“the being of healing”
Last week, for the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, I shared ways we can do our own work to heal and celebrate mental health. (Emphasis on “do.”) A few days later I was on Instagram and came upon this gem (below) by Dr. Nicole LePera, better known as @the.holistic.psychologist. (Note: Dr. LePera has repeatedly posted permission for regular folks to share her teaching.)
Let’s break up with productivity culture!
Healing is learning how to be
Seeing this made my heart quiver. Crap!, I thought. I wrote about giving myself a hard time for not being productive “enough,” and then proceeded to write about ways to be productive! And, I forgot to mention anything about being, about how healing is a coin with two sides: doing + being.
“Doing: a merry-go-round”
On the surface, we know doing. We do our work, we pay our bills, we take care of our kids, we complete our chores, we exercise. We do the work to be the people our parents and society taught us to be. We man up. We behave. We plaster smiles on our face. We comply. We organize, strive, struggle. If you’re like me, you also do in the form of thinking. You think about the ways you aren’t living up to expectations or aren’t behaving right, whatever that means, or aren’t achieving all you were taught was vital to achieve. Maybe, like me, you also read a lot. You read self-help books about how to stop saying you’re fine or find your white hot truth. You think and you read, and you think about your reading. You think about ways you can do doing better.
I mean, man. I failed at it miserably, but I worked at perfectionism and I tried to be what I thought everyone around me wanted and needed. Everything would finally be fine, I thought, when I got popular enough or thin enough or smart enough. Or just. . .better. When I found the perfect formula, when I achieved that elusive goal, whatever it was. It, or lack of it, was preventing me from having the life I thought I wanted. What, exactly, that life looked like I couldn’t have said. Along the way, as perfection eluded my grasp, I numbed my frustrations and sorrows in wine, fatty “comfort” foods, and large amounts of Law & Order reruns.
When life went awry, which it did because that’s what life does, especially when unconscious patterns are ruling the roost, I told myself to work harder. I whipped my lazy ass into shape. Happiest moments meant me crossing items off my to-do list. I was fixing people and myself, thank you very much.
And, I was very exhausted. Maybe you are too, especially in today’s world.
Be nice to yourself!
“Being: Stop, I want to get off”
Once in a while you might feel it. Moments when your monkey mind turns off, when you’re fully inhabiting your body, when you’re present and in the now. Maybe it happens when you’re deep into a meaningful conversation with one you love. Maybe it happens when you’re eating a delicious meal, fully present to the taste of the food in your mouth and how it satiates your hunger and nurtures your body. Maybe it happens when you’re on a walk and the beauty of nature brings you nearly to tears. Or when you’re meditating and thoughts are lazily floating by, or practicing mindfulness and delighting in the satiny feel of soapy dish water. These are moments of being.
Being is defined as a different way of knowing that allows you to see how your mind tends to distort reality. Let’s face it, a lot of the time reality kind of stinks. Why wouldn’t we want to distort it? The problem is that to heal and thereby to be–the state wherein we can access more wisdom, truth and beauty–we can’t avoid reality, suppress our emotions, or numb our pain. You’ve heard this before: The only way out is through.
“Healing is actually learning about how to be.” What I love about Dr. Nicole’s definition is that it includes the deeper meaning of do (learning that acknowledges our humanity and makes the unconscious conscious) and the be of being. We can’t expand our moments of being if we don’t know what being is or what it means, if we don’t invest in ourselves and break free from old, suboptimal patterns.
Years ago, at the beginning of my healing journey, the first time I heard about “being,” not as related to human being, I had zero idea what it meant. Huh? I’m alive, I thought. I have to be…well, being. We don’t know what we don’t know until we know it!
Being can mean sitting with the discomfort of unpleasant emotions. It can mean not offloading that discomfort onto innocent bystanders. It requires taking personal responsibility. It means understanding our value and our values and developing boundaries and implementing them. It means learning what true compassion is, how to access it, and why it benefits us, other people, and the planet. Sometimes it means being in the mess of ourselves in our pajamas for 48 hours. Being can mean a lot of things, but mostly it means to meet yourself wherever you are and to experience all you’re being called to experience. Imagine a child, say, at the beach, fully and completely immersed in the sights, sounds, and feelings of the moment–rational thought released, free and fully inhabiting the joy of being alive. A quintessentially being moment. But paving the way to experience more moments like this in adulthood requires preparation and practice.
Over the years, the most reliable practice I’ve found to cultivate being is the creative process. There’s so much to enjoy and exult over with creativity. It is a perfect vessel of doing, which, when fully embodied can lead us to a state of being. As I’ve written before, the creative process offers us endless opportunities to bump up against ourselves, highlighting ways we distort reality, which with practice allows us to accept and release said distortions.
As Brené Brown says, “If you want to make meaning, make art.”
I add, if you want to be, make art, and whenever you’re doing your mental health and wellness, don’t forget to be it, too. It won’t be easy. The first time I closed my eyes to meditate I felt an urge to run and hide. The first time I looked in a mirror and said “I love you” to myself, I felt like barfing. The point is: Don’t give up. Learning + Dedication + practice (doing) = Joy + Connection + Freedom (being).
The creative process:
a way to be in flow
Connect with Dr. Nicole LePera
"Vulnerability is the portal to everything we value." Tara Brach
The Difference Between Doing and Being, on Mindful.