From Doing to Being


A while back I wrote a post on mindfulness and being present. I think a person’s commitment to being mindful and present in life is one of the greatest gifts you can give to others because it allows us to connect on such a genuine level. And while we benefit from being present the practice is more externally focused than internally focused.

One way to amp up the benefit to ourselves is to take being present one step further by just being.

There are two modes of operation for humans – doing mode and being mode. Most of us spend the majority of our time doing or getting things done. We set goals, we determine tasks, and then we do what needs to be done to make it happen. When we are in doing mode, we are aware of how things are vs. how they should be. We work harder and faster to fix things or to reach our goals, most of the time on autopilot with a complete lack of conscious awareness of the present moment. We just do.

The other mode is being mode. When we are being, we are connected with the present moment without trying to change or alter the moment. We have an openness and acceptance of all emotional states (good, bad, or neutral) and we have a feeling of being centered.

Being is a calming and uplifting state that is available to us even in the midst of the busiest of times. You can be in the middle of a very challenging time and still be aware of your physical, emotional, and psychological state of mind.

According to Shamash Alidina and Joelle Jane Marshall, authors of the Mindfulness Workbook for Dummies, there are six key qualities of the being mode of mind:

  1. You are connected with the present moment

This is really the starting point. Allowing yourself to stay present in the moment by focusing on what is going on right now versus thinking about the past, the future, or something else. For example, thinking about your work task list while your child is describing their day to you is how not to be present in the moment. This takes discipline and is the first step in learning how to achieve being mode.

  1. You are non-striving

A key to being is to be connected with the present moment without trying to change or alter the moment. You accept things as they are without trying to change anything. You may feel that being less goal-oriented is a bad thing but in this context it does not mean that you resign yourself to a less than ideal situation. It just means that you are accepting the current situation as is before you make a decision on how to proceed.

Alidina and Marshall use a great metaphor for this key quality. They liken this acceptance to being lost. If you are lost, the only way of getting anywhere is to understand where you currently are to start with. Being mode is about that acknowledgement.

  1. You are willing to approach difficulties instead of avoiding them

A willingness to open up and allow all emotional sensations, even painful or unpleasant ones, allows you to deal with difficult situations in a productive way. Avoidance only locks you into the unpleasantness more tightly. Allowing yourself to experience the emotion will allow you to move through the scenario that is causing the emotion.

  1. You see thoughts as thoughts, not necessarily facts

Many of us struggle with negative self-talk. Coaches will tell you the first step to dealing with negative self-talk is to be aware of the thoughts. Once you are mindful of the thoughts then you can challenge those thoughts by searching for facts that either support or dispel them. For instance, just because you have the thought that “I’m a failure” or “You don’t deserve happiness” doesn’t mean that it is true. Being mode is about awareness of your thoughts and then deciding if those thoughts are useful to you or not.

  1. You experience life through your senses

Your body is an important tool for understanding what you need in life. Your body will tell you when it needs rest, when you should push forward, when you are stressed, etc. Your body gives you so much information that when you are in tune with what it is telling you, life is just easier. Think about how you feel when you are annoyed, the actual, physical sensation of being annoyed. Do you feel a tightness in your chest or your midsection? How about when you are feeling really excited about something? Being aware of your physical reaction to life allows you to experience life more clearly.

  1. You act consciously instead of automatically

When you are in doing mode, you operate almost automatically and without conscious awareness of the present moment. Being mode allows you to pay attention to your experience in an intentional way rather than being automatic or habitual.

Most of us are afraid that if we slow down we will lose momentum. We honestly feel that we need stress to perform our best, when in fact, the exact opposite is true. Our best decisions will never be made while we are on autopilot. Our best decisions are made when we are truly in a moment of being and can see clearly where we currently are so that we can clearly see where we need to go. Even in the midst of the most hectic moment, it is possible to take 10 seconds to access your being mode. Take 10 seconds to recognize where you are, what you are feeling, and what you are currently experiencing. Only from there, will you be clear enough to proceed in the right direction.

What happens when you are able to step out of doing mode and into being mode? Please feel free to share your experiences below.


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