An Existential Idea: Being Versus Doing

being-and-doing

“We are human beings, not human doings” – Deepak Chopra

This quote emphasizes the importance of ‘being’ to embracing our humanity. Simultaneously, the quote points to the emphasis modern society has placed on doing. If we are constantly involved in the world of doing, do we really need the world of being? To better address this question, we must understand how these worlds differ and when they collide.

What is DOING?

Doing is what we do and how we interact with the world–it is our actions, concrete things in the world, ways to do things, strategies for success in the material world. It is observable, external, normative, shared experiencing, behavior driven, objective, measurable, temporal, linear.

What is BEING?

Being is who we are and how we fit in on this planet—it’s the pause between thoughts, the space in which internal processes come and go, the stillness underlying all activity, the awareness that’s looking out through our eyes. It is  is internal, hidden, non-normative, subjective, experienced alone, feeling driven, immeasurable,non-temporal, nonlinear.

It is not enough to be in one world or the other. Being without action keeps us from actualizing our sense of self in the world and prevents us from being known by others.  This might entail becoming cut off from the pleasures inherent in accomplishment through activity and connecting with things and other people. When we take action, we share ourselves in ways that can be observed and connected to as well. This lets us join the world so it a necessary part of being in relation. Feelings of  existential despair and isolation can trap us in depression, mourning what has been lost or missed. 

Conversely, If we completely ignore being, if we never consciously chose to enter the world of being, we may lose touch with ourselves. This can lead to misconceptions about who we are and not authentically represent our hopes, dreams, and values.  It can also contribute to being overwhelmed. Constant doers may be prone to anxiety, living a midst a list of things to do, looking forward to sure catastrophe  

When one is balanced between the world of being and doing, activity is an authentic reflection of the self that is personally fulfilling and allows us to be known by others in authentic ways. It is the awareness gained from being that empowers us to make choices that reflect and cultivate our identity.

Relationships are perhaps our most important link between the world of being and the world of doing and often reflect the state of balance or imbalance we may be in.  If we struggle with intimacy, we may not know who we are, if we struggle with commitment we may be stuck in the past or fear the future. If we feel no passion, we may have lost touch with what makes us tick. There are many barriers to being balanced that can costs us harmony of experience, cutting us of from invaluable resources we need to better manage ourselves and relate with others.

BALANCE BARRIERS

1. Cultural Values“There’s a suspicion in our culture about being,” says Douglas. “Our puritan ethic teaches us to be productive and responsible. Our mission in life is to acquire, to accomplish, to succeed.”“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is how we language the value of work to children. As adults the first words out of our mouths when we meet for the first time are “What do you do?” The message is clear: We’re valued for what we contribute, not for who we really are. This can trap us into thinking the world of doing is what defines us. It can also devalue being by making us feel guilty, like being activity is a luxury and that doing is the ‘real world‘.  But we are born we being and must learn doing. Thus the primary world of humans is being and doing is an extension of this world.

2. Personal  Values: Many times we become lost in one particular value we hold dear above all others, like ‘hard work’ or justice’ and pursue that without consideration for how this value might conflict with our other value, like ‘family time’ or  ‘acceptance’. Values are a being based process and this ind of unexamined internal conflict can cause us great inner disquiet unless resolved or accepted.

3. Fear: Sometimes we may wonder what might happen if we take time to explore being: Would anything get done? Would we survive? Frightened of loosening our grip and free-falling into an imagined abyss,we struggle to impose our agenda on life while contracting away from the natural, ever-changing, and unpredictable flow of being. Yet being is critical to help us choose those actions that promote courage.

4. Worry: Sometimes we worry constantly, which is a cry to rebalance into the world of being–doing has taken over! But of course we might say ‘I have too much to do’. So we compartmentalize our lives into sacred and secular, being and doing, bad and good. The secret is to view every moment as fertile ground for practice in being. In other words, you do not have to go to the gym, or take up Buddhism, or have a vacation–although lovely– to connect with beingness. You must simply tune in to the being experience that happens simultaneously with your doing experience. Ask yourself what am I feeling as I do this, what is underneath that feeling? Is it a thought, another feeling, a value? Investigate your beingness with as much clarity as you can using the stimulus of your doing as a jumping off point.

5. Not being present: Unless we keep asking ourselves, “What are my priorities right now?” we tend to lapse back into old unconscious patterns, and stay lost in the world of being. Using mindfulness to engage the prefrontal cortex, the natural mechanism of the world of doing, in being activity is a useful way to stay balanced. Manage your attention, focus your decision making power, harness your observation skills to notice yourself in each activity you do.  The mind can seem terrified of the present moment, which is where being inevitably occurs so ask yourself to stay in this moment when your mind wonders to the next or the one past. 

Reflection

  • What do you feel when you step back from always “doing”, and allow yourself to become a witness to your actions?
  • What do you think  the result is of your own activity conducted without reflection?
  • How do you think you could create a greater sense of “being” in your life?
  • What are your core values and how well aligned are your actions to your values?
  • What state am I in, right now?
  • What do I desire most?
  • Is all this running around and “doing” really getting me what I desire?
  • What are you afraid of losing, if you were to stop “doing” something?
  • What are some behaviors that you can adopt to be more established in a state of “being”.

SOURCES

http://www.icoachacademy.com/blog/coaching-resources/power-tools/shobha-naidu-being-vs-doing/

http://www.livinglifefully.com/flo/flodoingvsbeing.htm

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