THE DIFFERENCE OF BEING AND HAVING – the two attitudes to life
“Only to the extent that we decrease the mode of having, that is, nonbeing-i.e., stop finding security and identity by clinging to what we have, by ‘sitting on it,’ by holding on to our ego and our possessions-can the mode of being emerge.” Eirch Fromm
How many times have you asked yourself with a sigh “what am I doing with my life?”
Don’t strive so hard for improvement. Who are you trying to impress anyway? God? Your parents?
Why do we find it hard to be our authentic selves and to connect with people?
Because we have never learnt that JUST BEING with someone is enough.
Why do we feel so empty when we loose something/one?
Because we have constructed our identity around having instead of being.
Why have we never learnt to just be?
Because it isn’t profitable.
The having mode is based on profit and power; I have things that define me as this or that. I have a spouse or a professional title that puts me in a position on the social scale. That these possessions are plasters to cover an infected wound is unimaginable.
Consumerism has promised us that this is the way to happiness. And even though we all agree more or less today that it might not actually be true, it is very deeply ingrained in our psyche. We have bought the idea that having will keep us SAFE, and we do not dare jeopardizing our sense of security. But it’s a vicious circle since the more possessions we have, the more our possessions own us. If I don’t have anything that can be stolen, I’m less worried of theft.
I have a friend who said to me 6 years ago that he hated his job, had no passion in life but that his goal was to continue with it because it payed well ( working for one of the big financial auditing firms in the world) and soon he would have enough money to become free from the prison of corporate world. He was 32 at the time. Today he is still in the exact same position. When is this freedom coming I asked him? He laughed and said, soon I hope. Then he needed an operation on his heart because it started to fail him. At the age of 37. I made a vague comment about how maybe the problem with his heart might be a sign that he wasn’t listening to it.
He laughed again and called me a hippie.
We spend our lives worrying about having money for later, yet it takes away our freedom. We do not realise that freedom is worth more than fortune, because without freedom we cannot BE.
Alexander Lowen says “Neurotics are always trying to change themselves by using willpower, but this only serves to make them more neurotic. Emotional health can be gained only through self-awareness and self-acceptance. Struggling to change one’s being only enmeshes the person more deeply in the fate he is trying to avoid.”
Why is it that we need to hit rock bottom to start looking within? Because we are firm in our idea that what you have is what you are. And as long as it seems to work, why fix something that isn’t broken?
What happens when we loose our possessions? Our world comes crumbling down and we have no more landmarks to hold on to. We feel like a hollow shell. There is nothing left and we need to build ourselves up again. And I think that is where the West fails with the Eastern philosophies. We TRY so hard to change ourselves when all we need to do is accept that this is what we are. When we accept, we can finally stop resisting. Radical presence is being and not doing.
When we are present, something happens. We develop awareness. This is where we have power on our situation because it gives us the possibility to grow. Growth is a process of change that enhances being and therefore is not on the level of the Ego but of the body. It is a conscious work on the character.
This is why yoga has such healing power. As we practice, we develop awareness of our being on a bigger scale then our ego. As we continue our practice, there is an internal process of growth that starts, the inner knowledge comes to the surface and shines a light on our subtle layers. In other words, we become aware of our qualities. When the goal of the practice becomes secondary to the actual yoga then it is more than just doing. It becomes a moment of being. We become present and the work on our character can begin. When there is joy involved, when we practice because it makes us feel good simply to do it, the reason turns from doing to being.
“When feeling inspires and guides an activity, it belongs to one’s being.”