Doing VS Being
As we each navigate our days, neurons, or nerve cells, send and receive signals in the brain, forming our thoughts, emotions, actions and ultimately our perception of the world round us.
Neurons that regularly communicate with one another form interconnected networks called neural pathways. Neural pathways form from doing repetitive activities such as driving or typing.
During this steady feedback loop, our brains are constantly changing so that what we practice becomes more automatic. The networks that develop from our experiences form two different modes: doing mode and being mode.
Doing mode is very familiar to all of us. In doing mode, the mind is preoccupied with planning, analysis, judgment, comparing, and imagining. These active states often overshadow the natural benefits available through being mode.
Since doing is the primary mode that most of us are used to operating in, being mode can feel elusive or hard to describe. Being mode is not concrete, but experiential.
Being mode is about stepping into an awareness of sensing, allowing, noticing, intuiting, appreciating and receiving. It's a gentle state that opens the door for compassion, or what author Brenè Brown might call "whole-heartedness."
States of being open up conscious choices that unbind us from the automaticity of doing. We can live our entire lives on autopilot of doing mode with little to no awareness of ever being in it.
I was there for years and I'll be honest: I love the feeling of catching momentum in doing mode. It feels good and our society certainly rewards this external productivity.
The problem can arise when the brain stays there. The feeling of burnout, anxiety, depression or feeling uneasy for no apparent reason is a sure sign of overdrive in doing-mode. This feeling of dis-ease is a cue from our nervous system to slow down and practice being.
What we practice grows stronger. We humans put a lot of practice into doing mode, which has the potential to consume our life if we don't also intentionally place importance on being mode.
As Dr. Shauna Shapiro discusses in the Ted Talk (that I hope you just watched), the nueroplasticity of the brain means that we also have a responsibility to notice how we are being while doing and even when attempting to be. Yes, for most of us, doing is so automatic that being brings up the the intense emotions we all feel, but often avoid through doing.
The quality of our being - whether we are perceiving from a place of kindness or judgement- determines so much of our overall experience and well-being. The ironic thing is: being mode often takes more effort than doing mode because we live in a world that reinforces doing over being.
Today I hope you will take some time to practice being. Or at the very least, to notice all of the ways doing shows up for you. As you do, take a moment to thank yourself for all that you do... and most importantly all that you are. And just be.