This post has been inspired by two sources. The first being a recent trip to Greece and the second a podcasted talk by one of my favorite resources, Tara Brach. The particular talk is entitled, “Human Doing to Human Being.” If you’re interested, I encourage you to listen to it because she’s able to give more depth to this topic than I can in this blog.
Traveling has really shown me how to slow down. Of course, vacationing in and of itself creates more space/time for reflection, slowness, and relaxation. However, it isn’t just the vacation aspect. Locals in many other countries, at least my favorite ones, just seem to have a more relaxed pace. They seem to prioritize a being-ness that many of us in the USA just don’t come by naturally and struggle to achieve.
I don’t know if it’s the cultural, political or economic differences or just the weather (or all of it combined), but they sure do seem to have a better balance, in my opinion. I notice that they seem to move more slowly, take their time with lunch and/or a cup of coffee. They seem to savor more in general, while also having an increased sense of community. They don’t seem to watch as much TV in isolation (or in public) as we do in the States, rather they commune with friends/colleagues/family outside their homes over a cup of coffee for hours at a time. In Greece), the cafés often have very comfortable, cushioned chairs that people will linger in for hours having conversations with others and people-watching, while nursing one cup of coffee and water.
This way of life feels more like “human beings” to me, whereas in the everyday push at home we are more often than not more like “human doings.” Doing is about go, go, go all the time. Solving problems and moving onto the next thing as quickly as possible, to make more money or keep the boss happy. In Greece, and other similar countries, they seem to be able to pause, reflect, savor and enjoy their time without doing a thing, or at least it seems this way.
Learning how to pause, stop and BE just for a few moments a day can really be helpful to our nervous system, stress levels and overall mental and physical health. It can be a challenge to remember to BE, so this way of being-ness needs to be cultivated.
A practice in being can be the difference between thinking about our responses while not really listening to someone as they’re talking to you, and simply listening and then taking a moment after they have finished their thought to reflect, ponder, and then respond. We are often so caught up in talking, that we forget to listen. We are often so speedy and focused on doing, we forget to be present with what’s going on right now.
As the art on the steps in Hydra (picture above) remind us, “Life is special. Enjoy it one step at a time.” Cultivating this way of being takes practice. We can start by just taking a few deep breathes and focusing on the moment during everyday activities. Try to notice what it really feels like to be present while brushing your teeth, washing a dish or your hands, taking a shower. Remind yourself to pause and notice the difference between being and doing for you, as often as you can remember.
Kimberly Atwood is a licensed psychotherapist and certified sex therapist in private practice in Princeton, NJ. She specializes in sexual health, intimacy and relationship issues. For more information, please check out her website.