on being versus doing
We think that when we are not doing anything we are wasting our time, that is not true.
Our time is first of all for us to be.
To be, to be what?
To be alive, to be peace, to be joy, to be loving.
And that is what the world needs the most.
So we train ourself in order to be.
And if you know the art of being peace, of being solid, then you have the ground for every action ... because the ground for action is to be.
And the quality of being determines the quality of doing.
Action must be based on non-action.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
I read this quote a long time ago, it was probably a forward on Whatsapp, and it struck me as both true and impossible at the same time. Becuase so much of life entails doing - going to work, cooking meals, nurturing relationships.
While I understood in theory how the way we show up to all these activities determine their quality, I've also experienced that even when I try to do the bare minimum – in meeting only the necessary demands of family and work life – the less time there is to be. And it is a vicious cycle from which there seems to be no exit.
Thich Nhat Hanh passed away yesterday, and it was only in reading more about him on this occasion that I learnt he had been speechless for the past seven years following a stroke he had suffered long ago.
I came across the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh during my occasional meanderings through the practice of mindfulness.
As always, what makes a lot of sense in theory feels almost impossible to practice in daily life. Especially in the current times, with the pandemic still raging, I find it almost impossible to get up each morning. More often than not, I'm filled with dread at the prospect of facing yet another day, almost identical to its predecessor in its unfurling, and likely to be identical to the one that will follow.
As someone who thrives on a having a variety of experiences to fill up my days and life, this sameness has been slowly stifling me, filling me up with an anxiety and existential dread that threatens to explode and spill over, affecting everyone around me.
Writing has been the foremost thing on my mind yet the last thing I feel like doing. I don't want to write when I'm in this state, although I'm told that the antidote to getting out of this state of misery is to indulge in the activities we love.
That's the irony of it all. I don't find that I love many things anymore. Even playing with D feels like I'm fulfilling an obligation these days. My heart is not in it, and the guilt that accompanies it makes it even worse.
And while I am at it, can I also blame the weather? Despite all the snow, the cold and the white-grey skies add to the gloom and doom I seem to feel almost every day these days.
In these times, Thich Nhat Hanh's words come back in all their wisdom. Being has become so much more essential than doing, but I'm also finding it more difficult now than ever before.
This reminds me of what Osho had said about subjective and objective art. I had written about it in an earlier post.
(In objective art) man has nothing to throw, he is utterly empty, absolutely clean. Out of this silence, out of this emptiness, arises love, compassion, and out of this silence a possibility for creativity. This silence, this love, this compassion, these are the qualities of meditation.
Meditation brings you to your very centre, and your centre is not only your centre, it is the centre of the whole existence. Only on the periphery we are different. As we start moving towards the centre, we are one. We are part of eternity, a tremendously luminous experience of ecstasy, which is beyond words, something that you can be but very difficult to express it. But a great desire arises in you to share it, because all other people around you are groping for exactly such experiences. And you have it. You know the path.
This desire to share becomes creativity. Somebody can dance. There have been mystics – for example, Jalaluddin Rumi – whose teaching was not in words, whose teaching was in dance. He will dance. His disciples will be sitting by his side, and he will tell them that "Anybody who feels like joining me can join. It is a question of feeling. If you don't feel like, it is up to you. You can simply sit and see."
But when you see a man like Jalaluddin Rumi dancing, something dormant in you becomes active. In spite of yourself, you can find you have joined the dance. You are already dancing before you become aware you have joined it.
This is why I don't feel like working on my manuscripts these days. There is so much angst in me, it feels as if I'd only be pouring all of it out on paper and spreading that into the world.
When I feel so full of dread and anxiety, how could I possibly create something that would touch and move someone who reads it?
I don't have any answers yet. I'm only jusy trying to get through the day without any emotional casualties. Even that has become almost impossible offlate.
Image Attribution: Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash