Monday, August 3, 2009

human being or human doing?

I feel closest to just 'being' out on the trail, walking amongst the Tasmanian wilderness. i have few thoughts beyond the physical recognition of how cold or warm I am, the shape that the steam from my nostrils makes as it whooshes out, the sound of the button grass compressing softly beneath my boots. My body is warm with exertion, and my breath comes evenly as I move up a mountain. The weight of all the things I need to live well are on my back. I am. I simply am.

And this is perfection for me.

At home now with a strained/bulging disc in my lower lumbar I have none of this freedom of body or stillness of mind. I am bed-bound for most of the time with short forays out for working and collecting kids from school. Sitting is the worst, as the pain is most intense in this position. There is no lesson for me in this pain, only a reminder to rest and heal. So whats the problem? I'm just not content doing not much at all.
How do I find this peacefullness in myself when I cant get out on the mountain, when I cant MOVE? How can I simply just be still, and be?

A new friend of mine here in Tassie introduced me to the idea that we are human beings, not human doings, and while it sounds simplistic as a distinction, the more I think about it, the more I realise how much of our lives and sense of self worth is constructed around the idea of achivements,both small and large. Just going shopping, writing a blog, hanging out the washing makes us feel good. As does, completing a day of work at the office, delivering a lecture, writing a thesis. With these tasks, our presence is felt in the world. And when you stop (either by necessity or choice) and achieve little, it is the hardest thing to remain, well, bouyant. So I have a greater understanding of how hard it must be for my sister, who has been ill now for over 12 years with CFS to keep her head above water. This post is for you, Cat.


  1. Thank you for such a beautiful post.
    One of the reason i love yoga is becasue i find meditation so very challenging without movement to focus my mind.
    Thank you for reminding me be instead of do, and for reminding me to focus on shavasna a little more!

  2. Hello, Katrine!
    You know I didnt even think to make the yoga analogy to what I was writing about. Haha. Thank YOU!
    Welcome to my blog...

  3. being still is a lifelong lesson. one has to bedilligent about taking time i know! nice post

  4. Hi there Jen

    I wonder how I missed these posts...but have fixed things now...

    I rolled my ankle only lightly in the National park where I usually walk a few times a week. I was walking over some roots - only small but they were wet so I guess my foot just slipped sideways enough and the ligaments took a chip of bone with them...
    So now I have the boot off and with physio and exercise it improves everyday...except when I have to lurch out of the way of Plovers...which I had to yesterday and nearly fell over...Lucky - I learned my lesson...

    I found other things to do while laid up - but was not in much pain, so I feel for you...
    I really enjoyed not having to rush off to the gym or fill my day with activity...I even had the shopping done for me...I read some poetry by Mary Oliver, took lots of photos...and learned to enjoy the slow pace....but you are less mobile than I was... I suppose reading and DVDs are for you....

    I hope you improve soon...

    Happy days

    P.S. Don't tell me you carry a big pack like that...

  5. Hi Delwyn,
    glad your ankle is on the mend. t sounds like you will be back to the gym pretty soon. I've had to put my gym membership on hold for a month and I sincerely hope that will be all the time it takes for me to heal...but, as you say, there are lots of lovely slow things to occupy oneself with!

    Yes! When we go out for overnight walks, we carry about 15kg. tent, sleeping gear, food (we like to cook with fresh veggies, so we take far too much weight!) The last walk we did was for my birthday, and one friend even lugged in a bottle of port. good friend hey!Im planning a longer walk in October: 7 nights on the Overland track. I'll blog about this one for sure!!

  6. i can't wait for the overland track post! i'm planning to go in february and am very excited!

  7. such a nice post Jen...proud to be a friend of such a beautiful thinker

  8. Hi Katrine! All I can say is that the Tasmanian landscape, especially on the mountains and Cradle in particalar is pure magic. images of the place stay with me through the times I am not walking: this sustains me through the tougher times of life too.

    Ana my fried, yes. great memories. The walking dates are now set, so keep this free in your diary. They are on my facebook page! thank you for your kind words.

  9. Thank you for your empathy, Jen. I think your "slowing down" has been incremental, actually, when you look at the bigger picture. As you've been pregnant and then "being" a parent (I know it probably seems frantic to you, but it seems to me that you've adjusted your pace to be able to "be" so wonderfully with your kids); as you've chosen to downsize your working life; as you've moved into walking, yoga and gardening.... But I also know that when you're forced to stop the "doing" even if it is a more relaxed doing, the ego mind rebels and is pretty pissed off as well as asking "who am I now if I can't "do" the things that I have used to define myself?"... It is a challenge, but one that I would say that you were ready for in some bigger picture way...(you probably don't think so!!??)
    I do find that guided meditations sometimes give me that sense of peace and spaciousness when I'm unable to physically move..only move in my imagination...Sometimes in those meditations I really feel like I am at my own private beach, having a swim in a beautiful rock pool, and then going back to my lovely cabin to have a luxurious rest... But sometimes I just feel bored and restless and pissed off...and then I try to just watch the boredom and restlessness and see that it's not really me, I am more than those passing states...I am the peace and stillness of the mountain and the spaciousness of the big blue sky...

  10. Another thought:
    As I find myself with more energy for "doing" these days, my focus now is on bringing the "being" into the "doing", so that there is no distinction and the "doing" is effortless and joyous (that's the intention, anyway)...

    Some zen practitioner said:
    "Do without doing and everything gets done" - I translate that as "do with being and everything gets done"...

  11. I like the idea, Cat of your meditations, where you get to travel and see places in an imagined landscape. I must try that. erhaos you are right, and I am ready to take on this challenge. I've never been great at meditation, but perhaps now I am in the right space to give this a go.
    Also liked your take on the "doing with being". Ill hold that thought in my mind!