How to be a Human Being Rather than a Human Doing

How to be a Human Being Rather than a Human Doing

written by: Amy Pattee Colvin
by: Amy Pattee Colvin
To do list To do list

Do you ever think to yourself, "Ugh, my to-do list seems never-ending?" Or, do you sometimes put off things you enjoy until you finish your to-do list, or never get around to the fun stuff because the list always lurks in the background?

If you are compelled to do rather than be, a helpful tip to try is to create a mini-list with only three things. A list of three items, in a given day, doesn't seem so bad. (If you're working on a massive project, break it into segments). Then, when you've accomplished something, cross it off. With luck, you'll be able to cross off ALL the tasks on your list for that day.

Once your list is complete, you can add something else if you'd like, or you can choose to do that thing you enjoy and have been putting off forever.

However, I digress.

My goal at the start of this year was to focus on this topic. But, it turns out the doer in me resisted. A couple of weeks went by, and I dove headlong into growing a business. The whole idea of being slipped my mind.

Then, mid-January, a couple of suggestions came to me from very different directions that I ought to try on the being hat. I supported myself in this process by re-committing to a daily meditation habit, followed by reading a chapter of Wayne Dyer's Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao. I recently read Verse 16 and thought it tied well to this theme of being rather than doing.

Become totally empty.

Let your heart be at peace.

Amidst the rush of worldly comings and goings,

observe how endings become beginnings.

Things flourish, each by each,

only to return to the Source...

to what is and what is to be.

To return to the root is to find peace.

To find peace is to fill one's destiny.

To fulfill one's destiny is to become constant.

To know the constant is called insight.

Not knowing this cycle

leads to disaster.

Knowing the constant gives perspective.

This perspective is impartial.

Impartiality is the highest nobility;

the highest nobility is Divine.

Being Divine, you will be a one with Tao.

Being at one with the Tao is eternal.

This way is everlasting,

not endangered by physical death.

Okay, so the last line is a little above and beyond the concepts of being versus doing. However, I have to say that when I chose to slow down and let go of the fast-paced world I'd created for myself, I did find more peace and insight.

I continued to observe what it felt like to enjoy the simplicity of life. I realized I didn't have to create something or do chores every minute of every day. And, I glimpsed something quite interesting.

Over time I've trained myself to become body aware. I know what various strong emotions feel like in my body. I know what it feels like when I'm dancing at the edge of the blues or feeling content.

To my surprise, what I noticed when I slowed down was a deeper, more subtle, vibration in my internal energy. When I started filling my time with busyness, I felt a faster, tinny, vibration. Then it hit me, that quicker fluttering in my body translated to anxiety.

Wow. I had no idea I lived with low-grade anxiety (swap in the word "stress" if that makes more sense to you). I played around with this for a few days and weeks. When I created busy-work or focused on the length of the to-do list, the vibration sped up. When I leaned into Source and detached from the "comings and goings" of my to-do list, the vibration slowed down.

In the midst of this experiment, I attended a weekend workshop with my longtime Taoist teacher. Even though all the students at this workshop had spent years studying with this teacher and meditating, I could see/hear the anxiety/stress that some of them felt.

Modern society teaches us to value productivity and the drive to attain more stuff. At what cost? In November 2017, the American Psychological Association released their annual report on stress in America. Though stress levels hadn't risen from the previous year, the study does acknowledge that chronic stress is eating away at our health and contentment.

I invite you, for today or tomorrow or this week, to pay attention to how you occupy your time and why. Find ways to reduce the busyness of your day. Notice the quality of your body/emotions/energy when you're focused on your to-do list. Notice how you feel when you slow down. You may not sense any immediate change, but the longer you practice being rather than doing I'm sure you will eventually recognize positive effects.

Here are a few ideas to try:

1) Start each morning with a quiet ritual that blends a stillness of mind, with awareness of your physical body. I practice a yoga pose called tadasna for 5 minutes.

Benefits of this pose include:

  • Recognition of your connection to the earth through paying attention to your feet.
  • Acknowledgment of your connection to the universe above through attention to the crown of your head.
  • Noticing the lightness and energy in my arms and hands as I extend them fully.

2) Tone down your multi-tasking.

Try one or all of these options:

  • When working on a project, turn off the notifications on your phone or computer for an hour. When an hour passes, take a stretch break, check your notifications, then turn them off again for another hour.
  • When you're sharing a meal with friends or family, leave your phone out of sight.
  • Choose an ordinary task that you do regularly—doing the dishes, brushing your teeth, taking a shower—and merely focus on the action at hand. Don't make lists or plans in your head. Don't ruminate about the day's events. Intentionally do the task.

3) Breathe a few times a day deeply.

I recently wrote a post on how to breathe while meditating. At the bottom is a section on how to practice a four-part breathing cycle. This cycle is a great technique to practice throughout the day as a way to reset your mind and reconnect with the present moment.

First, find a comfortable posture. Then, close your eyes or drop your gaze. Take a moment to focus on relaxing the muscles throughout your body (including your tongue). Then:

  • Breathe into your belly for a count of four.
  • Pause your breath for a count of four.
  • Exhale for a count of four.
  • Pause again for a count of four.

Exploring ideas around and techniques for slowing down and finding peace is one of the reasons I'm inspired to offer international retreats. These retreats create an opportunity to spend multiple days working with and practicing the themes of being rather than doing, as well as cultivating compassion, joy, and peace of mind.