Rediscover the Lost Art of Being

Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.  – Thomas Jefferson

My morning cup of tea

That quote embodies one of the biggest problems in the world today.

Someone at some point in history (probably thousands of years ago) decided that doing was good and being was bad.  Doing meant being productive while being meant being a slacker.

And so we work so very hard at being busy that we frequently forget what the busy-ness is all about.

Do you sometimes get the feeling that all of your doing, doing, doing is doing you in?  That’s how I’ve felt lately but I didn’t realize it until I hit a wall.

Running on the Hamster Wheel

Since losing my job recently, my stress level has been higher than I would like to admit.  I instinctively started doing everything I could think of that might lead to getting a job.  I did what I had done in past job searches and used some things I had learned in the past couple years to do things a bit differently.

At the same time I’m the mom of three little kids and a wife and doing my best to keep up with those responsibilities.

And I’m working hard to build and support the community that we’re all a part of here at simple mindfulness by answering comments and emails, writing new posts and finishing my Mindful Body program.

Today I woke up with an anxious, uneasy feeling.  As I looked deeper, I could sense a battle between my monkey mind, who had manifested itself as a fear-filled knot in my gut, and my True Self, who has been insisting that something amazing and great is going to happen today.

While part of me wanted to take the time to better understand what was really going on inside me, the monkey mind cracked the whip and told me to keep moving, keep doing – or else!  I had too much to do to slack off and get all touchy feely.

And so my emotions continued to spiral downhill.

Everything Changes In An Instant

That was until I had a great conversation with a friend who was experiencing very similar feelings in her body but couldn’t figure out where they were coming from.  We agreed that we were both so busy doing that we weren’t giving our True Selves a minute to speak.

I mentioned to my friend that long ago, someone made up the story that being productive was good and taking the time to simply be was bad.  We all got sucked into this story and play it out every day.

I put out the challenge that we rewrite this story, making it okay to simply be whenever we needed to.  To go with the flow instead of resisting so much.  We both liked that a lot!

From Doing To Being

To honor that challenge, as soon as I hung up with her, I hit my yoga mat.  Before our call, I had other plans that would have likely had me skip my yoga practice.  But now I was prioritizing being.

I mindfully stepped through my yoga practice without rushing.  I savored every movement, every stretch, every breath.  I felt my body come back to life.

I followed this with meditation, reminding myself that I had no place to be but here, now.

I focused on feelings and sensations throughout my body as I breathed deeply.  Earlier in the day I had been trying to pretend that my monkey mind wasn’t really all knotted up in my gut.  Now I was ready to feel everything and have a chat with him and the ball of fear he was carrying with him.

Pulling him out into the light, asking him questions and showing him how useless and absurd he was being helped him to go on his merry way and leave me alone.

After meditating, I was about to get back to work.  But my True Self spoke up and asked, “What would rather do?”  I would rather spend some time curled up on the sofa with a cup of coffee reading my latest book (something I haven’t done in eons).  And so I did.  And it felt awesome!

Now I was on a roll.  Looking out the window at the woods that surround my house, I realized that it had been far too long since I last took a walk.  So I put on my boots and headed outside.  I said hello to our dog and wandered over to the kids’ playset where I swung on the swings.  Then I wandered off into the woods for a beautiful walk, taking in the views, smelling the earth, listening to the wind blow through the aspen leaves and watching the clouds move through their formations.  I realized that I was playing.

It felt awesome to give myself permission to simply be for a while (and it’s not even Sunday!).  To do what my True Self felt like doing instead of what my monkey mind was screeching that I should be doing.

For those of you who may be asking, my saint of a husband took all the kids with him today so I could have the peace I needed to heal.

Your World Won’t End

Now I’m writing about the experience to reinforce how positive it is for me and to show you that it’s okay to simply be and have fun whenever you need it.

Despite the fears of my monkey mind, I’m not any further behind on any work (who makes up the deadlines anyway?) and nothing bad happened.

Actually, a lot of good happened.  I feel infinitely better.  I feel much more positive.  I’m in a much better place for my family.

And now I’m going to go have a cup of tea.

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Simple Steps

If any of the following describes you, it’s time for a “being break”:

  • You feel like a burned out shell of yourself.
  • You’re having a hard time keeping up with all your to-do’s and all the related busy-ness.
  • You can’t remember the last time you did something simply for yourself.
  • Others no longer enjoy being around you.
  • You feel angry and resentful toward others.
  • You have a short fuse.
  • You have little physical or emotional energy.

Even if you don’t feel like you have the time for a break – especially if you don’t feel like you have the time – stop what you’re doing and be for a while.

Turn off and put away all electronic devices.

Do whatever feels comfortable for you that allows you the solitude to be.  Do these things alone to give yourself the quiet necessary to hear your inner voice tell you what it really needs. Here are some ideas:

  • Take a walk, preferably in nature
  • Meditate
  • Journal
  • Paint, draw, create
  • Dance
  • Exercise
  • Watch children play
  • Spend time with an animal
  • Tend a garden or houseplants
  • Take a nap
  • Listen to music

Release the feelings of having to do anything.

Don’t think about the past or the future.

Be in the moment and soak in everything you’re experiencing.

Have fun.

Enjoy your life.  Right now.

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh  [Tweet this]


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14 Responses to Rediscover the Lost Art of Being

    Betsy/Zen Mama
    Commented:  08/30/2012 at 10:39 am

    I can’t believe sometimes how much we think alike. I’m working on an “overwhelmed post” but I have not posted it since I’m too overwhelmed to finish it. I, too, am doing yoga each morning to start off the day with some breathing and stretching since my hip seems to start to hurt when I’m stressed! I’ve never bought into the being busy myth but lately I’ve fallen into it anyway. I’ve had to let a lot go and just be in the moment when I am home.

    I love your reminders and I’m going to take a walk after I garden for a little bit. Once again, your posts come at the best times for me! Thanks!

    Betsy/Zen Mama recently posted..Are you MAD?My Profile

      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  08/30/2012 at 12:04 pm

      Great minds think alike Betsy! 🙂

      I completely agree with the idea that the best way to learn something is to teach it. I tend to write about things just when I need to hear the message. It’s like coaching myself through life.

      I looked up “hips” in Louise Hay’s book, Heal Your Body A-Z. It makes perfect sense that your hips hurt when you’re stressed. “Hips = Carries the body in perfect balance. Major thrust in moving forward.” If you’re not in balance, your hips will tell you. Her suggested new thought is “Hip Hip Hooray – there is joy in every day! I am balanced and free.”

      Walk. Breathe. Be.


    Galen Pearl
    Commented:  08/29/2012 at 10:30 am

    I had nothing pressing on my time a few days ago, so I went to sit in the garden. I didn’t take a book, only some tea. It was only a moment before I started feeling the urge to do. Oh, look at the weeds growing up through the cracks in the patio–I could pull them while I’m sitting here. Oh, look at the bird feeder. It’s almost empty. I’ll just run in and get some more birdseed. Oh, look at the leaves and cobwebs under the patio table. I should sweep. No, I’ll just sit here and look at the clouds. Hmm, what should we have for dinner tonight. And so on…. Sigh!
    Galen Pearl recently posted..A Purrrrr-fect Day!My Profile

      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  08/29/2012 at 11:25 am

      LOL! Galen, our minds work so much alike. Sometimes I carry a pad of post-it’s and a pen with me to capture those thoughts and get them out of my head so I can simply be. I think it’s simply part of being human to have all those thoughts dash through our heads. I think it’s impossible to completely clear our minds. Oh, well.

      Paige Burkes recently posted..The Mindful Approach To Facing Your FearsMy Profile

    Erik Frimann
    Commented:  08/28/2012 at 3:08 pm

    People ask me how it is like for an entrepreneurial type like me to be without work – well, I have never been more busy in my life before.The Bob Proctor quote on your FaceBook page is just right. I now finally have the chance to do what I have always longed for, write. It’s like a burn in my stomach, and I am going to see it all the way to end – whatever that means. I would never have been able to do this, being preoccupied with someone else’s dream, read being employed. They are always too damn interesting, the jobs I get.
    About money? The ability to support myself and the guys? Being unemployed with no real education, but only a lot of high level managerial undocumented experience leaves me at the farthest end of the line. I should be worried sick, but I am elated. I’d rather live in a tent than giving up on this, now that I have finally, finally started.
    So I accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and I don’t mess with mister Inbetween. I will never give up this freedom again, and my monkey is beginning to get it. It tries, and I let, we’re old pals, but I’ll rather live in a tent than listen to my monkey anymore. You can’t lead what you need. That’s why it is hard to fetch a good job when currently without one. A job will show up, sooner or later, as things always show up when they reache their peak of inconvenience. I will probably be compelled to take it, and even make an effort and a difference. But in the long run, my fortune lies here, writing, exploring, learning, and I am out of time for more short runs.
    Here, happiness and numbers are in my favour. So feed the damn animal a banana, and do much more of what you do best. Be a warrior.

      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  08/29/2012 at 11:18 am

      Thanks for the very inspirational comment Erik! I’ve actually lived in a tent for a while (month and a half) and it was a great experience! Any time I play out my worst case scenario when I’m dealing with a fear, I always come to the conclusion that I’ve already experienced and lived through my worst case. So it’s never that bad.

      Keep writing and doing what you love. Even if you have to get a job, you can see it as a way to make your writing possible. It pays the bills while you change up your schedule to allow for more writing.

      Go warrior!

    mary carol moran
    Commented:  08/27/2012 at 10:15 am

    Hi Paige,

    What a beautiful post! Thank you. It’s restful just reading your words.

    We need to remember that all action isn’t right action. It’s easy to run around and around and not reach our true goals.

    I find myself applying your words in big decisions too. When there’s a new project, or a possible change in direction, I remind myself that ‘doing’ isn’t any better than ‘being.’ Really quieting the ‘doing’ impulse takes a lot of patience. Once we can ‘be’ for long enough, however long that is, whatever action follows will flow naturally. Buddhism and Taoism both teach the immense value of right action, which can only flow from the centeredness of being.

    Thank you again, Paige, for a peaceful and timely reminder,

    Mary Carol
    mary carol moran recently posted..How to Totally Control Your Reality!My Profile

      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  08/27/2012 at 11:45 am

      Mary Carol,

      I love how you tied being with right action. That’s perfect! If we all limited our actions to right action, we would all be a lot happier, more rested and centered (and further along our paths).

      It takes being to get quiet enough to hear our intuition and its very wise guidance. Jumping into the next thing without checking in with ourselves usually leads to running around in circles or back-tracking. We may feel better because we’re doing something but it’s not the right thing for us in the moment.

      Paige Burkes recently posted..Be Bold, Be Amazing, Be Yourself!My Profile

    Mike Routen
    Commented:  08/26/2012 at 7:43 pm


    Thank you for this reminder! I’ve been fighting burnout really badly the last few weeks and my monkey brain has been hounding me non-stop the whole time.

    I finally shut him up and had a nice fun day with the family today. We played at the park, did some shopping, had a nice lunch and had a generally fun day while not worrying about getting stuff done.

    I have to say, every time you talk about the monkey brain the picture of the monkey you have in one of your posts pops into my head. The monkey with the quirky looking smile on it’s face.

    Any way, great post. I have confidence that great things are just around the corner for you and your family. So keep on being and enjoy the journey.

    Mike & Kelly

      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  08/27/2012 at 11:39 am

      Thanks so much for the support guys!! I’m glad you quieted your screeching monkey to have some fun yesterday. I did the same. Sunday’s are my “unplugged” day so I can focus on my family and relaxing.

      We all need to remember that we’re on our journeys for the long haul. What we’re currently experiencing is just a bump in the road. We’ll all be in a better place in no time!!

      Big Hugs!!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..Simple Living Is About More Than De-ClutteringMy Profile

    Bobbi Emel
    Commented:  08/26/2012 at 10:54 am

    Thanks for this post, Paige! This is exactly what happens to me, too, when I want to just be or even to just “do” something that I want to do like read a book. You have really reminded and confirmed for me how important it is to just allow myself to be sometimes, that in that space is where my true self lies.
    Bobbi Emel recently posted..Some disassembly required: 5 lessons to put yourself back together after falling apartMy Profile

      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  08/27/2012 at 11:33 am

      I love it Bobbi: in that space is where my true self lies.

      After my day of being I felt so much better. I was also in a much better place to have a great conversation with my husband on some difficult topics that I had been postponing. It ended up being a very positive, productive conversation instead of spiraling into the defensiveness and arguments of the past.

      I think we all need to learn how to build regular “being time” into our daily schedules.

      Paige Burkes recently posted..Feeling GratefulMy Profile

    Commented:  08/26/2012 at 9:07 am

    I have a friend that just cannot allow the thought of having time for herself. She is always so busy that she makes herself tired and irritable. I understand that she went through a major operation that has drastically extended her life, and that she is still carrying around the burden of ‘time running out’ in her mind. But I worry she does way too much.

    I think she is starting to listen to me though, after I bullied her into taking an evening off soon. 🙂

    It’s so important to have that ‘me’ time, as without it the batteries will inevitably run flat and you’ll be forced into taking a longer break anyway.
    Jamie recently posted..Hello I’m a psychopath (And I can teach you how to win)My Profile

      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  08/27/2012 at 11:29 am

      You’re exactly right Jamie! While your friend may have had an operation to extend her life, her lifestyle could very easily erase that extension. Stephen Covey had it right with his “sharpen the saw” concept. I like the “fill your cup” analogy that if you’re always emptying your cup by running around and caring for others, you’ll quickly have nothing else to give. Keep on her Jamie! The more she experiences the benefits of “taking time off” (playing, being, enjoying herself, etc.), I think she’ll want to care for herself more. You’re a great friend!

      Big Hugs!!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..Powerful Ways To Create Your Own FutureMy Profile


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