Balance purpose, relationships, and self-care

Empathy works. It always does.

What are you doing?

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Have you ever asked yourself “What am I doing?”, while you’re doing the dishes, riding your bike, listening to a friend? And then answer truthfully?

I hadn’t. I had heard the question before, but I always thought it was a trick question. To test that you really, really understood the Buddhist teachings. Like: “I am taking a shower, but actually, there is no self, so I cannot talk about an ‘I’. The shower and I interare, there is no separateness between me and the shower, so the shower and me are both taking each other.” And so on, till I got so lost, that I had no clue how the question was supposed to be answered.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Plumvillage.orgYesterday, I read ‘The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings’ by Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Sometimes I ask one of my students, “What are you doing?” to help him release his thinking about the past or the future and return to the present moment. I ask the question to help him be – right here, right now. To respond, he only needs to smile. That alone would demonstrate his true presence.”

My goodness, after all these moments of trying to come up with a smart, carefully crafted answer, I read that the question is only meant to bring my attention back to what I am actually doing.

I usually am actually doing something different than what I think I am doing. I am meditating, but I am actually planning my evening. I am in conversation, but I am actually watering the seeds of fear, disconnect, and judgment. I am writing my blog, but I am actually thinking about the letter of condolences I am gonna write.

And you know what, the question is a fun game! “What am I doing?” helps me to stop, breathe, and check in with myself. And then make a choice. “Do I want to continue planning for tonight, or do I want to pay attention to my breath?” “Do I want to water judgments, or do I want to use words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope?” “Do I want to contribute with my blog, or do I want approval?” The question opens up a whole world, that was previously unknown to me. It helps me to connect to and understand my attention and my intention. And that is a delight.

What are you doing?

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You want help pausing and making new choices? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be honored to help.

Author: Elly van Laar

I am a coach. I specialize in helping professionals schedule time for relationships and self-care. I have a Master's degree in Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands. I love meditation, walking, gardening, biking, and hanging out with family and friends.

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