As I was mucking stalls last night, sweating and heaving soggy, stinking wads of bedding into the wheelbarrow, I caught myself feeling guilty, almost panicked, that I wasn’t getting enough work done.  The anxiety swelled, and somewhere between shovel-fulls I actually heard myself say, “I don’t have time for this!  I have work to do!”  Oh, dear.

I haven’t written in weeks, there are four massive projects on my desk at home and ten times that on my desk at the office.  The house is filthy.  I need groceries.  I’d like to ride.  I need to find a moment to meditate…  I could get up earlier!  Maybe I could adjust to getting up at 5:00 instead of 5:30?  No.

That panic, as foolish as it was, was a serious wake-up call.  Once again, I had become little more than a work machine – a “human doing”.   Even the things that I love to do, photography, riding, meditating, writing, even these things had become tightly scheduled and monitored, lest they take too much time from the work that needed doing.

One of my favorite lines from Sogyal Rinpoche is this:

Western laziness consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so there is no time at all to confront the real issues.

How true.  And how sad.  In my own case, I know precisely the cause of my obsession with doing, and I was delighted to find a very clear article about the nature of this phenomenon.  You can read it here if you like.

I googled human being vs human doing, and found dozens of articles and blog posts which provided readers with any number of trite aphorisms and affirmations.  I didn’t find any of them potentially life-changing.

This morning, it’s raining.  Now, in my book, there’s not much that’s better than a rainy weekend.  It’s as though the powers that be have declared a moratorium on yard work and major projects.  So, I left a few emails unanswered, picked up my camera, and made my way slowly to the barn to simply sit with the horses for a while.

Although they’re at liberty to go where they like, all three horses were there, just standing.  If you haven’t been around horses much, you may not know that they can stand together, simply being, for hours at a time.  I turned over a bucket and sat down in the main aisle where they’d gathered.

Gradually, the racing of my thoughts quieted until they were little more than a whisper in the background, like the sound of the slow drizzle on the tin barn roof.  The lazy swish of a tail, brushing away a fly, stirred the fragrances of rain, hay, manure, and damp horse.  The sound of chewing.  Captain turned slowly and walked the few steps to where I sat. He frisked me for cookies with his soft nose.  Sitting still, simply breathing with him, I inhaled and exhaled every nuance of his movements.

I sat while the horses stood.  Nothing to do, no deadlines, no pressure.  Horses have no need whatsoever for distraction.  Just being is enough.  What wonderful teachers they are.

It has been a long time since I’ve had a community of people to practice meditation with.  That’s alright.  For the now, I know where to go when I need to remind myself that just to be is enough.

Walking back to the house, the rain was cool on my face. It decorated every leaf and flower with diamond droplets.


Photograph copyright ZenDoe, 2013

54 Comments on “Being Human Doings

  1. What a thought-provoking and important topic, and a beautiful post. An important reminder to myself, too. I love the way you describe the moment with your horses. I don’t have much personal experience of horses, but your description is so vivid that I can imagine how it feels to be with them.

    • Thanks, Maarit. I’m so fortunate to have such good teachers. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. That picture you have there is stunning. And what you conclude and derive from everything in your surroundings in every post inspires me very much. 🙂

  3. Seems like we had similar things on the mind this morning, friend. I think that, too, is comfort… Be well~

    • Ha! I was thinking that too when I read your lovely poem this morning. Thanks for stopping by the barn.

  4. There is rain here on the long grass. I am not mowing it. Feet up under a blanket. Reading your good words. The grass will wait and. I am okay with it.

    • For most of us, the “doing” is pretty extreme, isn’t it? Glad you enjoyed the moment with the horses.

  5. Excellent piece, Zen. I have been a proponent of human being for many years. I am glad that you were able to sit with the horses for a while and “be.”

    • Thanks, Lynette. It was a much-needed shift. I wonder if I could bring them to work with me?? LOL!

  6. so so beautifully said and so honestly true. horses are wonderful teachers if you can learn to listen to them. Obviously you know that. I love where you dwell and I feel so peaceful when I am in your world of words.

  7. Hi Zen. I am glad to see you. Thanks for the barn time and sharing the space. 🙂
    “Mindfulness” and the need for it seem to be huge issues for many of us. My tendency is “to do” – not “to be”.

  8. What a beautifully written post about being, and letting go of doing. Its such an easy trap to fall into….keeping busy and hoping to feel fulfilled. I yearn to sit and have a lesson with your beautiful horses….my dogs are quite good teachers but they do like to be sniffing around and exploring. It’s the stillness of just sitting which comes through in your writing. Thank you 🙂

    • Aw, thanks Ms Mackenzie. My dogs are pretty hyper too! And, you’re welcome here any time.

  9. Beautifully written entry. How I saw myself in your third paragraph. But then I also saw myself in the portion where your thoughts quieted. So essential to our being. Horses, cats, and many other creatures are wonderful teachers…..

    • I had a suspicion that it wasn’t just me! 😉 And I’m so glad that you also try to take moments to be still. Yes. If we listen carefully, there are wonderful teachers all around us.

  10. I’ve been waiting for your next post so thank you for writing.

    I feel myself breathing more easily right now. I hear the birds singing, probably for the first time all day. I’m about to go fix dinner and I’ll bring this moment of mindfulness with me.

  11. What a wonderful journey from the doing to just being through your animal teachers! Grateful for this share, Zen!

  12. Beautiful post. I find myself caught up in the same “doing” and too much to be done. I so admire your writing and your journey. And your honesty. I always feel calmer after reading your words. Thank you for sharing.

  13. The beautiful pace of your writing and the quiet sharpness of your eye make it hard to imagine you as someone whelmed with busy-ness! But I so relate to your experience. I too resort to the zafu – no horses to sit with, sadly, but the company of Trees. The older the better…
    A rich and satisfying post, as always, dear ZD – thank you!

    • Oh… yes! The trees! Thank you for the sweet reminder. I haven’t thought much about the trees at my place in years. There are 21 oaks in my 1 acre yard. I’ll have to remember to appreciate them afresh.

  14. ZD, It’s lovely to read you here. Thanks. I especially liked that he “frisked” you for cookies. What a great word and image. I’ve missed your sweet company. Alice

  15. Dear Zen Doe, as always, your words reach into that part of me, where the peace of being in the heart of the world, and every creature, and every blade of grass, brings renewal and release from our imagined life of doings. Wonderful post.

  16. I’ve been missing your writing. Don’t worry to much about getting everything done. Somethings have to get done, I understand that, but everyone rolls over their “to do” list. If you can do everything every day then you don’t have enough to do! 🙂

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