The writer Joseph Campbell is known for stretching the way we think about the intersections of our every day lives with mythology. He wrote, “We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” It seems like every day we shelter in place we are letting go of something we’ve planned. Some days the only plan we can focus on is what can I “do” today.
How do we shift from doing to being? First, start by understanding that there are a lot of doers in this world.
Gallup Strengths Finder has a frequency analysis of their 34 categories of talents, often called strengths. The number one most frequent theme in the world is Achiever. These are the people who’s greatest talent is the completion of tasks. They are avid list makers and tireless at getting things done. An Achiever would have no problem staying up late to finish a task. In addition, an achiever would relax by doing something. A relaxing weekend might be mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, going for a bike ride. These are the people who are energized by moving and doing. Along comes a pandemic and the planning, doing people of the world are way out of their comfort zone.
For some people, there are still many tasks at home: work, child care, home schooling, cooking, and household care. The people with achiever as a strength may be handling this mix of at home tasks with real steadiness. However, what about the people who have lost their job? The youth who don’t have technology to do their
online school work? The elderly person who is not allowed out of his/her assisted living apartment? What is a doer to do?
This may be where Joseph Campbell can help us. “We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
If the to do list has been shortened or you are finding lack of focus, it can be helpful to look to the life that is waiting for you through “being”.
One client I know spends two hours a day dreaming about what she wants her future to be. She is planning out her next steps at the start of the day and then goes back to her doing. She spends time thinking about how she wants to show up in the world, who she wants to serve, and how she wants to be with family, friends and community.
In my efforts to focus on being rather than doing I have adopted a few strategies.
- Limit my screen time. There is so much information right now. Some of it is helpful, some distressing, and some down right irritating. So, I’m really limiting my screen time and having my technology work for me by letting me know when I’ve reached my limit for the day.
- Silence. I’m spending quite a bit of time in silence each day while I’m walking. No podcasts, music, phone calls. Just letting the stimulus of spring unfold around me. Bird calls, the wind, just quiet. I slow my pace and enjoy finding roads and byways where I won’t encounter anyone. The silence allows me to just be in the moment.
- Phone Calls. Zoom can be fun but I prefer to just talk on the phone. I’ve made it my practice to call a few people each day, friends and family. I also try to check in with one elderly person per day; knowing they are most isolated.
- Music. I have found playing soothing music on the piano is a great way to be. I usually shut all the windows to ensure I’m not bothering anyone. Lately, I’m letting the piano music sing out the windows in hopes of comforting others who are struggling with doing and being.
As I’ve let go of the life I use to live, I’m trying to clear space for the future life I will live. I am not able to do focused planning right now like my client. I needed to make the space, rest some tired places, and become more expansive in my lenses of the world before I could even imagine what’s next. There are so many things that are unknown right now. I just can’t put together a to do list. For now just practicing “the art of being” is allowing me to create the spaciousness I will need when we come out of isolation.
What strategies are working for you?