This Monday Bea will facilitate. She shares:
I would like to build on last week's topic by Marie: The Art of Resting, because even in resting I find that I often have a "to do list" and expectations on how to rest and on how much time I allocate to "restful" activities. Sometimes I think that if I lived outside of a bustling city, more in tune with nature, I would find it easier to rest but is this truly so? Maybe I am always in a doing versus being mind, even when I attempt to rest...
This write up is extracted from an article entitled, The Difference Between "Being" and "Doing" by Zindel Segal published October 27, 2016 in Mindful magazine.
THE "DOING" MODE
The ruminative state of mind is a variant of a much more general mode of mind that has been called the "doing" mode. The job of this mode of mind is to get things done - to achieve particular goals that the mind has set. These goals could relate to the external world - to make a meal, build a house, or travel to the moon - or to the internal world of self - to feel happy, not make mistakes, never be depressed again, or be a good person. The basic strategy to achieve such goals involves something we call the "discrepancy monitor": a process that continually monitors and evaluates our current situation against a model or standard - an idea of what is desired, required, expected, or feared. Once this discrepancy monitor is switched on, it will find mismatches between how things are and how we think they should be. That is its job. Registering these mismatches motivates further attempts to reduce these discrepancies. But, crucially, dwelling on how things are not as we want them to be can, naturally enough, create further negative mood. In this way, our attempts to solve a "problem" by endlessly thinking about it can keep us locked into the state of mind from which we are doing our best to escape.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this doing mode. In fact, quite the reverse: This approach has worked brilliantly as a general strategy for solving problems and achieving goals in the impersonal, external world-whether those goals be as humble as buying all the items on our weekly shopping list or as lofty as building a pyramid. It is natural, then, that we should turn to this same doing mode when things are not as we would like them to be in our personal and internal worlds - our feelings and thoughts, or the kind of person we see ourselves to be. And this is where things can go terribly wrong.
But before we go on to describe how, it is important to forestall any possible misunderstanding. We are in no way suggesting that the doing mode necessarily causes problems - it does not. It is only when, doing mode "volunteers for a job it can't do" that problems arise. In many, many, areas of our lives, doing mode volunteers for a job it can do, and our lives are the better for it. To make the distinction clearer, we call problematic applications of this mode driven-doing, as opposed to the more general doing.
If we look closely, we will see the driven-doing mode in action in very many areas of our lives. Whenever there is a sense of "have to," "must," "should," "ought," or "need to," we can suspect the presence of doing mode.
How else might we recognize the driven-doing mode subjectively? Its most common feature is a recurring sense of unsatisfactoriness, reflecting the fact that the mind is focused on processing mismatches between how we need things to be and how they actually are. Driven-doing mode also involves a sense of continuously monitoring and checking up on progress toward reducing the gap between these two states ("How well am I doing?"). Why? Because where no immediate action can be taken to reduce discrepancies, the only thing the mind can do is continue to work on its ideas about how things are and how they should be, in the hope of finding a way to reduce the gap between them. This it will do over and over again.
In this situation, because the "currency" with which the mind is working consists of thoughts about current situations, desired situations, explanations for the discrepancies between them, and possible ways to reduce those discrepancies, these thoughts and concepts will be experienced mentally as "real" rather than simply as events in the mind. Equally, the mind will not be fully tuned in to the full actuality of present experience. It will be so preoccupied with analyzing the past or anticipating the future that the present is given a low priority. In this case, we are only aware of the present in a very narrow sense: The only interest in it is to monitor success or failure at meeting goals. The broader sense of the present, in what might be called its "full multidimensional splendor," is missed.
Driven-doing underlies many of our reactions to everyday emotional experiences-we habitually turn to this mode to free ourselves from many kinds of unwanted emotion. It follows that we can use such everyday emotional experiences, and other reflections of the general driven-doing mode of mind, as training opportunities to learn skills that enable us to recognize and disengage from this mode.
THE "BEING" MODE
In being mode, the mind has "nothing to do, nowhere to go" and can focus fully on moment-by-moment experience, allowing us to be fully present and aware of whatever is here, right now.
The full richness of the mode of "being" is not easily conveyed in words-its flavor is best appreciated directly, experientially. In many ways, it is the opposite of the driven-doing mode. The driven-doing mode is goal-oriented, motivated to reduce the gap between how things are and how we think we need them to be; our attention is narrowly focused on these discrepancies between actual and desired states. By contrast, the being mode is not devoted to achieving particular goals. In this mode, there is no need to emphasize discrepancy-based processing or constantly to monitor and evaluate ("How am I doing in meeting my goals?"). Instead, the focus of the being mode is "accepting" and "allowing" what is, without any immediate pressure to change it.
"Allowing" arises naturally when there is no goal or standard to be reached, and no need to evaluate experience in order to reduce discrepancies between actual and desired states. This also means that attention is no longer focused narrowly on only those aspects of the present that are directly related to goal achievement; in being mode, the experience of the moment can be processed in its full depth, width, and richness.
Doing mode involves thinking about the present, the future, and the past, relating to each through a veil of concepts. Being mode, on the other hand, is characterized by direct, immediate, intimate experience of the present.
Doing and Being differ in their time focus. In doing, we often need to work out the likely future consequences of different actions, anticipate what might happen if we reach our goal, or look back to memories of times when we have dealt with similar situations to get ideas for how to proceed now. As a result, in doing mode, the mind often travels forward to the future or back to the past, and the experience is one of not actually being "here" in the present much of the time. By contrast, in being mode, the mind has "nothing to do, nowhere to go" and can focus fully on moment-by-moment experience, allowing us to be fully present and aware of whatever is here, right now. Doing mode involves thinking about the present, the future, and the past, relating to each through a veil of concepts. Being mode, on the other hand, is characterized by direct, immediate, intimate experience of the present.
The being mode involves a shift in our relation to thoughts and feelings. In doing mode, conceptual thinking is a core vehicle through which the mind seeks to achieve the goals to which this mode of mind is dedicated. This means, as we have seen, that thoughts are seen as a valid and accurate reflection of reality and are closely linked to action. In doing mode, the relationship to feelings is primarily one of evaluating them as "good things" to hang on to or "bad things" to get rid of. Making feelings into goal-related objects in this way effectively crystallizes the view that they have an independent and enduring reality.
By contrast, in being mode, the relation to thoughts and feelings is much the same as that to sounds or other aspects of moment-by-moment experience. Thoughts and feelings are seen as simply passing events in the mind that arise, become objects of awareness, and then pass away. In the being mode, feelings do not so immediately trigger old habits of reactions in the mind or body directed at hanging on to pleasant feelings or getting rid of unpleasant feelings. There is a greater ability to tolerate uncomfortable emotional states. In the same way, thoughts such as "do this, do that" do not necessarily automatically link to related actions, but we can relate to them simply as events in the mind.
"Allowing" arises naturally when there is no goal or standard to be reached, and no need to evaluate experience in order to reduce discrepancies between actual and desired states. In being mode, there is a sense of freedom and freshness as experience unfolds in new ways. We can be responsive to the richness and complexity of the unique patterns that each moment presents.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts next Monday.