Living a life of any kind of balance is at its core a life of being and doing.
The aim of every productivity expert you come across is going to be to get you do more, create more, live more. If they do ask you to do less, it’s because they’re asking you to do less of the thing that’s standing in the way of you doing more of something else. Productivity is about producing results, and producing requires doing.
There’s a growing conversation in the world of self-help/-improvement/-care about whether we will live our lives as human beings or human doings. It’s strange to me how some of the leaders do not specifically address that being requires doing.
It requires making space for rest. It requires brewing a pot of tea. It requires drawing a bath. It requires scheduling dates with yourself. It requires setting a timer for your nap. It requires creating a sanctuary for yourself.
To be is still to do.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing frequently brings the reader’s attention to making every act a kind of working meditation; scrubbing pots, sweeping floors, making the bed, etc. Reality may be an illusion, but even illusions have something to teach.
The brain is built to require resting and acting. We sleep for about a third of the day, are active for a third of the day, and continue moving at a slower pace for a third of the day. We see this in babies being awake for two hours, being fed toward the end of the second and before sleeping for an hour, and then repeating the pattern until they learn “to sleep through the night.”
We sleep, we awake with our brains at their most curious, and we end our day (whenever that may be) in a state of processing. A state which very often carries over into our sleeping.
Even if we move away from discussing sleeping and waking hours, there is still this instinct ever at the back of our minds to avoid boredom. We have evolved with a desire not to be bored, a desire which can only ever consistently be satisfied by seeking something new or different.
A different way of thinking about our time spent waiting or doing something monotonous. A different landscape for our viewing pleasure.
This desire not to be bored also sets us off learning and living and growing. And if we aren’t regularly satisfying that desire just a little bit every day, we become frustrated with our “dream deferred.”
Consider Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem.” The end is especially evocative of what happens when people don’t satisfy just one small curiosity every day. Their dream/desire/curiosity “sags / like a heavy load” becoming a burden that just weighs down every day of their life so that it’s nothing but drudgery. Or else it might “explode” as some people just can’t take the same-old same-old anymore and destroy everything around them just to shake up the view.
Reading the poem, what other manifestations of frustrated desire do you think the other images might be stand-ins for?
Be present and love what you have now, yes. Feed your curiosity first by shifting your perception of what already surrounds you then by exploring the how to find yourself looking out at a new horizon.
You need both the being and the doing. The balance, the measure of the two is up to you.
Also published on Medium.