Being doing dreaming acting


“The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.” Dalai Lama

Sometimes I wonder about the axis that runs between dreaming and action. I seem to gravitate more naturally to the dreamy end of things, for which I feel vaguely guilty, as though I’m not a fully contributing member of society. It’s not enough to dream or imagine; you have to do something, right?

Our culture does seem to be biased towards action, which isn’t surprising as it’s heavily weighted towards masculine values and skewed away from feminine qualities of introversion, open receptivity and non-action. This is not to say “men” versus “women,” since we each have a dynamic balance within ourselves of qualities that are both masculine and feminine. It’s just that it’s hard to maintain a balance of both when in the outer world, the dominant cultural values are almost exclusively masculine and have been for so long most people think it’s normal. Doing and making are treated as superior, leading to the emphasis on “success” that the Dalai Lama speaks about above.

This is related to another axis that runs between being and doing. I remember long ago, in my first meditation class, the teacher saying we are human “beings,” not human “doings.” It really made an impression on me, given as I was at the time to running around busy all the time, making lists and checking them off.

If you lay the two side by side, they seem to match up. Dreaming is on one end with being and action is, naturally, aligned with doing. So dreaming is treated as suspect because of its association with being, which our culture generally fears. And what we fear, we ridicule and shun.

We erect hierarchies to bury our fears under a heap of “superior qualities,” like independence and diligence, hard work, toil, pro-con lists, making money, ownership of stuff, fast-paced lifestyles, and two-hour commutes. Throw in Fox News and Netflix for good measure and there’s no room for stillness.

I suppose as long as I live in this culture, I will feel anxious now and then about dreaming more than acting. The best antidote to anxiety I know is to follow my heart and trust that I’m doing my best – or is that being my best?

“Act always as if the future of the universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference.” – Buddha

2 thoughts on “Being doing dreaming acting

  1. I completely agree. I’ve spent four years trying to learn to sit still-observe, listen, think…and society keeps telling me to go, do, serve…We definitely need less “go & do” and more “sit quietly”. It goes back to that bumper sticker that says “Infinite growth is not possible on a finite planet”. Going and doing are forward moving-sometimes we just need to sit still.

    • Great observation, that the story of infinite growth is woven with the story of do-do-do. Stillness becomes a radical choice.

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