Being and Doing
Sometimes you decide to take a specific challenge in life, such as a pilgrimage to a Holy Place, writing and publishing a book, or finishing a marathon. Other times, the challenges will find you, whether you welcome them or not ;): How to raise a child as a happy and independent thinker? How to overcome crisis? How to support your recovery from a serious illness?
What is common is the underlying process. You are encouraged to open up and be transformed.
When a challenge is a real one, it usually involves a search or understanding about the meaning of life. What is it all about? As a result, the purpose of the journey (writing a book, taking part in a triathlon, solving a crisis) is to discover the importance of the road. And it will take time, experience, rebellion, disasters and tragedies, successes and disappointments, as well as appreciation for simple things in life: meal and shelter or sun rays on your face.
The challenge is not about what you want to achieve or what you have or have not achieved so far.
The challenge is about whom you are becoming.
Being gives rise to Doing. This is the first important sentence in this piece of text :).
If you focus on Doing mainly (which gives rise to Having), you may push beyond limits, reach fame and glory, but stay unfulfilled and empty inside. This often happens with people who have not learned to appreciate the road but focus on the Goal. Once the Goal is reached, the thrill is gone.
The Emptiness may become overwhelming and the person feels lost. Of course, there is another goal or summit to reach, so the road will continue. But…unless you learn to enjoy the ride, moment by moment and embrace the pains, you will stay unsatisfied.
It is so easy to miss the obvious. Being is content from What-is and in What-is. With all the pitfalls, pains and problems as well as the “I love you, mum” statements, beautiful moments and joy of being alive.
The obvious is this: my life and your life exists in this moment. This very moment, thanks to continuity, gives rise to eternity.
My challenge is life is that I feel I am in hurry. There are so many things I want to learn, practise and master, but so little time! I want to understand more. Are you with me on this?
In a sense, I want more but I also know that this is impossible. Perhaps, I am now taught to be patient and do one thing at a time.
Let me share my understanding, which I keep forgetting to apply to my own life.
Being in the Moment
Skills originating from Being are transcendental. This is the second most important sentence in this piece of text.
What is means is that they transcend a single application and can easily be applied in a different context.
If you cook well, for instance, your Being knows how to integrate individual products (principles, ideas, parts) to make a result, a totality, that is thrilling to the taste. Such a Being principle is easily enhanced or re-directed to become the Being who designs well, crafts well or writes well. Why? Because there is an intrinsic grasp of relations between the individual parts, as well as ways they influence each other, that you recognise on a deep level. It is a part of whom you have become.
Of course, it may take some learning to adjust to different type of material (say words instead of food) to enhance the understanding of relations and develop intuition, but as such, it is a transferable skill.
It means once your Being enjoys cooking, or writing, or designing, for the matter, your Being is able to enjoy any other task that is based on a holistic synthesis. You only need to trust the process of re-alignment.
Now comes the final part.
Life is a story
Your Being is realised through the story you are telling yourself. This is the third most important sentence in this piece of text.
What I mean here is a narration, thoughts and images you have with yourself and about yourself. As it is a daily narration, over the years, it becomes a story.
This is an insight I have got thanks to coaching.
Everything in my life and your life is a story, a comparison in a context or a metaphor. There is a story you keep preserving for your own sense of homeostasis.
Whatever you think about your children, marriage, the car you choose to drive, brands of products you buy, your job or friends – it is a story. It doesn’t even have to be a wordy narration, it can be a silent movie. Most of stories (comparisons, metaphors) you hear multiple times, while others are re-hashed or re-invented from the collection of experiences, or modified by your reflection.
If in any day you carefully observe your thoughts or images or listen to the voice in your head/heart, you will find out that most of the stories do not stem from what you see or based on some objective truth. Instead, they are interpretations.
This is something I clearly realised when I was listening to a story from a life-threatening experience of my two friends.
Some years ago, they attempted a dangerous winter climb of one super difficult summit (in winter conditions and full snow) in French Alps. It was a remote summit, with the nearby village being closed and evacuated at the time (because of too much snow, but they did not know about this). The experience was tough and transformational, because it played with their survival. They could lost their lives.
They barely made it because they seriously underestimated the severity of conditions and their insufficient preparation in terms of food supply and equipment. Instead a 15h climb up and down, it took them more than two days with hardly any help available, no helicopters possible and no mobile phone reach. Just two guys relying on each other.
I heard the individual story from them both, one day after their coming back, after 20h sleep or so. There were completely two different stories, so different that I was unsure they were telling about the same climb. Both of them remembered things differently. Each of them was the hero to help the other. So, there were two stories, to begin with.
Because it was such a dramatic experience, both guys were telling this story to other friends and co-workers as we were eating lunch together at work. I heard the stories every day for nearly two weeks. What surprised me, however, was that both guys, after the second or third narration, began to alter the story.
The changes were significant. For instance, some key facts were replaced by other ones, or some decisions were totally opposite to the ones I heard in the first story. Not to even mention the timing of decisions, responsibilities they took, how they used equipment and so on. The stories began to live their own life, continually evolving.
I was shocked by this and when I pointed it out to both of them, they had no clue what I was talking about. They both thought I was bringing false notes to their cherished story! They both believed that the say 5th story I heard was the truth they experienced, yet in my view, paramountly different to what I heard for the first time.
This is really amazing to realise that even false stories of experience we have not had or imagined facts, we can take as granted to have been parts of our life. If somebody keeps suggesting them long enough or you simply like to believe them, your brain may not only consider a particular experience a fact, but it will also fill any missing gap to make it into an image or story to make it feel true.
Of course, you may also suspect that it was me not remembering the details correctly especially that the stories were different to begin with. But even if this was a case, one insight was appalling. The “touch and feel” of the stories have changed significantly over the two weeks. First, it was more of a story “I was terrified, I am lucky to be alive” changing later into a story “I had courage and intelligence to hack the life circumstances”.
But also, with the narrative over the days, the two hero stories shifted slightly into a common effort of wining.
Interesting, isn’t it?
In that sense we can be tricked. But such an experience tells us that we believe in the truth with respect to the way we interpret the experience.
There is a deep context to any of your experience which strongly colours what you perceive. It is called bias in science.
There are per-conceived notions,well-defined terms, either heard or preached to you over time, which direct your interpretation to keep the story coherent. This is also why advertisements work and we may prefer Coke to Pepsi, or choose a particular washing powder to another one. It is a story in which you are a believer that a particular product is better or more effective.
Repetitive experiences, preaching, imperative rules of do’s and don’ts or news headlines train our brains daily to make associations and, with time, strong patterns. So, at some point you may believe that the best coffee is dark Arabica, necessarily drank as double espresso with the Channel Island milk, the mobile phone can only be iphone, and a standard for a marriage is a partnership where both partners split their tasks and responsibilities half-half. These are examples of stories (patterns, ideas) we accept as truths.
The brain likes the information to travel the well-known paths, because the processes are efficient and fast process. The brain doesn’t like gaps and open questions, so it will fill the gap from the information or feelings it can reach to.
(This is also why creativity may be hard to spark, as in order to be creative, we need to forget what we know. We need to unlearn the known correspondences and causalities and look far beyond, down or above. Some will say that we have to keep an ignorant mind, or a child mind whose notions are not yet well established.)
What is the story you keep telling yourself?
There is a story about you, how you feel about yourself and how you perceive yourself. Do you talk to yourself to empower or dis-empower? Do you see yourself as a looser or a winner? As you know, the glass is either half empty or half full ;).
What I am saying here is not about imposing affirmations such as “I am the champion”, or “I am the best at X”, but focusing on the very process of whom you are becoming as a person. This includes drive and disappointments, sadness and joy, with appreciation how they all take part in a jigsaw of You.
Your past exists and has helped you to become who you are.
Do you appreciate your Conscious Self?
There is your Being, transcendental, to live in the moment and use all the skills whom you have already become. Just start to enjoy your Being in a different field, context or group.
Recognise your path. Know who you are.
If there is a story to tell to yourself, choose the one which inspires you to become a more fulfilled You.