Being vs. Doing


During MUSE class, we use a headset which tracks our brain activity and sends real time feedback to the app. At the end of the meditation session, we can view the “results” of our meditation session.



On the top is a graph which is broken down into three categories: Active, neutral, and calm. The results change depending on the session and the graph looks different. On some days, the graph looks volatile: The makings of an active mind. On other days, however, the graph is more stable, and more time is spent in the calm zone. My students always find the results stimulating. And the results usually end up leading to the following conversation:


Student: How did I do?

Teacher: What do you think?

Student: My mind wouldn’t stop thinking! I’m probably not doing this right.


Eventually, I will emphasize the reality of the practice: That a meditation session is neither good nor bad, and that we should not attach these labels to it. After mentioning this, looks of confusion permeate the room.


This confusion often stems from unawareness regarding the concepts of doing and being. Meditation is a practice of being. This contrasts with the mode of doing that we engage in during our daily lives. We get up, brush our teeth, make breakfast, and head off to work. In these activities, there is a constant doing. There is goal-directed activity. Meditation, however, is goal-less. Thus, once we assign a goal or label to meditation, we have begun to distance ourselves from the practice.


In psychology, discrepancy theory suggests that there exists a gap between the actual self, the person we believe we are, and the ideal and ought self, the person we believe we should or ought to be. This gap, or discrepancy, can create psychological and emotional tension.


To reduce this discrepancy, we engage in constant, goal-directed motion –  the mode of doing. To become the ideal person, we create goals: To find happiness; To be in a fulfilling career; To create a strong partnership and start a family.


But in the mode of doing, there can be endless and unquenchable feeling of discontent. The gap between actual and ideal is always present. This is the mode of doing. And while this mode has its merits, engaging in a mode of being can allow us to lead more joyful and fulfilling lives.


In a mode of being, which we strive to cultivate through our meditation practice, there is an immersion in the here-and-now. In being, we accept and allow. Striving is replaced with contentment and presence. The focus on the past and the future is replaced with a focus on the present.


In the mode of doing, everything passes through a conceptual filter. There is a labeling of things as good or bad, and an attachment of meaning to everything. In being, the filter is removed. Thus, there is direct and untarnished contact with the now.


It is important to recognize that to practice being, there does not need to be a termination of doing. Instead, perhaps the ultimate goal, if there is one, is to remain in a mode of being while carrying out activities and pursuing goals, dreams, and ambitions.




Manuel teaches MUSE class at Innergy Meditation – Sundays at 11:30 AM. SIGN UP HERE


photo credits: Andi Rieger –

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