The beautiful art of being
I want to explore this one with you on a personal level (after all, as much as I may be a counsellor, I am a “work in progress”, so I hope you can relate).
Having spent the past four years studying to be a counsellor, fulfilling my commitments to voluntary counselling hours, attending my course, completing coursework and CPD’s, whilst being a single working mum, helping run a business and trying to nurture a budding relationship, I can tell you I spent pretty much all my time “doing”. Buzzing around, often driving like a formula 1 racing driver to meet commitments and many a time dropping balls because of it. Not to mention being late for school drop off and pick ups, (yes I was; and probably still am; that mum) and passing out during my daughter’s bedtime cuddles, only to be woken by her annoyed wee self when I was taking up the whole of her bed.
I was becoming forgetful, stressed, irritable, clumsy not to mention very, VERY tired both physically and spiritually.
“Slow down” was the advice I was offered…hmmmm, why hadn’t I thought of that! (insert face plant emoji here). On the surface this seemed like THE worst advice EVER, “how can I slow down, do you know what I have to do in a day?” However, the processed, “counsellory” part of me knew that this wasn’t such daft advice after all.
The thing is, society gears us up to achieve, to work hard and to be successful in our externally quantifiable accomplishments. We are encouraged to see the “go, go, go” hustle as a badge of honour, even if it burns us out. We “should” want more, achieve more, be more! The problem is, this conditioned way of thinking, has little respect for simplicity, being enough, rest & relaxation or in some cases allowing yourself to be vulnerable and ask for help.
So what is the bigger picture of doing?
We would not keep ourselves in a cycle of doing if there were no payoff. This payoff could be in the form of a sense of achievement, the external validation from others, or maintaining comfort and familiarity. Obviously, there are times when we are just plain busy. However, it is important to ask yourself if this level of activity is sustainable for your well being and whether the things that you are doing are necessary, or resulting from a desire to be seen as self sufficient/perfect/worthy… Necessary and need, are operative words, as what we THINK we need and what we ACTUALLY need are often two very different things.
Doing keeps us in one lane. When we are buzzing around like drone worker bees, we are giving ourselves little opportunity to explore anything beyond the task in front of us. Understandably this is no good for metal growth, creativity or lateral thought. It also keeps us constantly pumped with chemicals such as dopamine and adrenaline, that we end up craving, thus making us reluctant to break the doing cycle.
In addition to this and the socially imposed drivers to “be strong/work hard” and to not be seen as lazy, “doing” can often fulfil another purpose…avoidance. Busyness has the power to dial down painful thoughts, memories and emotions, that may surface in moments of quiet, so activity is the more preferable scenario. If you feel this may be the case for you, ask yourself this question: “If I am busy I don’t think about…….?” (the response may require further exploration that counselling or professional intervention may help with).
The glory of being
Will the world disintegrate if you take time out for yourself? Honestly, at some points my smart-arsed response would have been yes, but the reality was my brain was stuck in a singular mode that couldn’t switch lanes. Physically and cognitively I had become so used to trudging on, that I couldn’t even conceptualise what not doing would feel like, more so I feared the taking time out would result in a catastrophic build-up of chores and work once I returned.
The truth is “being” gives your brain time to declutter, to reorganise and have a bit of a priority reshuffle. This has been proved by Neuroscientific investigations on neuropathways and schematic development. “Being” also affords us the opportunity to become creative, to problem solve and to plan, as it creates space for us to think and invites us to connect with our emotions. In these magical moments of being we can streamline our efforts, decide on what is important to us, create plans of action that are far more conducive to our individualistic needs, reduce anxiety and create synergy for our moments of doing. We reset our physical, and spiritual batteries, giving us energy to tackle what we actually need to do and equally importantly, what we want to do.
How is being achieved?
Well, if you are used to running around like the Tasmanian devil, like I was…it ain’t easy!! You will get agitated, annoyed, and possibly hear the cymbals of the clapping monkey from the Simpsons, in your head like I did, just to fill the void… I urge you to stick with it.
If you struggle with intrusive thoughts or memories, my advice would be to see a counsellor or professional who can help you with any underlying issues and guide you through “being” with visualisations or focusing.
To start with focus on 5 minutes without distraction or with a meditation. 5 minutes will seem like a long time at first, but it will be long enough to allow you to move through the uncomfortable part where your brain wants to rebel, into a moment of serenity. Over time the more you give yourself permission to “be” the more positively your body and mind will respond to it. Ideally, taking 5 or 10 a few times a day, or an evening bath where you indulge yourself with some peace and quiet will become a natural and normalised way for you to find peace, revitalisation and liberation.