Planning and Doing as a Defense Against Being

A sharing from Sunday morning Coffee time with Pat…

I shared with Pat that I had awakened during the night in a state of anger.  The precipitating event giving rise to anger was having given a panhandler $20 after our great steak dinner at the Texas Roadhouse. As we were leaving the restaurant this thirties-something man approached us. He gave us his sob story, offering us God’s blessings for our help as I gave him $20. I numbed out any possibility of honesty in the man or any efficacy of his lavish blessings upon us, seeing all this likely as his well-rehearsed and effectively pulled off skit to get money from a passerby. Here was an opportunity to look at what was going on in me that would cause an inconsequential incident to give rise to so much anger.

Pat offered that my anger could have covered my fear of being a fool, one easily taken advantage of, one with no capacity to discern truth in this matter, and hence powerless. In more awareness I could have said, “Sir, I have no idea whether or not any of what you are saying is true, and I am sorry I choose not to be more present to you and your pain whether or not your story is true, but here is $20 to do with as you choose. Blessings on you, sir.” But of course I was not present and so did not respond in this more conscious way. Rather, it was more convenient to give him $20 and get him off my back in short order than to really be present to him and his plight, whatever the truth would be.

Why was I not present? Pat and I had a plan – to stop by Target to get a movie, or go to the Kenwood Town Center to buy some things she had been looking for. We realized that in our planning and doing mode we were not present to what was going on around us, and certainly not to the sudden appearance of this man asking for money. We were “on-task.”

Pat reflected on our time earlier in the day. She shared that she had had in mind all that had to be done Saturday afternoon when I suggested we go for a walk, as the weather was stunningly beautiful. She was aware that she would have to let go of her plans in order to accommodate my idea of a walk in nature, but then noted how wonderful our walk on the local bike trail was – complete with seeing an eagle over the Little Miami River. Pat noted that none of this would have happened had she stuck by her plans for the afternoon.

She shared her insight that she can use planning as a safety measure – she can make and then follow her plans and then not have to look at her emotions or how she is feeling moment by moment as she dutifully executes each item and checks it off. I could relate and added that planning my to-do list and following it enables and reinforces my numbness to what is and feeds my illusion that accomplishment of my to-do list brings meaning to my life. I shared my previous blog entry about my ego’s trick of making me feel “good” by what I accomplish rather than how present I am in the process of accomplishing. I can use my accomplishing, my doing, as an escape strategy from the pains in my life. Fortunately the “good” of my recent blog entry seemed to be more authentic arisings of my Essence and not tricks of my ego to cover up pain. But I am not 100% sure of this assessment!

Pat mused over why accomplishments have become the determining factor in our sense of value and worthiness. Her conclusion was that this covered over a belief that “I am a dud.” Somehow we have concluded that the outcome of life is the determining factor of a worthwhile life whereas our learning from and living life are pointless in themselves if nothing gets “accomplished” according to the standards of success in our culture. The truth is that it is just the opposite. We have our worthiness manifest in our learning and living in Life, not by what we accomplished and achieved in life. LIFE is LIVED in the NOW, moment by precious moment. How do we live each moment? That is what counts. Can I be open to LIFE? How much mindfulness and awareness can I bring to life? In my planning I do not have to be aware, rather, once the plan is set, just mindlessly do. And in this mode I miss being present to the man coming up to ask for money.

I shared that even our time at the Texas Roadhouse had elements of this doing vs. being for me. When Pat would suggest we go to the mall afterwards, I would start thinking about going to the mall – 90 minutes of activity where I could be entertained by the culture of stuff. Then she would change her mind and suggest buying a movie at Target, and I would see that this was not as enjoyable for me. But in all of this anticipation of what we might do after dinner, my feelings were future-oriented. I was not present to Pat in the moment as we ate and conversed. I even caught myself glancing over at the Bengal football game being televised into the restaurant. Certainly my presence was not in the NOW. Can I come to ride the waves of life – always in the now?

Pat spoke of mindfulness in speech, in mind, and body and how she believed such comprehensive mindfulness was simply not possible for her. For me mindfulness seems to be awareness of the continuous and spontaneous unfolding of life, moment by moment – being present with our thoughts, feelings, and sensations to all that is going on within and around us. Yes, challenging indeed.

I could see how my “looking forward to recording Pathwork Lectures” or “writing this blog” could pull me out of presence to the Now. Pat had noted earlier that reflecting on and reviewing life for its lessons is important, but it is not the same as living life in the now.

Last night we came home after dinner at Texas Roadhouse and watched two videos by Christina and Stan Grof. One was on Holotropic Breathwork, the second was Christina’s The Thirst for Wholeness. Both were good, and Christina’s beautifully laid out our soul’s hunger for wholeness, our natural hunger for our home before our incarnation. Pat likes the symbolism of journey home, but I relate more with why we left “home” in the first place. This latter all relates to the Fall – whatever that means and why ever it occurred – a concept that is a central teaching in the Pathwork lectures and a part of Pathwork that resonates deeply with me. Pat noted our differences here – my relating to the context of the Fall as the purpose of our needing to return home to God and her not relating as much to the Fall but resonating with the idea of coming home to God in our earthly pilgrimage.

Pat paused to say, “There is a great deal of Grace in the coming to be of US.” To which I could only say, “Amen.” And Pat responded, “Hallelujah!”

A rich morning of sharing over coffee, rambling and wandering as it was.