Archive for January, 2010

Being Over Doing

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.


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The Good Life

Ok, I’m not gonna apologize for being bloggone for too long. Had my writing head up in other stuff and couldn’t bear adding to the guilt I already wrangle constantly about “not doing enough.” Silent periods are part of the cycle of the diarist, I suppose. The good news is that I’ve been pretty darn productive on other pressing fronts for the last six weeks, so that’ll have to do for now.

At any rate, this morning I’m restless and thinking about The Good Life. The thoughts aren’t particularly formulated, yet, but go something like this:

Some days (nights, usually) I feel sad about not having babies. I know I’d be a really good mom. And I always thought I’d bear at least one child, with curly hair. Not being a mom is a bit of a melancholy surprise in my life.

Other days I feel completely clear that it’s not meant to happen this lifetime, and that’s totally okay. I’m meant for other things, and part of my journey has been about freeing my own internal child after a too-adult childhood. Also: I’m not sure I want it enough anyway, or have patience enough to spend the rest of my life on the rollercoaster of parenting. My twenties and thirties were stressful enough, and I’m quite liking my forties so far. If I’d wanted it enough, I think it would’ve happened.

So with parenting largely off the horizon (though you never know, the way the Universe works), I muse about all the stuff I’m doing and want to do. And how lucky I am to be able to thoroughly enjoy experiences that a lot of my parenting friends don’t get to right now (and probably don’t miss). Like going on big gay cruises around the world. And enjoying an unbelievably delicious eggwhite cocktail with Andria & Terry for a Wednesday night happy hour at one of my favorite restaurants in town:

I love the luxury of exploring new eateries, unexplored places, a lazy brunch on a Saturday morning with Katie. I love this new yoga-lined life, even when it’s painful. I love having a home of my own that I get to rearrange however I want, that’s not strewn with toys and other people’s chaos. (At the same time, I look forward to finally living under the same roof with all the members of my own human and animal family. But that day needs to come in its own right time.) Reading the New York Times on Sundays, in the bath. I love being able to pack up on short notice and take off somewhere–or at least knowing I could if I wanted to. Being intellectually stimulated just about every day of my life. Getting to know young people, teaching and mentoring them, and learning from them, seeing the world through their eyes. Belonging to a spiritual community in whose welcoming arms I can resuscitate my soul whenever I want. Having a basement in which I can draw, paint, sew, drill, create, meditate, sing karaoke with friends, do sit-ups, or just loll around, doing nothing.

Does having these things make me an old maid? I think not.


I want to hike the Inca trail. I want to spend months on a Greek island, on sabbatical, swimming in the sea every day and letting my hair grow into crazy silver ringlets in the sun. I want to teach a class in Buenos Aires. I want to honeymoon in Rome, or Tahiti, or Thailand. I want to become a spiritual teacher and a life coach. I want to write a book of poetry, a novel, a memoir, and two books of political ethnography. I want to be on Rachel Maddow’s show. (Better yet, I want to befriend her.) I want to ride horses, galloping. I want to swim in a quarry so clear I can drink the water I’m treading. I want to help save the planet, with my partner by my side. I want to be part of the revolution. I want to treasure beautiful objects, and learn non-attachment. I want to experience meditating for days. I want to read enough Karl Jung that I can see into his spirit.

You get the point. I have so much. I love so much. I am so grateful for this astounding Good Life. And there is still so much to do and dream.

Ok, that’s enough caffeine for now.

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