As I escape today to this surreal and sacred Kalein retreat deep in the Rocky Mountains called “Sanctuary“- attempting to center that mysterious and elusive place where body meets soul – the phrase that emerges from the noisy quiet is “Undoing the Doing.”
A lifetime of “doing” garners raucous applause from a Western world measured by success at all costs, but unfortunately, it gradually erases the “being” right out of our souls…and body.
Five of us gathered for conversation in a spacious but cozy downstairs room filled with aromatic white cedar and soft brown leather. The space naturally accentuated by floor to ceiling windows framing a painting composed by the master artist of snowy mountain peaks, verdant evergreens, rushing waterfalls and blowing snow. The snow and ice, though outside, seemed to freeze the moment in time. Aquinas might have described it as “proportio” or harmony.
All of us artists granted gifts beyond our deserving. All of us with lofty achievements gained from a lifetime of doing. All of us honestly (desperately, perhaps) searching for what it means to “be.”
As I facilitated the extraordinary and candid conversations, a phrase spontaneously came to me.
“Be alone in the being, not alone in the doing.”
When I speak of aloneness, it should be understood in the context of solitude – not loneliness. For most of us, we twist this idea into a real life filled with crowded being and lonely doing.
Because most of us have not been mentored and thus we lack the courage to face the trueness and wholeness of our being in solitude. Our lives have been filled with adages such as, “if you want it DONE right, do it yourself.”
Henri Nouwen says, “The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful, solitude peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.
Sometimes it seems as if we DO everything possible to avoid the painful confrontation with our basic human loneliness, and allow ourselves to be trapped by false gods promising immediate satisfaction and quick relief.
But what if the painful awareness of loneliness is an invitation to transcend our limitations and look beyond the boundaries of our existence.”
As my life coach once pointedly asked me, “What are you running from in all the doing?”
A life of doing and no being exhausts us and fills us with bitterness, cynicism and dangerous hostility.
We need to “undo the doing.” It is a painful and extremely counter-cultural process, but one that is absolutely necessary for our well-being.
What is one thing you could “undo?”