I came across an idea some time ago, and I wish I could remember exactly where I first saw it, but it went something like this: just be. I know you might be thinking, “that’s it?” but I think it’s one of those iceberg ideas where we only see the surface and don’t appreciate it for the magnitude it actually carries. So, for both your sake and mine, I’m going to try to unpack it.
I’ve been on and off of meditation for years, but more recently I’ve been on the “on.” So much so that I recently accomplished meditating every day for a year. Some of you might scoff and the idea of accomplishing that, but I use that word because this was a goal I set for myself, well, a year ago. In some way, shape or form, I’ve sat down and dedicated time to training my mind. Sometimes it was a one minute wind-down, and others were fifteen minute deep dives. And believe me, fifteen minutes is a long time when all you’ve got for company is your breath and your thoughts.
I started with guided meditations — and, in fact, I still use guided meditations — because I wanted to learn. I wanted to sit down and find out how to do this, as much as possible. I don’t believe this was the first time I came across the idea of being, but it was definitely during these sessions where it became more engrained than before. Then one session after another, I found myself really spending time thinking about this idea. To just be.
Living and perceiving
Being, as I understand it, is being fully present in the world you find yourself in. No distractions, no daydreaming. Simply living in the moment. Many people call this mindfulness, and I think there are varying definitions that work to better understand it depending on your particular viewpoint. I’ve written about this slightly before, in a concept called garbage in, garbage out. I think there is a slight difference between the two, though. Mindfulness, I believe, is a state of mind. It is the ability to remain present in a moment, as it passes, and to accept one’s emotions and sensations during that moment. It’s the ability to see a moment for what it is, no matter what comes with it; but, this is a perception. It’s how we view the moment we are currently in. Mindfulness is about remaining mindful of a moment, but being is about living in that moment.
Some may argue that living and perceiving are in essence the same thing, but we have to draw the line somewhere and I think this is one of those lines. Being, I believe, is the absence of thinking about a moment, which means all we have left is to live it. I don’t think these two things, thinking and living can exist in the exact same moment. We either think about a moment or we live in it free from thinking, there is no way to do this simultaneously. For example, I’m sitting with a coffee to my left, my laptop right in front of me, and mouse to my right as I type this. Keystroke by keystroke, I’m thinking about these two things, while also thinking about how to write about these two things. But I cannot think and type at the same time in the exact same moment. As soon as I’m done thinking, I will actively switch to my body’s motor functioning system and start typing. If I need to think again, I will jump between these two modes. Cognition and motor-function. Back and forth as I press every key on my keyboard to formulate a word and then a sentence and then a paragraph. There are many moments during this process, many neurons firing and many nerves and muscles acting in concert to drive an action outside of my brain. But, each moment is unique, I think, where one cannot be simultaneously cognitive and motor-functional in nature.
Our brains have an incredible way of making us believe these moments happen simultaneously because they are so fast and seemingly effortless, but I don’t believe they are the same. And to avoid going down a meta-cognitive rabbit hole on this fine morning, I’ll cut my definition here.
Being and mindfulness are two parts of a larger puzzle: living in the moment. Mindfulness is the ability to see a moment for what it is, as it passes with everything that passes with it; and being is the act of living within that moment as it passes. They are both, I believe, equally important; which I would be remiss to take for granted.
Where to from here
Mindfulness is difficult to achieve and requires immense practice, not only to see a moment but then to continue seeing the moments as they pass after that first one. But, when compared with being, mindfulness is a walk in the park. To think about something is easy, to live in a moment without thinking about it is rocket science. Achievable, but a tough nut to crack. Go ahead, try it. Try to experience a moment for what it is without actively thinking about it.
Find yourself getting lost in thinking about thinking? That particular loop is so easy to fall into when you try to live within a moment, which is why practising it is so important and difficult to do. I’ve been trying for a year now and I’ve only barely scratched the surface. This particular iceberg is colossal, but the rare moments where I’ve managed to tap into being, mindfulness without the mind-part, is like a getting a taste of the most delicious forbidden fruit you didn’t know you needed. And now, now you need to know where to get more of it. The most natural dopamine hit that exists, just out of reach.
I’m on that journey now, and while I don’t know where it will take me, that’s part of what makes it so important. To search for something so elusive that by finding it you will likely also — by definition — lose it means that understanding is a journey on its own. One that can never be fulfilled but only experienced. Isn’t that the ultimate quest?