Habits of Doing, Brooding, Striving – Being

Lately, I’ve been enjoying Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.

Most recently, I read a chapter about habits of doing and/or brooding vs habits of being.

“The habit of being—the exultation in the present moment—is an exquisite concept, one that could enrich our lives beyond measure. ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

The challenge I face is not between doing and being. I’m simply not a “woman who does too much.” I don’t have trouble saying no to people, I don’t willingly take on more than I can handle. I don’t fill up my days with activities, running from here to there because I can’t stand to sit still and be alone with myself. I am quite comfortable with not scheduling too much.

In fact, I am easily overwhelmed by having my plate too full.

(I’ve noted before, my inertia is basically at rest.)

But I do have a problem with trying squeeze activities into my “down” time.

It’s my desire to be accomplishing goals that require work without an outward appearance of “activity” that stresses me out so much when actual activities show up on my schedule!

For me, the dichotomy is between being and striving.

Striving is bad for my health both mentally and physically.

See, she mentions two habits that get in the way of a habit of being.

  1. Habits of Mindlessly Doing: Running from activity to activity throughout the day while missing the moments that comprise those activities.
  2. And Habits of Brooding: This involves thought processes of projecting into the future or dwelling on the past, instead of experiencing the present moment.

This is where my striving problem lies. I’m always striving towards some “future” self, some progress I’d like to attain for myself, rather than letting that progress take shape organically out of the successive actions taken in the present moment.

I could benefit from a practice of being in the moment while I’m “doing,” and indeed, the more I’m in the moment instead of constantly worrying about what I wish I were accomplishing, the happier I am.

It occurs to me now, that what I’m really talking about, beyond mental processes, is a compulsion to multitask!

For example the more I allow myself to enjoy the leaves and the beauty around me while on a family drive or a family hike during the changing seasons, the happier I am.

Usually, I’m trying to pack something “productive” into that drive by catching up on reading or knitting, because it’s a rare moment when my husband has the wheel and I’m not hauling the kids to and fro trying to pick up groceries or some such. And, by the very nature of being strapped into their car seats, they are not tripping me everywhere I turn and tugging on my clothes saying “Hey mommy? Hey mommy? Hey mommy!!!”

You know what I’m talking about, right? 

The problem is I am often still required to attend to them during that car ride anyway, and those interruptions ratchet up my tension levels each time. Not to mention, we live among mountains, and I nearly always end up a bit car sick as a result.

Not good for anybody.

This striving I struggle with would be classified as a habit of brooding, focusing on the past or the future, thus, as Breathnach notes, robbing the present moment of its harmony, beauty, and joy.

So I’ve made it a priority to stop striving, to stop trying to attain something beyond what I’m presently doing. That striving sneaks itself into my family time, since each passing moment seems to me like the only time I have in the world!

I’ve made it a priority to stop striving during this short time that my kids are so small and so needy.

Now as for doing, for me personally, that’s another story.

I struggle with having strong aversions to doing certain things and that affects my productivity and quality of life.

Translation: I don’t do a lot of things I need to or would like to be doing.

  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Cleaning
  • I mentioned Cleaning, right?
  • Decluttering
  • Writing
  • Getting out the sewing machine like I’ve been meaning to for several years
  • Socializing with real people
  • Trying new things …

For me, practicing mindfulness, being in the moment, during activities that I loath or fear, really helps me to detach from those negative feelings and perhaps even find a place within myself to enjoy what I’m doing.

….what if, as curators of our own contentment, we deliberately cultivated the habit of being: a heightened awareness of Real Life’s abundance? The habit of being is a grateful appreciation for the good surrounding us, no matter what our circumstances might be today.” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

What do you think? Are you a mindless doer, a brooder, a striver? Do you miss the beauty and joy of the moments of your life because you can’t just be?

Doing New Things, Reluctantly


The Lilacs Bloom, The Garden Grows, I Find Joy in Doing Something New.

A view of our patio and my old puppy dog.

I grew up in Southern California in a single parent family and we did not have the time or the space to garden. My mom always kept our yard and house spruced with pretty potted flowers, but apart from the ubiquitous fruit trees, growing food was unheard of.

Several weeks ago, thanks to my husband’s adventurous fortitude, we planted some seeds and they continue to grow, some at lightning speeds, and some seemingly much slower than last year.

As my husband is the one working the long hours outside the home, watering all the little growing things has fallen to me.

I hate being out in the plain view of my neighbors, who might yell at me for not picking up dog poop in our shared front yard fast enough, but I’m enjoying the garden time in spite of myself.

I even find myself pulling weeds.

Heck, the Green Zebra, Purple Cherokees, and all number of others veggies aren’t the only things growing right now.

I’m growing too!

Heirloom tomato sprouts.

I’ve always joked that my inertia is at rest. I’m certainly not much of a doer.

(I have a problem with do-nothingism.)

If it weren’t for my husband, who knows how long it would take to discover my love of growing fruits and veggies?

He’s been asking me daily where I think we should put the fennel, or the radicchio, or the Japanese eggplants, and Armenian cucumbers, not to mention all the tomatoes – six varieties!

And every day, I answer, “I don’t know, babe.”

Because until today, when I suddenly found myself enjoying the watering and the weeding, I hadn’t realized how much gardening space we’ve lost to the path our neighbor is putting in.

I was a reluctant gardener, really not present or observant about what we were doing.

Heirloom tomato seedlings.

But, now I look forward to getting out there with Tim and squeezing all these little guys into our limited garden space.

Some will have to go in pots, I think.

I count myself lucky that I married such a patient and encouraging man. He doesn’t nag at me, but he gently urges me to help out with the gardening, and slowly, I become less afraid to do things I’ve never done before.

I cannot wait until the fresh veggies are coming out our ears.

And, as I often do, I’ll quote the little girl on the Shake’N Bake commercial, “And I helped!”

Veggie seedlings.

Another view of our patio.

View of our garden and new path.

Another view of our patio.