Being Not Doing - The Art of Being More Human

Being not doing - the art of being more human

Being more yourself is the key to a happy and fulfilling life. However, society expects us to be busy, always doing things and being completely action orientated.

So life is packed with action: at school we have lessons, then after school clubs and busy weekend activities, this continues at University with vacation work, worthwhile gap years and endless socialising. When we are not at work, when we could be relaxing and at leisure we fill the space with computer games, films and mobile phones. The internet just seems to add all the choices!

Though don’t get me wrong, it is a great time to live - with more opportunity than ever - rich and diverse - but we also risk losing the very thing that we’re trying to seek, which is very humanity.

Human beings not human doings

We are, as they say, human beings and not human doings. What does this mean?

One key element is, I think, being in touch with the ‘still small voice within’. The constant input from our hectic lives means that we crowd out that still small voice, it means that we cease hearing our very soul. The less in touch we are with ourselves the less likely we are to have a happy and fulfilling life. Ultimately without listening to ourselves, we cannot truly be ourselves. Without stopping to listen we cannot process the changes that are inevitably going on within us all the time. If we do not know how we are changing, how can we know who we are? If we do not know who we are, how can we have a happy and fulfilling life?

If we do not have some peace and quiet in our everyday lives then we cannot effectively reflect on the past and so we cannot see how we’ve changed. Now I’m not advocating that we all meditate every day - although evidence suggests that this is beneficial - but I am advocating that we occasionally take stock and listen to ourselves. This inevitably means carving out some time from our busy diaries and in the peace and quiet listening to the rumblings of our mind.

A lesson from business

Now maybe this sounds ‘airy fairy’ to some - however I do not think that it is. Consider a company or a large corporation: it is often pausing, stopping and reviewing the past and making decisions about the future. In management jargon they call this strategic planning - or maybe ‘blue sky thinking’. For example most companies will have at least monthly accounts to look at and at the least annual reports to publish to their stakeholders.

Most companies will have a vast array of other performance management information and they will use this in regular decision-making meetings and also in away days. These are chunks of time set aside for senior managers to consider the future based on the evidence of the past and their intelligence of the present. So if the macho bosses of large corporations know that they need to take to take time out to think and plan and make decisions, then why do we think that we can be different in our personal lives? Surely we are more invested in our own life than in any company that we might work for or invest in?

Take charge of your life

Nobody is likely to tell you to do this of course. It is not really seen as the western thing to do, but if you do not take charge of your own life, take stock and spend some more time being and a bit less time doing, how will you know that you are going in the right direction?

If you never take stock how will you know who you are? If you never reflect on where you’ve been, how do you know that you are going in the right direction that will ultimately bring you what you want: happiness and fulfilment? Consider why you are doing all the things that you are doing as I am sure you will agree that it is because you want to be happy and fulfilled - even thought you might be travelling there via wealth, success or personal relationships. However has it occurred to you that in spending more time being you may become more happy and fulfilled anyway simply by being connected to yourself more deeply and more often?

So at some point over the next week why don’t you treat yourself to a bit more being and a bit less doing? Set aside some time to be quite somewhere, maybe sitting outside looking at a wonderful view with a paper and pen for any thoughts and feelings that rise. Or maybe looking at a lighted candle will be your inspiration. A silent place is probably best so that you can hear the still small voice within - because that is how we tend to hear it, as a conversation in our minds.

The more time you give it and the more attentive you are to listening, the closer you will get to hearing some authentic messages from your soul. Do not worry if to start with all what happens is that you have a running commentary on all things that need to be done, you’ve been programmed for so long to do that. So expect it to take some while before you can get through all that chatter to the being.

This is where the paper and pen will help. Write down all the things that come to mind that need to be ‘done’. Tell your unconscious mind not to worry about them because you’ve now written them down and captured them, so you do not need to worry about remembering them. So you may write down an awful lot of things, as an awful lot of things may come up - things to do, things you’ve got to remember, people to speak to, children to worry about… Write it all down and notice how you are feeling - and write that down too.

When the ‘to do’ list has been written down and the chatter has started to calm down, be attentive to what bubbles up from the still small voice. Repeating this over a period of time will help you to build up a picture of the common messages that are bubbling up from your subconscious mind. In doing this you will start to get a steer from your very core, from the authentic you, who is calling you towards a life of happiness and fulfilment.

Eckhart Tolle The Power of Now Book Review

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

This relatively short personal development book by Eckhart Tolle, is a wonderful study on being more present - i.e. living fully in the present moment. It is written in a very accessible away and guides us through the typical conversation that we might have about living in the moment.

Eckhart Tolle uses an easy question and answer format which is very powerful. For example there were several times when a question arose in my mind when reading a particular point, only to find that my question was reproduced word for word on the next page with a complete answer!

The Power of Now comes from this living in the present. This means neither living in the past or the future. The past is merely a collection of memories, our impressions of things that happened in the past, filtered and changed by our perceptions and pre-judgements. The future exists even less! The future is merely a collection of hopes, dreams and anxieties and yet we live a lot of time in the future in our heads.

The Power of Now is to reclaim the reality of the present rather than the fiction of the future or the distortions of memories of past events. There is only one time that exists and that is NOW. Tolle draws from his experience of being homeless for a couple of years and spending every day just existing for the moment and this was clearly life changing for him. He challenges the great philosopher Descartes, who famously said "I think, therefore I am." He says that this is a basic error - and one that we all tend to fall into - which is that we define ourselves by our thinking, our identity is drawn from our mind and its activity rather than our being.

Observe your thinking

Consider whether you are in charge of your mind or whether you are enslaved to it. Try this little exercise: let yourself wonder what your next thought will be, and wait in anticipation for it. Inevitably after a short moment or two a new thought emerges and you notice this small voice with a new thought - but who is it that is observing this thought, if not your essential being? You are watching the thinker, being your mind's own independent observer. There is therefore a place of "no thoughts", of "no mind" where you can sit outside the day-to-day chatter.

Enlightenment is described as this rising above our thoughts, as opposed to falling back to the level of an animal who although they are also being, they have very little thought. Spiritual enlightenment, according to Eckhart Tolle, is accessed by observing our thoughts and indeed our emotions, listening to the message that they wish to convey, smiling inwardly and choosing how to react and indeed whether to react. This is instead of the chatter that drives us on constantly to do something new rather than simply to be.

Just another now

The Power of Now is to identify with your being more, in the here and now, and not with your ego which is wrapped up in fear of its own incompleteness and concerns for the future. Anthony Robbins in his personal development and coaching work often asks people the wonderful question "when would now be a good time?". At first this seems like gibberish, however after some consideration the point that he is making emerges. This point is that the future is just another now and the only time that anything can actually be done or that you can interact with the world is in the now and if not this now then why another now in the future? Ultimately it will only be another now!

The great thing about the now is that we have everything that we need in the now. At any particular point in time we have what we need (if we are in normal health). Our body and mind are operating, we have breath, which is all we need moment to moment and focussing outside ourselves means that the pain, fear, and often anxiety and general chatter, fades away - and that is the power of the now. Being more present is the key to enlightenment, listening to our true selves and experiencing real life in all its fullness. Time does not exist in the now and this links on seamlessly to discussions about being in flow which is other fascinating experience which has been written about a lot, although not a focus for Tolle's book.

In focusing on the now we are able to escape our mind and our doubt and accept that we are whole, complete and perfect in the now. We become present by realising when we are not present - that in itself is rising out of ourselves as a third-party observer. This is the pattern and the practice that we can grow more comfortable with day by day. Being more present requires us to accept what is there in front of us. To do otherwise is to retreat into our mind and start questioning and overlaying our prejudices onto the reality in front of us.


As we learn to be more present and accept what is, we no longer judge our situations and create labels, anxiety and stress. When we surrender to reality, we are sufficiently detached from it to decide how to react. The opposite of this is fear. Fear rises up in us as we have concerns about the future, always wanting to be somewhere else rather than where we are, so always focusing on a future destination and never enjoying the present. This is somewhat ludicrous of course because the place that we have arrived at now was in your past a destination your were striving for! The Power of Now is to be in the present and not to spend our lives looking forward to a future destination that never arrives, or if it does arrive is never appreciated because we are still looking into the future.

It is difficult to decide if this is a personal development book or a spiritual book. Calling it a spiritual book will put off several readers who are seeking happiness and fulfilment but do not see themselves as spiritual or religious. It is of course a personal development book because part of our personal development is to acknowledge and embrace the side of ourselves that some people call spiritual. Whatever we call it, there is a being that is us, that can observe our mind thinking and that learning that we can exist outside of our mind, or rather above our mind, brings a whole new dimension of control, peace and presence to our lives which otherwise seems impossible in our hectic western society.

The Power of Now does not mean becoming a hermit or a monk but it does mean that instead of thinking about changing what we do, we can think about changing how we do it, living more in our being and less in our thinking and so transform our everyday situations.