Us humans do lots of things. We’re doing things all the time! We go to work, see friends, eat breakfast, pay our bills. We go to the gym and volunteer and travel.
Here in the West, we’re all about doing. Our culture tends to emphasize productivity, industriousness, and output. As a result, constantly doing helps many of us feel accomplished. And as long as we’re accomplishing something, we have value.
There’s nothing wrong with doing. Sometimes we love what we’re doing, and that’s great! But doing can also be a distraction, a form of avoidance. We constantly do because many of us are afraid that once we stop doing, our lives have no meaning.
But who says that we have to do anything at all?
The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves. –Alan Watts
In other words, constantly doing doesn’t necessarily mean we are living. And in the effort to fill our days with endless tasks or amusements, we often forget how to just be.
Being is no easy feat. It’s why so many of us feel anxious and jittery when we have to sit still. But there are ways to slow down that hamster wheel. Here are three suggestions on how you can put a break on the frantic mindset of doing.
Ask Yourself Why
When it comes to your life, it’s worth understanding the “why” behind everything you do. Are you engaging in something for the heck of it? Because you need to prove something to yourself? Because you can’t say no to your boss or friends?
Some activities are self-evident. We have to work to pay our bills. We have to eat to survive. But for everything in between, ask yourself, “Why?” Does this activity fulfill you? Do you feel engaged, connected to others, or part of something bigger when you do it? Pondering the answers to these questions can help you avoid doing for the mere sake of doing.
Stop and Look Around
Many of us spend our days whizzing through our routines, trying to get from one part of our schedule to the next. We’re thinking about a hovering deadline or harping on something that happened last week.
Every once in a while, no matter where you are or what is happening, learn to just sit and take in the moment. What are the sounds and sights around you? How do you feel? By being mindful and immersing yourself in the present, you are letting yourself truly experience life as it is. You are being. As Eckhart Tolle says, Wherever you are, be there totally.
Schedule Time to Meditate
Meditation can feel good because it slows us down and helps us feel calmer. But on a more fundamental level, it’s a chance to sit with ourselves. In the absence of having something to do, we can no longer occupy our minds with distractions: there is only us and our breathing. This is why it’s imperative to schedule downtime and regular meditation, even if only for a short amount of time.
Remember, you are more than the total amount of tasks you can get through in any amount of time. You have value regardless of how much you accomplish. At the end of the day, you are a human being, not a human doing.