I lived a great part of my life in a state of constant stress. I felt guilty when I felt that I was not being productive. Instead of rejoicing in what I had done and accomplished, I spent a lot of my time anxiously thinking about what there was to be done that I didn’t do. In all honesty, this habit, this way of thinking, still takes hold of me every now and then.
Why it has been so difficult for me to give myself permission to reduce the speed, drop out of the race — even if just for a short while — and enjoy life more?
Thinking about it… Permission!? That’s so foolish! Who is prohibiting me?
I lived a great part of my life under a stressful, self-imposed mandate that I had to be productive all the time. I was conditioned to believe that if I was not doing something productive — whatever that would be — I was at fault. Whenever I was idle, I felt uncomfortable. And it wasn’t only self-reproach that I experienced; whenever I decided to slow down, or take time off, I also felt disapproval from those around me, individuals who, just like me, had been similarly conditioned.
“What? You are going to take time off to go on a bike ride?”
“What? You are going to take time off to go to a silent retreat?”
Today I do not feel guilty when I am at leisure, when I am giving time to myself, when I am doing what I want to do. I am able to relax and enjoy because I am completely convinced that recreation is truly an essential time for re-creation.
I am fortunate to have Paul in my life, a friend who constantly reminds me that “We are human beings, not human doings!”
After reflecting a lot upon his words I began to practice to focus more on the being and less on the doing, and I came to realize that, actually, there’s nothing wrong with the doing, especially when I am doing what I like.
Doing what I like makes me happy and lively. For instance, I love to think and write, learn and teach, explore and inspire, and I feel that when I am engaged in these activities I fulfill my destiny and give my best contribution to the world. When I am doing what I like, I immerse myself in the here-now, and I lose track of time. When I am doing what I like, I am awake, aware, and alert. When I am doing what I like, I am not DOING; I am actually BEING. When I am doing what I like, I AM.
So, in my attempt to BE more and DO less — and realizing that inevitably I would always be doing something — I decided to do less of what I didn’t like, and more of what I did like… or to like more what I did. By the way, I owe this one, first, to Billy Preston, and, second, to Stephen Stills, the two singer-songwriters who came up with, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” In the context of our conversation here, their suggestion would accurately translate to “If you can’t do what you like, like what you do.”
Instead of obsessing so much with doing, doing, doing, I began to practice to, simply, be grateful… be happy, content, and satisfied with myself, with whom I am, with what I have, and with the work at hand.
By doing so, I have been able to increase doing what I like and decrease doing what I don’t like. By doing more of what I like — and liking more what I do — I can say that I am in the process of becoming less and less a ‘human-doing.’ and more and more a ‘human-being,’ gently getting ready for that time in the future when I will do nil and be all.
Paul, by the way, is the same friend who persistently reminds me of my spiritual nature: “You are not really a human being. You are just being human,” he says.
So, even without having any proof of it, I have decided to embrace the idea that I am an eternal spiritual being having a temporary human experience.
I have decided, also, to embrace the idea that in the spiritual realm I am already perfect, whole and complete, what lead me to conclude that I don’t need to struggle anymore because nothing is missing.
I love these ideas. They bring me a lot of comfort and peace.