I remember as if it were yesterday – believing it was unacceptable to do nothing. First of all, there is always a list of things that need to be done. Second, it was time that I would never get back and therefore would be wasted if I had nothing to show for it. The environment I was familiar with was one of “doing”, not “being”. Around 18 years ago, a very wise lady named Pat told me something that I have come to understood many years later. She told me, “If you could learn how to be a human being rather than a human doing, life would have a lot more meaning.” At the time, I was baffled. The only thing I knew was how to do, and it never seemed to be enough. In actuality, nothing was ever enough.
How does someone go about learning how to be? There isn’t a how-to book written. For me it was a very awkward and ultimately empowering journey. Like most things in my life, I find out what works by trying different things and learning what doesn’t work first.
My journey began by trying – and I am intentional with my words – to sit on the couch for 5 minutes. It was not something I was able to do at the beginning. Sitting in a bath lasted until the tub was filled and then I jumped out. The most important thing for me was remembering to be gentle with myself. After all, I am trying to do something loving. This did not happen at first. I became frustrated with not being able to do something I had never done perfectly the first, second, third, or even tenth time.
What I have been reminded of over and over is that the lessons are in the journey. The destination really pales to what I learn along the way. At first, it wasn’t about learning to do nothing perfectly. What was more important was that I had gotten to a point in my life that I was willing to try something very different that made me very uncomfortable in the hopes of growing. The gift of willingness is just that, a gift. When I started focusing on the willingness rather than the results, my journey became enjoyable.
Slowly over time things changed. I remember being very excited one night because I fell asleep in the tub and woke up when the water got cold. That was such a get accomplishment because I allowed myself to be. Listening to music is enjoyable, and I don’t need to be doing anything at the same time.
Today I know that it is not possible for me to only do. Being allows me to recharge. It reminds me that in order to take care of myself, stopping the most loving thing I can do for myself. Today I am a human being, and Pat was right – life is so much more meaningful.