The importance of just Being

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In the fall of 2016 I changed vehicles. Previously I had been driving a rather luxurious Volvo station wagon. The Volvo was purchased as a rebuttal to my impractical sports car that moved with me to Minnesota over a decade ago. When we married, my wife and I each brought a daughter into our blended family. As our girl’s legs lengthened and their spines grew taller, so their ability to crawl into the bench seat in the back of my Audi TT ended. My Volvo was an excellent kayak carrier, having a very long roof it allowed huge separation between roof bars creating stable platform for kayak cradles. The Volvo’s secondary function was that of family carrier. Large comfortable seats, integrated boosters, twin rear DVD players and screens, massive carrying capacity for luggage. This vehicle did us proud for nearly a decade, carrying us over a quarter of a million miles of adventures. As it aged it started to become a money pit, each trip to the shop resulting in large bills and with no end in sight it was time for a change. The Volvo’s replacement was a more modest vehicle, a Volkswagen Golf Alltrack station wagon. Chosen for its economy and low maintenance, yet still possessing a long roof and good luggage capacity. With our girls getting ready to fly the coop we no longer needed a family carrier, instead our adventures are now focusing more on seeing the world together, leading each other on journeys rather than taking the whole family.

The reason for the long-winded explanation for the vehicle change was to introduce a habit I have formed of late. That habit being the consumption of Podcasts on my drive to and from my office. Podcasts, for those unfamiliar with them, are audio recordings that you can download or stream over the Internet. The new car was CarPlay which is an interface to my cell phone enabling Podcasts (and other audio) to be controlled and played through the car’s entertainment system.

I have subscribed to several Podcasts, some of which are pure entertainment, and others which could probably be categorized as Self-Help. This morning I was listening to Tara Brach discuss what she calls the Over-Controller. The Over-Controller is that within us that attempts control our experiences and push us to meet societal or self-imposed objectives. Subsequently it pushes us to criticize ourselves if (or when) we don’t meet those arbitrary goals. This morning, as I was driving along the northern shore of the majestic Mississippi river watching the colors of the morning’s sunrise, Tara Brach delivered a message that landed and stuck with me; “We are Human Beings, and not Human Doings”.

We act as if we know what we are doing, yet we exist in a permanently changing environment. Rather than accepting this, we attempt to control things, and we resist the inevitable change. By spending time resisting we are missing the opportunity to enjoy the present.

When our intention is to just be, inhabit being, we start noticing how quickly we pull into an idea or a thought. Yet in the space between the thoughts, when we’re not activated in doing, it’s in that resting, in that pause, that the light of the universe begins to shine through.

Tara Brach

Being present with my wife at the top of Maunakea on Hawaii

Throughout our lives we are focused on creating an egoic façade. The façade exists to show others how well we are doing against our self-imposed view of our personal definition of success. When working on “doing” things to ensure our façade remains intact we are not taking the time to enjoy the moment we are currently experiencing.  Mindfulness, meditation, the creation of mental space all are at their core, attempts to stop controlling, to stop resisting and instead just being.

We are told from childhood that we need to be something or someone. However we are not told what is perhaps the most important thing; that we don’t know the value of a moment until it has become a memory. I believe it is an essential component of a fulfilling life to be present, to just be, and relish the moment we are in.

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.

Albert Einstein

Perhaps we should allow ourselves to fulfill our identity as Human Beings? To learn the habit of being present, and to savor what and where we are, and not what we could or should be. Will this allow greater happiness and joy? I intend to try and allow myself to be present during my next paddle. I intend to try combining the repetitive nature of paddle strokes with recitation of a mantra.  I hope this brings clarity, peace, and focus to the here and now. If it does, then it will allow me to enjoy the momentary pleasure of propelling myself across the lake alongside my life partner. Allowing me just to be present with her, as we paddle, nothing more nothing less, just being together.

We do not know the true value of our moments until they have undergone the test of memory.

Georges Duhamel

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