being for the sake of running and running and running …..(I certainly have experienced this in London.

Dr Rick Hanson considers himself as a recovering “do-holic.

We feel a constant lack of something, craving is wanting and underlying there is something missing.

A potentially good idea, as suggested in the podcast, might be establish yourself in bed in the morning, for example. (defined as to be in the “green zone” area), feel grateful for something, experience contentment. Establish then peace and contentment and a sense of warm-heartedness, generosity.

Forrest, on the other hand would like to feel more worthy.

We are what we want to be but metaphorically we currently earn a pay check that never concretely put it into a bank. WE neither slow down nor internalise. There are chances for us and we just seem to miss them, like a missing stop in our lives.

“Neurons that fire together wire together” and it can be really key to slow down to consolidate those traits (from state to trait consolidation).

Many people feel they want to do more for their partner and feel good about it. (with a sense of obligation) . It could be beneficial to learn more about generosity, naturally supported (feeling that you have enough to give) do more to achieve that.

Beginning with being, all organically and more in touch with being to do more.

We very often resist from what we do. Regarding this, Dr Rick Hanson mentions the example of his friend Tom (described as handsome and cunning) who helped him assemble some furniture. He did it with no resistance. He just did it. (doing something unpleasant by surrendering).

Dr Rick Hanson is also trying to be more of and be more rested in not striving, stay determined to get stuff done but be more “undriven” and undefended.

A fantastic quote by TS Elliot was shared during the podcast: “Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to sit still”. Very meaningful and profound. In other words, be at peace with limitations, be what they are and do what they do.

Pick a quality of being and be more stabilised in it, asking yourself “how can I foster it”? Remembering something and making it become second nature, do more a formal practice, reflecting on it before bed (3 positive things during the day and about yourself and how you can improve further).

It is beneficial to be aware of any external pressures, the “doing more to do more” (some parts are mentioned in the book “Resilient”). Partly we can get inspired by monks’ wisdom and be like them.

In addition to that, create space and slow down, as the world is not going to end, self- care in daily life, sit on the sofa and experience our sense of being. Being someone instead of becoming someone, access who we are naturally. What is innate? Who am I? Discover our natural radiance.

The inner critic plays an important role in the resistance.

Who are you when you are not scared?” asks Dr Rick Hanson.

Doing can really be a hindrance and good doers, task oriented people can benefit from being careful with being wrapped up in the doing process.

Best tip: decide the person you want to be and think of a memory on how you are when you are supported and then rest in that feeling.

Come home to this more often…

Link to Dr Rick Hanson’s website to listen to the episode of the podcast:

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