I’ve heard talk in the New Thought world about “being” over “doing,” and it tends, like a horn in traffic, to drift in one ear and out the other. What’s the difference, I’ve wondered. If you’re doing, aren’t you also being, and vice versa?
Yesterday morning, though, I had a ball of anxiety banging around in my gut, and so I took a few minutes to tune into it in meditation. And I realized that I was anxious on a Monday morning because Monday through Friday tends to be so task-oriented, so doing-oriented that I feel like the proverbial hamster on the wheel. Coming off of a sweet reunion with Katie on Sunday night, after she returned from a cruise, and feeling loved and held and calm, the energy of Monday felt harsh, loveless.
So out of meditation came the notion (or the reminder, because, again, I’ve heard it before) to try to go through my day more focused on the being than on the doing. Maybe that would feel different, better.
And it did. I sat down to read through (and grade) a half dozen student papers, and reframed my thought process around it. It didn’t have to be about “having to grade”; I could just be present with each person who had taken time to write what was, in fact, a very personal assignment. I could open my heart to each student’s efforts, and be present for their thoughts–a voluntary effort. From that perspective, the task felt easy, even a privilege.
I focused on being in my office, being in my skin, as I reviewed the reading for class. I reminded myself to just be in the car on the commute, rather than racing to get there. And then, in class, I felt acutely present for each moment, whether I was trying to explain Jung’s Undiscovered Self (of all pieces I could be teaching right now), or listening for students’ thoughts and questions. I felt keyed in.
By the time I got to yoga it felt like the day had flown by, and in yoga I had better concentration perhaps than I’d ever had. My mantra was “healing,” so with every breath, every posture, I tried to focus healing energy on that part of my body. I felt like a tuned instrument rather than a flailing, striving, working apparatus. And in savasana I briefly felt my presence in the universe.
Instead of zoning out on TV last night, I started Milan Kundera’s Immortality. Every word, every sentence felt clear to me.
And even if I still wrestled with an annoyingly fertile monkey mind when I lay down to sleep, I got a taste, during the day, of the difference between being and doing, and eventually that translated into falling asleep. (Perhaps as a result, when the smoke alarm battery woke me at 3 a.m. and I had to get up, find the ladder, change the battery, I didn’t feel the rage and frustration I might have in the past. Or at least I was able to breathe through it.)
I’m going to try to keep practicing it this week, though it’s so easy to forget, as I still have a “to do” list rather than a “to be” list, and real things I need to check off. But the attempt at reorientation made a big difference, opening up space, and calm.