Learn how to live more peacefully



Doing Mode, Being Mode

‘We have a tendency to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. We think that when we’re not doing anything, we’re wasting our time. But that’s not true. Our time is first of all for us to be. To be what? To be alive, to be peaceful, to be joyful, to be loving. We all need to train ourselves in our way of being, and that is the ground for all action. Our quality of being determines our quality of doing.’ Thich Nhat Hanh

There are many benefits to living a more mindful life, but one I often hear people describe, and which I have also found, is that sense of living more in the centre of our own lives. Instead of feeling like a little machine busily ticking off the to do list for the day, there is a greater sense of presence, of feeling fully alive. It’s a subtle shift, but there is quite a difference between feeling like a ‘human being’ instead of a ‘human doing’. It’s easy to observe and measure output and activities, whereas the quality of our being is less obvious. Yet if, as Thich Nhat Hanh writes, our quality of being determines our quality of doing, then what are the factors which can influence our quality of being?

We all have times when we’re at our best – when we are living from our most generous, considerate and wise selves, able to have the courage of our convictions. And then there are those other times – when we’re stressed and exhausted, feel ourselves provoked beyond our limits, or are simply too caught up in everyday distractions to notice what is happening for those around us. Unlike a fairy-tale, where the wise owl is always wise and the young handsome knight is always courageous, we are a rather complex mix of wisdom and blindness, generosity and resentment, courage and fear. All we can hope for is to increase the amount of times when we can be at our best – where the impulse to be generous and kind arises more readily.

Perhaps something which may help is if we can allow ourselves to ‘simply be’ at times. To give ourselves a chance to just be present, without the need to accomplish anything. It may feel strange at first – but it may also give us an opportunity to feel what it is like to be in ‘being mode’ rather than ‘doing mode’ from time to time.

Mindfulness practice idea:

Each day for a week, set aside five minutes a day to ‘just sit’ – with no agenda, no thought of achievement, not even to feel more relaxed or to manage our stress better. Notice how this feels – and whether this simple practice changes your perspective in any way?

Anja Tanhane