Why You Need a Balance of Being and Doing in Your Relationships

Why You Need a Balance of Being and Doing in Your Relationships

PHIL: Being and doing are different ways of how we are in the world. Being isn’t optional; it’s the fact of our very existence. It is so basic that dictionaries have no other word for it except to exist, and – surprise! – existing is defined in terms of being.

Doing is not the opposite of being; doing is activity, and it is when activity ceases that being comes into focus.

Work is venerated in Western (and especially American) culture. Saint Benedict said that idleness is the enemy of the soul, and Calvin taught that to work was the will of God. I think this cultural attitude is embedded in us as a “should” floating around below our conscious awareness.

Yet there is also a way in which being and doing are true opposites. Life is a triumph of order in a universe of entropy and decay, where moth and rust doth corrupt.* Work is how such order is maintained, and without continual maintenance, disorder takes over. Perhaps Benedict and Luther intuitively understood this when they couched it in religious terms.

But doing is more than a necessity for survival; it can also be very fulfilling. I was lucky enough to have a career as a programmer, and the work was at times totally engrossing. People take great pleasure from all kinds of activities, whether playing golf or painting or restoring a 1938 Chevy. The problem comes when doing becomes so habitual that we never stop.

The Artist’s Way” is a book by Julia Cameron on developing creativity. One of her exercises is the Artist Date, where you are to go off alone for a couple of hours and indulge in something pleasurable. I and many others have found this switch away from activities incredibly difficult to do. Making time for just being in the world like this is very important because this is where we recover our sense of self, a sense far deeper than that of being a programmer or a golfer. Without time to recharge, we feel unanchored, even if we are not conscious of it, even if it only manifests as diffuse feelings of dissatisfaction.

A relationship also consists of being and doing. The doing is obvious, from the walks on the beach that decorate online profiles to taking the kids to the dentist. But a relationship is more that that; it is a mystical connection between people, and when you set aside all that activity, the being is revealed, the sense of yourself and the other person. Just as the Artist Date grounds and revivifies us, so does paying attention to the experience of being with another person; it feeds our need for connection, it gives a sense of being that is greater than our island self.

There is a balance between being and doing – you probably don’t want to be that person who never gets anything done. You need balance in your own life, and you need a similar balance of being and doing to make a thriving relationship.Doing is not the opposite of being; when doing ceases, being comes into focus #quote Share on X

MAUDE: Balance is a key to peace. Phil and I have been discussing and working on several aspects of balance in our individual and mutual lives. Looking at balance in regards to time together and time apart, the balance of working and playing are all helpful in creating and maintaining a peaceful harmonious relationship. Today we’re looking at the balance of being and doing.

Why is it often difficult to spend enough time on being? Western culture is so dominated by an emphasis on doing, that it is often quite difficult to understand the importance of balancing doing with being. Granted, doing is important. Manifesting your decisions in actions helps further personal growth and grounds you in the reality and consequences of your choices.

And yet, it often takes meditation, dreaming, spending time in and with nature, being alone without a plan, to find the right decision and the right path; to make a choice of what is right for you. Phil pointed out the Artist Date from Julia Cameron – a time when you go off by yourself for a few hours minimum and step out of your routine, be playful, be observant, just be. I have done a number of classes based on this book, and I can say that almost every person has great difficulty making time and following through on the Artist Date part of the syllabus. It takes a conscious effort to step outside of the model most of us have lived within our entire lives of doing, accomplishing, always doing more. As a society, we do not recognize the profound importance that being has to doing.

This is true in relationships as well. It is so important to include being time with each other as contrasted with doing time (pun intended!) People often come together to accomplish things: write blogs, shop, eat, clean house, take care of the kids/grand kids, get caught up on the news. Time spent with each other must also include a time of being together without taking care of things and without being so specifically directed to accomplishment, sharing news or the discharging of responsibilities.

I often hear from people who report that sometimes they are so exhausted from the doing, that when they get together to just be with someone, all they want to do is ‘veg out’ which is not really a shared time of being. True times of being act to refresh and renew our spirits, and if they are balanced with times of doing can be a big boost to the overall health of a person and a relationship.

Phil and I find there is often a corollary between what we are personally reflecting on for our inner work, and that of our relationship. Together we have been shining light on this area in our togetherness, and joyfully making some plans to get these two critical elements in a better balance. How is the balance of being and doing in your relationships?

* Life achieves this by tapping the energy of the sun, which opens up interesting discussions that are too far off topic for this blog.

Photo credit: Maude Mayes
Photo note: March 2020: early pandemic solutions

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7 Comments on “Why You Need a Balance of Being and Doing in Your Relationships

  1. This piece is fascinating because it addresses the underlying hidden voices that drive all of us everyday. I was either gifted or handicapped by my rebellious nature not to follow along the path of accomplishing many goals that were set before me by the adults surrounding me. I came of age in 1967 when BE HERE NOW was my dominant theme. Unfortunately it interrupted many of the goals that might have really helped me to achieve a better material foundation. And now I understand the drives that are so deeply coded in the times we live in. But the gift of living in the moment and really allowing spirit to be my guide has brought light into my life every day. I actually do live ” The Artist’s Way” everyday. While I admire all the great accomplishments done by others , I work to find the balance of getting things done and being present at the same time.

  2. I love both of your blogs and agree wholeheartedly. I just want to pinpoint the difference in Working & Being Productive. The 1st doing leaves one depleted. The later is recharging and gives one the impetus for Being
    I also was a bit disappointed you didn’t address Easter and Renewal as this is the day your blog was released. Anyway, keep inspiring us.

  3. Happy Easter! The balance of Being and Doing remind me of the “Royal Dance” of Existential God and Experiential God that occurs in the eternal Now.

  4. Dear wonderful Maude and Phil,
    Thank you for your inspiring and expanding blog.
    I always feel so connected with what you say….and love the way you express yourselves so clearly.
    The balance of being and doing is so important, as you described it is. Being is the fullness of life,
    it is a sense of joyful awareness and aliveness. That makes us happy, complete, peaceful, and gives us a sense of Self, more strongly.
    It connects us to our divine essence, in the here and now. Yes, as you said, it enhances and connects us more closely in our relationships.
    It gives us true fulfillment. I remember when my husband and I were living in Turkey, we saw many of the men sitting outside their stores drinking tea with one another.
    And of course as a Westerner you tend to judge them, as I was thinking, don’t they have anything to do…what about their wives – they work harder than the men.
    However, I have learned that they were just being present.
    With much appreciation

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