What is it about camping that’s appealing? Why put up with mosquitoes, rocks under sleeping bags and wet clothes? Or if camping isn’t your thing, how about simply watching a sunset?
When you’re in these settings, you’re removed from the comforts you have worked so hard to surround yourself with. At home, you may identify with the size of your house, the location, or the stuff in it. Out and about, maybe it’s the car or what you’re wearing. Surrounded by stuff, it’s easy to focus on ‘Having’.
But, without a television, comfy leather couch, gourmet carrot peeler, or soft bed, you are forced to shift your focus. Activities with less stuff naturally direct our attention away from Having, to more profound levels.
Moving beyond a focus on materials things, the next level is Doing. Making a to-do list and ticking items off, you’re focused on Doing. And yes, doing is important. But if you do activities mindlessly, rushed or begrudgingly, you’re not Doing your best.
When you focus on Having and Doing, it’s easy to feel that you can’t succeed. You don’t have the right materials or you can’t accomplish everything you set out to do. So, you feel like you’re failing. And what naturally follows are feelings of low self-worth, and berating yourself or others who expect more of you than you can do.
But, no matter what you have or do, you can always Be your best. When you focus on Being you savor the interaction or time spent alone. You tune in to the impermanence of what is before you right now. You feel honored to have this sacred moment and grateful for the divine beings in your presence.
Shakti Gawain explains this elegantly.
“We can think of living having three dimensions: being, doing, and having. Often we attempt to live our lives backwards. We try to have more money in order to feel we can do more of what we want, so we can be happier. The way it actually works is the revers. We must first be who we really are, then do what we feel guided to do, in order to have what we want.”
Easy ways to shift your attention include focusing on Being:
- Being calm
- Being compassionate
- Being understanding
- Being here
- Being in awe
- Being grateful
- Being humble
- Being authentic
- Being funny
Whoa, sounds kind of fruity, kind of floaty, right? How does it work in the hectic pace of real life?
Example: ‘Being’ in the Classroom
I’m a teacher. I have an ideal in mind of what my students need to flourish: a comfortable classroom with natural daylighting, whiteboard with colorful markers, a computer and internet, ample space and supplies for each student, and the list can go on. But, it’s rare to actually have all of these. Attention on this level is a focus on ‘Having’.
But, what do we do in class? Teachers design lesson plans to achieve the goals set out for each class. In designing these activities, there is a lot I’d like to know: my students’ strengths and needs, and understanding their culture, research about the best ways to teach the materials, more games to make it fun, and the list goes on. As dedicated and creative as I am, I can always think of more to do.
I walk into class with a lesson plan, with an aim to achieve the goals I’ve set for the class. A teacher that focuses on this level is focusing on ‘Doing’.
Students may suspect, but teachers know, that classes rarely go as planned! The students unexpectedly struggle with a basic concept or whiz through a complicated activity. The teacher tries to adjust on the fly, and can’t always Do enough to keep on track for completing tasks and achieving learning goals.
But when I can hold onto the concept that Being is the most important level, I have a better chance of success!
There’s always more that we could have or do. But Being my best only requires that I am open and willing to experience my students fully. At my best, I am reminded that my students are unparalleled divine beings who I’m sharing some moments with! We are overlapping souls. Learning English is an excuse to have these sacred interactions.
So when the persistent hiccups in the lesson plan and equipment glitches happen, freaking out isn’t very useful!
Teaching English to international students or traveling to another country to teach is a great way to remind myself that these interactions are precious miracles of space and time. The fact that we are together is this window in time is an undeniably brief encounter.
Take that same awe and apply it to all interactions, whether it’s a cross-cultural interaction with a visitor from afar or a day-to-day interaction with your family.
- Think of times you have been able to improve a situation with a shift from doing to being. Perhaps you changed the mood or a frustrating situation by being funny, calm, or grateful.
- How about times when you weren’t able to have something you’d planned on. Have you been able to shift things for the better by being compassionate, understanding or humorous?
- When you feel a sense of panic rising, ask yourself: Am I focusing on: Having, Doing or Being? Can I focus on Being? How would that change how I act and how I treat myself and others?
- What part of your day is often stressful? Can you shift your focus from Having or Doing, to Being? See if it opens up a window for being successful and content at that most important level of life: love.