To Be or Not to Be: That is the Question? Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Like the vast majority of us, my 12th-grade English teacher asked our class to write an essay entitled “What I Want to Do (when I grow up).” I’m not sure whether I was trying to be cute or rebellious or perhaps prescient, so my essay turned the question on its head. I asked why adults ask us what we want to do, rather than what we want to be.
My memory is dim on the finer points, such as what I listed I wanted to be – a good person, compassionate, caring, etc. and I have even forgotten the name of the teacher. What I do have seared on my brain is the beyond startled look on the teacher’s face when she handed the graded essay back. What grade did I get? I don’t remember.
After graduating, I went to university, then on to law school, marriage, children, and a career that is still going strong. In short, I failed to follow my own advice: I’ve spent a life “doing,” rather than “being.”
A few weeks ago, I attended a day-long silent retreat, and found myself recounting this long-ago essay (during the times the group gathered and debriefed), and concluded by saying “I want to focus on being more and doing less.”
Since then, I’ve been pondering exactly what that means: what exactly did I mean, and how do I go about doing this?
After spending the time contemplating this dilemma, I took to my computer and drafted a side-by-side “to do” list, with a “to be” list. Interestingly, I found that some of what I do, is also who I am, and/or want to be. In addition to the standard “being” items, such as meditating, and contemplating/thinking, I listed in both columns: cooking healthful food, signing up for a renewed “meal train” (for an amazing friend fighting aggressive cancer), reading, and walking the dog.
As a communications author and leadership blogger, I then added to both the “do” and the “be” lists drafting this blog, working on my quarterly newsletter, making nonprofit donations, and reading/contemplating the reflections from the silent retreat host.
This exercise caused me to consider whether I, in fact, have both “done” and “been” much of my life. Whether some or much of what I’ve done, and am still actively doing is part of being a “good person, compassionate and caring?”
The retreat host’s thoughts caused me to further contemplate this seeming dichotomy.
Here are some of his sage thoughts:
- Make time to relax and to just “be” each day. Your mind, soul, body & spirit will thank you. Pamper yourself!
- Practice observing your thoughts and feelings. You are not your thoughts and emotions. If you can be a witness to your thoughts and feelings, you can lessen their control.
- Surrender to love, grace, forgiveness, and blessing each day. Connect to your own inner love, joy, and peace. Shift your focus away from problems to your own inner wealth.
- Choose to believe in life.
- Offer your life to be of service to the good in life.
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