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Shifting gears from doing to being

Whether you are checking off your to do list or just staring off into the distance, your brain is engaging in specific figurations known as modes of mind. These figurations shift, like the gears of an antique watch or a manual car. Knowing which mode to use in a given situation can make the difference between feeling like you are surviving or thriving in life.

The two main modes of mind are the doing mind and the being mind. In the doing mind mode, you have an awareness of how things “are” and how they “should” be. You may feel goal driven to “fix” things and make every effort you can toward reaching your objectives. In this mode, you will often operate on autopilot and there will be a lack of conscious awareness of the present moment. In being mode, the mind has nothing to do and nowhere to go. It’s a state where you can acknowledge what is and allow things to just be as they are. It’s a mode where there is no need to put effort into altering your experience of life. In the being mode you experience feelings of openness, acceptance, neutrality, calm and focus on the here and now. Both states help you to charge ahead or recharge your battery, but often you unconsciously engage in one mode of mind over another.

Functioning in doing mode is highly valued in our society. It can give you a feeling of satisfaction in seeing yourself completing goals in life. It can also allow you to relish in society’s praise and validation for your accomplished actions. However, the doing mode can quickly become problematic when this mode tries to support you in meeting objectives it cannot achieve, such as desired feelings, identities, and self-worth. In this state of mind, you may continue to compare your current reality alongside your perceived “ideal” reality. Unsatisfied and concerned to save you, the mind in doing mode may urge you step on the gas and exert more effort to help you avoid the looming threat of your shortcomings. Unfortunately, doing mind's good intentions and function can lead you to experience burn out, health problems, anxiety or despair.

If you feel you are operating in doing mind mode and in danger of driving yourself figuratively speaking off of a cliff, you can consciously pause and shift mental gears from doing to being mode. Psychology research shows that those who regularly allow themselves to access the mode of being through mindfulness practices, pleasurable breaks, distractions and meditation are more relaxed, fulfilled, healthy, productive, energized and able to make better decisions. Both modes are necessary, but striving to strike a balance between both modes of mind can support you in feeling more balanced and successful.

To determine which mind mode is most helpful for you to engage in, consider turning to your body for an answer with the following exercise: Consciously move out of your head and drop down into your body. Observe and sense how every part of your body is feeling. What is your neck, back or stomach communicating to you? Be prepared that your body does not speak in words like your racing mind does. It speaks through the quality of your inhales and exhales, the tension you hold, your energy levels, cracks, rashes, twitching, experienced weight, soreness, highs and lows. Another way to access the information you have from your body is to attune yourself to your own emotional states. What feelings come up for you when you hear your heart pounding? Would you call it anxiety or excitement? If you experience sluggishness in your body would you say it is a feeling of fatigue or a lack of motivation?

One thing you can bet on is that the body never lies. It stores all of your emotions and will usually showcase them centre stage without your consent. If you want to be more aligned and productive in reaching your dreams and goals, consider getting into the habit of consulting your body for guidance. With patience and practice, you can learn to recognize when it is beneficial for you to engage in doing mode and when it is essential for you to let go and move into the equally important mind mode of simply being.


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