I was right. It’s not going so well. I awoke on Monday morning, the first week of being 70, feeling antsy and asking myself, “Ummm, now what? How do I just be?”
Do I sit in a yoga pose meditating day after day, humming OMMMMM?
My inclination, and probably yours too, is “to do”: to set goals for ourselves which we hope to accomplish. I have an idea for a goal: to get involved in a year-long art project to celebrate 70 (but the concrete plans are not gelling at all.) Our culture has long placed great value on the doers, the movers and the shakers, the folks who make the cover of Time Magazine’s person of the year. It does not have a lot of use for contemplatives, or those who don’t produce, or those who are dithering around wondering where to start, like me. They’re slackers, persons of no great worth.
Except that there’s a change in the air. Studies point out that constantly doing can be a source of great stress, and diseases related to stress are on the rise. “You can do it all,” but women who bought the message found that it came at great cost. Folks who climbed the corporate ladder came to realize there was nothing at the top. The glitter of the busy life, with all its material rewards, may be losing its shine.
And so, there’s a lot of noise these days about the benefits of “being.” Websites, books, and conferences that have the word “mindfulness” in the title are promoting the idea of just being rather than always doing.
Oh, really? Am I the only one who thinks this is impossible? Is there something I am missing?
And so I turn to my trusty friend Google once again, to learn more. I find a description and an explanation that is worth noodling on at https://www.mindful.org/difference-between-being-and-doing
First of all, I learn that you can “BE” and DO at the same time. Phew! If I didn’t “do”, there would be no meals on the table, no clean laundry to put away, no lovely gardens to enjoy. I would not be able to make play dates with the grandkids or teach Sunday School or bring a covered dish to the potluck supper. If I did not “do” I would not be able to exercise the gifts the Creator has given me, which in my case is communicating through words and fibre art.
|Oh, good! It's okay to be me!|
|I spent time this week doing work in the garden. It was good!|
The problem with “doing” is when it takes over our lives. Doing is not always successful, and we can overfill our lives with tasks. Even in our own eyes, we can become failures, if we set goals for ourselves and then feel frustrated when we can’t meet them. Instead of living our lives with contentment, we are just striving all the time, running on the “doing” hamster wheel, trying to catch up with where we ought to be. The “ought-tos” turn us into driven-doers. The present moment is something we use just to get ahead. And that prevents us from “just being.”
Just being can also bring us great joy. When we wake up to the wonder of just being in this world – well, wow! The key, it seems to me, is to pay attention. The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness; often, we do our tasks mindlessly, thinking ahead to the next “to do” on the list. But if we work at our tasks and pay attention, we become aware that we are part of a bigger picture. Our hearts open to gratitude; we begin to understand that we are tiny sparks in the universe creating our own light just where we are, but linked to all the other sparks, just where they are. Instead of rushing from one thing to the next, we appreciate where we are, right now, at this moment.
That’s the way it’s supposed to work, more or less, as I understand it. True confession time: I’ve got a long way to go on this journey, since at heart I tend to drive myself. But I have had moments in my life when I am stopped in my tracks by an awareness of this magnificent universe in which I dwell, by the amazing gifts with which I am blessed. That is “just being.” I have had times when I have been cranky and ornery about things I cannot control, when, by grace, I am suddenly aware of my teensy place in the grand scheme of things, and I can let it all go and leave it in the Creator’s hands. That is “just being.” There are moments beyond time, when I am immersed in something beyond myself as I create art, or write, or work in the garden, or read a good book, or hold a baby’s hand, or am surrounded by my dearly beloveds, or just sit by a tree and be still. That is “just being.” I think that’s it, anyway. As I said, I have a ways to go!
I still do not know the answer to my Monday morning question: “Now what?” So again, this week, this is what I will do: just be.