The Dalai Lama famously said: "We are human beings, not human doings". So why is it so difficult to just be?
Recent weeks have changed our reality. Many of us feel disconnected between what was and what is, but don't know why or what to do with these feelings. The lockdown and uncertainty in these times of pandemic have been taking an emotional toll on us all. We may try to "control" the way our lives are at the moment by working hard or getting busy in other ways. Does any of this resonate with you?
The patterns and ways of how we go about our days and how we react to changes are deeply rooted. Some come from our own experiences and others from the structures and systems around us. Some we've chosen and others we haven't.
Doing versus being
Many of us feel the urge to work hard until we're close to exhaustion or a burn-out. We always want to be active, whether physically or socially – and are ultimately trying to be everything to everybody. Living in a society that values being busy and applauds achievement, may lead us to be in a constant state of "doing", wanting to be productive in some way all the time.
Alternatively, there is the option to choose a mode of "being" – living in a more still way, with a lower sense of urgency, and allowing for off-time. This can involve considering how and when we do something instead of focusing on what we do.
For instance: Does that client or last email really need a reply tonight or could it wait until tomorrow? Do I truly need to fulfil a request from a friend or family member right now or could I first take a few moments for myself? Am I placing pressure on myself to finish something in a rush or could I slow down and take more time?
Push and pull – such is the rhythm of life. Why not try to allow this rhythm instead of wanting to control it?
We have recently been catapulted into a new time. Many of us struggle to continue living in this new reality with old ways. We may feel frustrated and hopeless – a signal that something is out of balance.
So how can we move forward from this? I realised that continuing to push by keeping busy and trying to make things happen to fix the ‘problem' might mean holding on to an old pattern that leaves me feeling exhausted. Instead, or perhaps complementary to this, I decided to try a more receptive and gentle approach – stepping into a "being" mode.
Mindfulness and living a more gentle way are now, more than ever, important tools to replenish our energy and lower stress levels. This time at home could be an opportunity to include some of these practices in your life right now, taking more time to care for your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Inviting a more nourishing way of being
Listen to and be easy with yourself – we often intuitively "know" what is needed for our self-care, harmony in our families, clearer communication, or better work relationships. Why not try out the approach of listening to this gut feeling? For instance:
- When you need a break, take one: Do this for yourself and encourage others to do so. This might be needed during work or a household task. The energy around us has slowed down, you are allowed to do so too.
- Practice open heart-to-heart communication: Practice empathy and compassion for yourself and others. Avoid making assumptions, try not to be critical and stay open to various perspectives.
Tap into the wisdom and support of collective knowledge (both past and present) – this can provide helpful insights and guidance. Here are some suggestions that work for me:
- Be open to new interests: Maybe you've not been interested in spirituality or religion before, or perhaps even have had some negative experiences with it. This is a new time and we are constantly evolving as individuals and as humans. Allow yourself to explore if you feel called.
- Connect with others: Many traditions are offering teachings, special talks, Q & A's and group video chats online at the moment. It's a great time to see what's out there and connect with others who have the same interest or practices.
Take time to stop, pause and breathe – give excess doing a break and allow time for reflection. You can find your own way of doing this, but here are some examples of what relaxes me:
- Take a slow walk in nature and allow all your senses to be alive: Smell blossoms, feel the wind on your face and the earth under your feet, notice the sky and any clouds, listen for birds and other sounds which are easier to notice now. You can also connect with your food and express gratitude for the giveaway of nourishment.
- Make it easy to express yourself creatively: Are your art supplies or musical instruments stored away somewhere? Bring them out and enjoy the process of brushing off the dust and bringing new life into them (and vice versa!). It's a great way to reconnect with yourself and the creative energy can help to gently move you through feelings you've been keeping inside. Making something just for the sake of its beauty can be immensely nourishing.
- Create space and time to meditate and be mindful: Find a time and place in which you can create a little peace for yourself. This can be tricky with family or housemates so be inventive! It could be as concrete as putting aside a special pillow so you can sit on the floor and setting a timer for 10 silent minutes - or as simple as taking a breath in and out when you feel anxious.
There is no need to achieve anything specific right now. If none of this speaks to you, then maybe this moment simply serves to help you slow down and take a break. Perhaps there is nothing you must "do". If this feels right to you, you could see whether you can include more moments to "be" in your life. Open your heart, trust yourself and be inspired by your inner voice, life and others. Be gentle, seek balance, and be well.
This article was inspired by the women of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers:
"We, the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, believe that our ancestral ways of prayer, peacemaking and healing are vitally needed today...We believe that the teachings of our ancestors will light our way through an uncertain future....For all our relations."