Since my therapist had asked me to make two separate lists to discriminate what I “was” from what I “did”, I searched the internet for related articles on Being vs. Doing. And what I found was a truly enlightening article on by Zindel Segal titled “The Difference Between “Being” and “Doing”. This concept shifted my understanding of what I have already been working on in my mindfulness practices. This blog post is my summary of what I read and understood.

Understanding Mindfulness as Doing vs. Being on

We have two different mind modes; being and doing. Each has its own value in our lives but some of us may get a little overzealous applying doing to too many things and forget all about the “being”. If we value ourselves only for what we do, we are imprisoned in a never-ending cycle of unhappiness. This explains a lot of my life dissatisfaction and how it’s nice to sometimes just have a seat.

Doing Mode

Doing is a mode where we get things done. It is a very good mode when we use it to improve our ways of progressing and innovating. We compare where we are with where we want to be and then adjust according to the mismatch to “reduce discrepancies”. Then we adjust and then evaluate over and over and hopefully our process improves.

There are problematic applications of doing mode, however, when we become slightly obsessive with out lists and compulsion to do, it is called “driven-doing”. When this mode is then applied to “fixing” emotions, we are sucked into a vacuum of never-ending doing. The more we fail to achieve the emotional state we want to be in, the worse we feel. Doing isn’t going to help us here. This kind of “driven doing” conjures up words like “have to”, “Must”, “ought”, “should”, and “need to”. No immediate action can be applied to reduce the discrepancies and so it feels bad. I suspect how we feel about our bodies may fall here and unrequited love too.

Understanding Mindfulness as Doing vs. Being on

In Doing mode, we evaluate good feelings and bad feelings and give them too much power over us instead of us over them. It seems to cement them into our lives and we forget we choose to feel them not they us.

Being Mode

Where “Doing mode” is goal oriented and one-dimensional, alternatively, “being mode” is about experiencing where you are detached from goals. Doing mode has us thinking about the past, present, and future where being mode has us only experiencing the now. The being mode is direct, immediate, and intimate. It is the present of being in the present.

The being mode allows moods and emotions and circumstances to remain fluid and we are not condemned to a future full of anything. Everything doesn’t have to mean anything but could also mean what you wanted depending on how you view it later. Thoughts and feelings need nothing more than to be passed through and let go of. There’s nothing to “do” with them.

Allowing” is this state of being and there is no need to reduce discrepancies to meet a goal. Approaching any activity in “Being Mode” can reduce the anxiety of the outcome. When I’m doing the dishes, I’m not resenting that I have to do them. I’m simply doing them until they’re done and moving on. This mode allows my day to move much more smoothly and I can concentrate my energies on what I believe to be more important instead of reacting adversely to everything and being exhausted at the end of the day. I believe we only have so much energy in a day to spend and we should spend it wisely.

Am interested to hear how others have experienced this shift as I have within their lives. Wonder if it’s partly getting older and having to slow down to take pictures of and smell the flowers.

Interested in the un-abbreviated version, read it here.

Being vs Doing: The Difference Between “Being” and “Doing”

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  1. “Approaching any activity in “Being Mode” can reduce the anxiety of the outcome. When I’m doing the dishes, I’m not resenting that I have to do them. I’m simply doing them until they’re done and moving on.”

    This is helpful to me on a Monday morning as I read this while my students do lab work, and I was sitting here wondering what I should be doing among the many items waiting. Ah, I will allow time for being, for seeing my students’ faces, letting the familiar become new again, sitting quietly and enjoying the way my warm scarf feels on my shoulders, how it feels to have a friend like you. Thank you.

    1. I think your Being plans sound sumptuous. Like a mediation on being here with yourself now. I am so glad to be a wise word for you today Tammy. I always need reminders to be grateful and present too and you gift me that as well.

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