We are Human Beings, not Human Doings

The other day while unwinding from an event-filled afternoon, I was hit with words of wisdom imparted in the most unlikely of places, from the most unlikely of sages, Usher, a judge on The Voice.


Wanting to understand the difference between these two so closely related actions, I turned to the The Oxford Dictionary, which defines BEING as existence, or the essence of a person. DOING is the activities in which a particular person engages.


One is about the experience, the other about results.


The difference hit me right between the eyes during Terri and my vacation this past month. We opened our studio nearly three years ago, and while we have had time away from its bricks and mortar, we have not had a day that we did not check email several times and were available should we be needed.


This trip was different. From the time we boarded the plane to the time we arrived home 18 days later, we only spent one collective hour connected to what was happening at the studio.


I found myself going through withdrawal from human doing and was faced with the prospect of simply being human.


After the initial shock of not having a “to-do” list that could never be accomplished in any waking day, I found time to reflect on who I am, a somewhat scary and daunting proposition.


I have spent a lifetime doing and just a few short years attempting to learn the art of being. I not only identified who I am with what I did, but I spent most of my reflective time planing what I would do so that I could become someone of greater value.  My self-esteem was tied directly to the level of success I had in achieving my goals.


Since discovering yoga, my paradigm has shifted. Even still, this past trip was the first time that I can remember having absolutely nothing that I had to do. We decided that instead of creating a complex itinerary for our trip to Europe, we would see what each day offered. We literally had nothing to accomplish for 18 days other than show up for our plane home (which we missed by the way!). It didn’t take long to drop into a pattern of not doing. We slept late never setting an alarm. We strolled the cobbled streets, stopped in cafes whenever the mood struck, visited churches that had been built hundreds of years before Columbus even thought about sailing the ocean blue. We even fell asleep on a park bench over looking the grand canal in Amsterdam right smack in the middle of the day. Once you get used to not having a to-do list to drive your days, your mind starts looking for ways to be occupied.


My mind began to wonder, “If I am not what I do, then what am I?”


In turn, I began the deconstruction of my identity.  I am a husband, a father, a brother, a yogi, a member of a loving community… Yes, I am all of these. However, I am more. These modifiers are things that I do. So I went deeper. Who is it that does these things?


Getting to that answer is perhaps one of the greatest challenges of our lives.


We cannot stop doing.  Doing is a large and necessary part of being human. But, if we can begin to shift our energy to get in touch with the essence of who we are at our core, we can mindfully shape what we chose to do with the precious moments we have.


So how does this apply to yoga? We all do yoga, but can we be yoga?  As we practice, we have a choice to focus on what we are doing — the physical postures — or we can focus on the essence of what we are doing — the stillness, the emotions, the thoughts, the feeling. When we chose to focus internally, we learn about who we are and begin to understand how we go about being human.


What qualities do you bring to the mat, to your life?  Are you inquisitive, passionate, loving, angry, prideful, humble?  Do you bring an attitude of abundance or scarcity?  Fear or confidence? Caring or carelessness?


As you step onto the mat, use the postures and your breath to draw your focus inside.  Allow your sense of being to permeate your consciousness.  Embrace your humanness with full acceptance and without judgment. Take a break from all the doing and relish the experience of being.


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