The Subtle Art of “Being”

Auriane Alix
When was the last time you paused the “doing”?
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

My hours, my days, and therefore my life consisted of an uninterrupted sequence of activities. Do, do, do, meet deadlines, improve my productivity, get ahead, and do everything I had to do so that I could, finally, stop. Take a break. Except that nothing was ever finished. Life doesn’t take a break. There is always something else to do.

We spend our time running. Without even knowing after what.

This is where the duality between “doing” and “being” lies. We certainly don’t lack the former. But when do we make time for the latter?

To be is to sit in time and space. To sit in the very nature of our being as human beings. To be still, and to remain still, at least a little. Not to move, or at least not to use movement for any purpose.

Not to think anymore. Not to prevent oneself from doing so, but to imagine thoughts as clouds that would pass peacefully in the sky. That one would observe, recognize, without grabbing them. To welcome them, as one welcomes one’s emotions and sensations, but to let them be free, and remain free themselves.

To take a break. Not to make any more upheavals on the surface of our consciousness.

That’s the deserved purpose of action, right? We do, so we don’t have to do anymore. Just like with our homework when we were kids. The sooner we did them, the sooner we could go about our business freely.

How can we perpetually keep doing if we never stop doing? How can we realize that we are alive, that everything is real, that everything is happening here and now, if we never get off the wheel to look around and see, smell, hear, taste, feel? If we never make room in our mind to let in what surrounds us?

Maybe that’s why reality, the present moment, seems to be constantly veiled from us.

We are raised in a society that blames us, makes us feel guilty when we stop doing. When we stop contributing to the world. When we stop working, when we stop huffing and puffing, fighting to climb the ladder, reach higher positions, become better, have more.

Except there is no destination. No goal. We live, and then we die. But in between, we forget to live, too absorbed as we are in our perpetual race.

There is nothing to reach. When we realize this with all the cells of our being, we finally start vibrating at the same frequency as reality. Because it’s only then that we stop being one second ahead of it. Finally, we let go. We allow the present moment to surround us, with all its peace, its tranquility. We allow it to be, and we allow ourselves to be at the same time.

“The mind will not be fully tuned in to the full actuality of present experience. It will be so preoccupied with analyzing the past or anticipating the future that the present is given a low priority. In this case, we are only aware of the present in a very narrow sense: The only interest in it is to monitor success or failure at meeting goals. The broader sense of the present, in what might be called its ‘full multidimensional splendor,’ is missed.” — Mindful

When we are in “doing” mode, we are obsessed with closing the gap between the way things are and the way we would like them to be. On the contrary, the “being” mode consists of allowing things to be as they are, accepting them fully, and letting go of control.

“In doing mode, the mind often travels forward to the future or back to the past, and the experience is one of not actually being ‘here’ in the present much of the time. By contrast, in being mode, the mind has ‘nothing to do, nowhere to go’ and can focus fully on moment-by-moment experience, allowing us to be fully present and aware of whatever is here, right now. Doing mode involves thinking about the present, the future, and the past, relating to each through a veil of concepts. Being mode, on the other hand, is characterized by direct, immediate, intimate experience of the present.” — Mindful

But doing isn’t just about working, taking care of your kids, doing the laundry, and going grocery shopping. It’s not just about being productive.

Productive, adj.: “serving to produce,” from French productif and directly from Medieval Latin productivus “fit for production,” from Latin product, past-participle stem of producere “bring forth”.

“‘Doing’ can also look like filling our time to escape from painful emotions or experiences. You can numb out by watching TV, eating, shopping, or any other type of behavior that takes your mind off your present reality, but those behaviors often still leave you feeling drained. You may not be achieving goals, but you’re still not allowing yourself to ‘be’, explains Elizabeth Van Sickel, licensed psychotherapist, on her blog.

Are we afraid of idleness? Of what might arise in our minds? Or of putting aside the race to the goal, and finding ourselves distanced, excluded?

Amazing things could happen if only we took the time to sit with ourselves, without distractions. If we didn’t give up after two and a half minutes because it’s hard. Creativity? Epiphanies? Serenity? A clear mind?

Touching reality with our fingertips?

When he stops a moment and lets things be as they are, the artist Christoph Niemann meets creativity. He is the author of the “Sunday Sketches”, creations in which he integrates surprising objects.

“It’s never about a sudden inspired spark. I pick a random object, and then I just stare at it. I look at it from different angles, play with the light (usually just by moving my desk lamp). And I try to open my mind as wide as possible, to see if a peculiar angle reminds me of a familiar shape.
More often than not this yields… nothing.
And when it does, I doubt it’s because I have a special gift at making these visual connections. It’s because sometimes I have the stamina to keep on staring, when a saner person would do the reasonable thing and get on with their life instead.”

As Niemann suggests, he’s not more creative than average. Ideas arise, simply because he accepts and embraces the difficult process of staring at an object, for as long as it takes. Fearlessly.

On another note, many people are afraid to be alone. Being alone opens a door to the risk of stumbling into a moment of emptiness, and hearing the depths of one’s thoughts echoing in the depths of one’s being.

We constantly chase distractions. Which are nothing more than escapes from the silence of our inner being, from which the truth emerges.

To stop doing and start being is essential. “Being” makes us more aware of ourselves, allows us to hear, recognize and understand what is deep inside us. And when there is understanding, there is change, effortlessly.

Our mind is tired of being solicited 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But we no longer feel the tension because we’re used to it. We must gradually relax this muscle, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. Only when it starts to open up again will we feel that this is our natural state.

I feel it as a tension behind my forehead. It’s not a headache. Just something that is there, and shouldn’t be. I know then that it’s time to stop doing, and start being instead. By going down into my body, through sport for instance, or by meditating.

Because we “do” in order to “be”, but if we never take the time to be, the quest is perpetual. And useless.

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