Being and Doing
“To be is to do.” – Aristotle
“To do is to be.” – Sartre
“To be or not to be.” – Shakespeare
“Do be do be do, be do be do be…” – Sinatra
I remember this list from days long ago, an era when we shared memes via T-shirt rather than gif. The fact that it keeps popping into my head indicates there’s a message for me here.
I’m a list person. The type who writes down a completed task to have the satisfaction of crossing it off. Kitchen chalk board lists the week’s meals and food in danger of spoiling. Mobile app separates TODAY/THIS WEEK/NEXT WEEK/SOMEDAY actions and includes a DONE column, the virtual equivalent to crossing it off. Placing a task on my list means its accounted for and needn’t rattle ‘round my brain during work hours or at 2 a.m..
Because I trust my list. It holds what I need to do so my brain doesn’t have to. Reviewing my completed tasks talks back to my anxious critic inner voice, the part that says I don’t do enough. My brain was raised on the Sartre perspective. Doing makes me who I am. You’ll be known by your deeds. Actions speak.
And yet, as social media replaces year end top 10 lists with New Year’s resolutions, the list in my heart focuses less about what I intend to DO and more of who and how I want to BE.
The week before winter break, I spent a morning in my son’s second grade classroom. His teacher and I had been emailing about doing some yoga and mindfulness exercises with the kids, but ironically have yet to find the time. That morning, I just went to hang out.
I arrived in time for the full class reading lesson, followed by independent practice and small groups working with the teacher and aides. Not sure what to DO with myself, I staked out a spot beside the cubbies where I could hear my kiddo’s reading group but not be intrusive. It was fun to BE there, hearing the stories and questions, soaking in the energy.
My plan was to say goodbye and duck out once his group finished. But the teacher caught my eye – I can give you a task if you have time. Sure! Something to DO! My task was to BE with a struggling reader. Let her read to me, exploring the story and words unfamiliar.
When she and I returned for snack, I intended to head out. But my boy caught me – do you have to leave? Truth was, no. My midday client had rescheduled, I didn’t have to go just yet. (My kiddo asked me to stay longer! I know that will change as the years march on.) So I stayed for writing, again observing the lesson and independent practice. More comfortable in the space, I wandered a bit, asking a few kids questions about their topics.
Being there mattered. Not what I was doing there. Mindfulness helps me stay in the present. Not anxiously anticipating the future or dwelling in what has past. But breathing here. Noticing what’s here. Noticing I’m here.
I’ll always be a do-er. This year, I strive to BE more. No, that’s not quite right. It’s not about being MORE. It’s about being. Just being. Being with. Being present. Being enough. Being as much as doing. Be do be do be do…
[Photo credit: (c) Maria Grazia Montagnari]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pain specialist, yoga instructor, and Reiki practitioner Ginny Hamilton teaches simple & proven techniques to release pain & restore energy in the workplace, group classes & private sessions. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. In “Off the Mat,” Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice. www.ginnyhamilton.com