Lately, I’ve been enjoying Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.
Most recently, I read a chapter about habits of doing and/or brooding vs habits of being.
“The habit of being—the exultation in the present moment—is an exquisite concept, one that could enrich our lives beyond measure. ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance
The challenge I face is not between doing and being. I’m simply not a “woman who does too much.” I don’t have trouble saying no to people, I don’t willingly take on more than I can handle. I don’t fill up my days with activities, running from here to there because I can’t stand to sit still and be alone with myself. I am quite comfortable with not scheduling too much.
In fact, I am easily overwhelmed by having my plate too full.
But I do have a problem with trying squeeze activities into my “down” time.
It’s my desire to be accomplishing goals that require work without an outward appearance of “activity” that stresses me out so much when actual activities show up on my schedule!
For me, the dichotomy is between being and striving.
Striving is bad for my health both mentally and physically.
See, she mentions two habits that get in the way of a habit of being.
- Habits of Mindlessly Doing: Running from activity to activity throughout the day while missing the moments that comprise those activities.
- And Habits of Brooding: This involves thought processes of projecting into the future or dwelling on the past, instead of experiencing the present moment.
This is where my striving problem lies. I’m always striving towards some “future” self, some progress I’d like to attain for myself, rather than letting that progress take shape organically out of the successive actions taken in the present moment.
I could benefit from a practice of being in the moment while I’m “doing,” and indeed, the more I’m in the moment instead of constantly worrying about what I wish I were accomplishing, the happier I am.
It occurs to me now, that what I’m really talking about, beyond mental processes, is a compulsion to multitask!
For example the more I allow myself to enjoy the leaves and the beauty around me while on a family drive or a family hike during the changing seasons, the happier I am.
Usually, I’m trying to pack something “productive” into that drive by catching up on reading or knitting, because it’s a rare moment when my husband has the wheel and I’m not hauling the kids to and fro trying to pick up groceries or some such. And, by the very nature of being strapped into their car seats, they are not tripping me everywhere I turn and tugging on my clothes saying “Hey mommy? Hey mommy? Hey mommy!!!”
The problem is I am often still required to attend to them during that car ride anyway, and those interruptions ratchet up my tension levels each time. Not to mention, we live among mountains, and I nearly always end up a bit car sick as a result.
Not good for anybody.
This striving I struggle with would be classified as a habit of brooding, focusing on the past or the future, thus, as Breathnach notes, robbing the present moment of its harmony, beauty, and joy.
So I’ve made it a priority to stop striving, to stop trying to attain something beyond what I’m presently doing. That striving sneaks itself into my family time, since each passing moment seems to me like the only time I have in the world!
I’ve made it a priority to stop striving during this short time that my kids are so small and so needy.
Now as for doing, for me personally, that’s another story.
I struggle with having strong aversions to doing certain things and that affects my productivity and quality of life.
Translation: I don’t do a lot of things I need to or would like to be doing.
- I mentioned Cleaning, right?
- Getting out the sewing machine like I’ve been meaning to for several years
- Socializing with real people
- Trying new things …
For me, practicing mindfulness, being in the moment, during activities that I loath or fear, really helps me to detach from those negative feelings and perhaps even find a place within myself to enjoy what I’m doing.
….what if, as curators of our own contentment, we deliberately cultivated the habit of being: a heightened awareness of Real Life’s abundance? The habit of being is a grateful appreciation for the good surrounding us, no matter what our circumstances might be today.” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance