What’s the 8-week course about: Part 2 – Doing and Being

Last week in the course, we talked about ‘doing’ and ‘being’ – two different modes of mind.

You can probably guess – Yes, the ‘doing’ mode is when you’re just focused on getting the job done – it was on your to-do-list and whatever the cost, you’ll get it done today. Jon Kabat-Zinn tells the story of  man on one his courses who found himself at 10pm turning on the floodlights and going out to wash his car – it was on his list of things to do that day, and who cares that he had a heart attack couple of months ago – he was going to do it today!
On the other hand in ‘being’ mode, you also want to get the job done, but you stay tuned to how you are. If you realise that the to-do-list was a tad over ambitious you are willing to review your timescale- you are capable of stepping back and thinking ‘this might take a bit longer’ or ‘I might need some help with this’ or ‘I need a rest now and I’ll come back to it later with fresh energy’. There is also the possibility that you might enjoy the task rather than waiting for the satisfaction of completion!

Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with doing!  We all need deadlines at times to get the job done, and sometimes the deadline is not within our control. Problem is that we can become slaves to just getting things done. At the extreme end of ‘doing’ mode there is the tragedy that our lives might become reduced to just getting things done. A great book on this topic is ‘The Art of Effortless Living’ by Ingrid Bacci. In her opening paragraph she refers to our goal orientated society where we judge ourselves and others on our achievements:

Why is it that life often seems to be more like a treadmill than like a pathway to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? As we go about our daily lives, many of us are dogged by feelings of emotional and personal dissatisfaction. We have a nagging sense that there must be more to life than we are getting. We apply ourselves to reaching our goals, only to find that even the best achievements seem thin relative to the price we pay in the form of tension and stress….What keeps us travelling down a road whose rewards carry such a cost?

Her book describes a society in extreme ‘doing’ mode and she offers ways in which any of us can step off the treadmill and find a more human and satisfying way of ‘being’

You probably already know which mode you tend to inhabit, but here are a few pointers….

In doing mode, you  do things with effort and haste – the goal is to get things done
In being mode you are more likely to feel at ease and to take pleasure in whatever you are doing

In doing mode you are focused on the outer achievement- getting the job done is the priority
In being mode you are in touch with your inner experience, energy levels, tiredness, hunger – priority is to look after yourself

In doing mode you are driven by external pressures – what people / colleagues expect of you
In being mode you maintain your composure – your inner wisdom overriding external pressure

In doing mode, you are likely to multi-task – getting the job done is good; getting several jobs done is even better!
In being mode you do one thing at a time – whatever you choose to do deserves your full attention

In doing mode, you are living in the future – what’s next on the agenda once this is out of the way?
In being mode, you are in the present moment – in touch with what’s going on within and around you

This is all very well you say, but what if we all become mellow and relaxed, listen to our bodies, rest and all that stuff – when will we ever get things done? You may be surprised to hear that the link between effort and success is a very tenuous one!  I’m going to leave you with a further quote from Ingrid Bacci where she identifies to characteristics of effortless performance the kind that sets  apart the truly great musicians / sports people – what sets the truly high-achievers apart from the ‘no pain no gain’ brigade…

The 4 characteristics of effortless performance:

  • First, we focus more on how we feel inside than on the results we want to achieve
  • Second we keep our attention on maintaining inner calm and not giving way to anxiety
  • Third, we refuse to lose our composure in the face of external pressures
  • Fourth, we assume that performance is intimately connected with pleasure and keep our attention on finding enjoyment in what we are doing

Sounds a bit like doing mode….

More next week

What’s the 8-week course about? Part 1

With wonderfully good intentions I started this blog, but afraid I am disappointing myself by hardly ever making an entry! I could use the excuse that I am overwhelmed by the response to the 8-week Mindfulness programmes I started to offer in April… I have been amazed by the response – so many people looking for ways to reduce stress and live with greater ease and enjoyment – but I can’t blame that.It’s really just my usual pattern of loving to start things and finding it a bit more tricky to follow through – sound familiar?

S0, just in case anyone is following (and hopefully there might soon be something to follow) I resolved today to post something at least once a week. A good place to start might be to share something of what goes on during the 8 weeks of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Courses….

Without further waffle I will offer a few words on one of the very first themes THE AUTOMATIC PILOT….

THE AUTOMATIC PILOT is pretty self explanatory. It is the wonderful human capacity to do routine things without thinking about them. Wouldn’t it be terrible if we had to work it all out every time we tied a shoelace, or got into the car everyday and had to seach for where the ignition key should go…and then what to do next? Yes, it is wonderful that you can drive to work and rehearse your new strategy for dealing with a difficult colleague; you can eat lunch while mentally totting up your current account balance; you can go for an evening walk and relive in minute detail the near-triumph you had over the difficult work colleague – regretting slightly that you missed delivering  the barbed comment that is now so obvious – hopefully you can use it tomoorw!

But is all this so wonderful? Who is actually here? Who is living your life? Who is tasting your lunch… who is driving your car….who is enjoying a peaceful evening walk??? No one it seems!

I think the message is clear. Jon Kabat-Zinn (who pioneered the original Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction courses) talks of an empty feeling that many of us experience – a sense that there is something missing in our lives. That ‘something missing’ he suggests might be YOU!

Think about it. Without going into long detailed instructions (I could give you those also, but don’t think they’re necessary), might I suggest that for the next couple of days you experiment of just being where you are, doing what your’re doing….like when you drive, so what it’s like to just drive; when brushing your teeth, see what it’s like to just brush your teeth; when you’re eating your lunch see what it’s like to just eat your lunch.

‘Easy peasy!’ you might think. ‘ What has this got to do with meditation?’ you might ask.
Maybe not as easy as you think! But give it a try –
Who knows, to actually be present in your life might gradually seem like very good idea!
More next week….