The Being Experiment*

As this period of hibernation and social isolation rolls on with some restrictions easing over the next 3 months, my purpose to serve feels as though it’s been put on hold.  I crave the full 3D fleshy, rich contextual presence of another, and the odd chance of illicit ‘random hugging”.

Now, mostly at home, how can I be inherently worthy by essentially doing nothing? If success in our culture is predicated on work and activity that can be seen and heard, where do I fit in “doing nothing”? 

The point of ‘doing nothing’ is to clean up our inner lives. Most of us manage – at best – a few minutes – and thereby let the marrow of life escape us. We do so not because we are forgetful or bad, but because our societies protect us from our responsibilities to ourselves through their cult of activity. We are granted every excuse not to undertake the truly difficult labour of leading more conscious, more searching and more intensely felt lives.
“The Hard Work of Being Lazy”, The Book of Life

I’ve grappled with this question for a long time and the message is clear. The unexpected and rewarding outcome of this time is the value of “just” being and caring. That’s enough.

Being is about our essential presence in the world; offering our presence and care to family, friends, neighbours, parents, the elderly and all the wild beings in the world that we are inextricably linked with.

Along with food, shelter and water, our basic human need for survival is to belong, connect and find meaning and purpose. If we belong and be to ourselves first, each other and the Earth, then we may yet survive as a species. 

The Being Experiment* is my contribution to doing nothing.

In solidarity of social isolation and maintaining both 1.5 m distance from another and not exceeding 1.5 degrees of warming of the planet, mark out a 1.5m square. Place a chair at either end of the square

Sit in one chair and imagine someone sitting opposite you. It could be a brother, parent or someone you’ve been thinking about or someone in need. You could use a photograph or image to help you tune into them. 

Say quietly to yourself….”I see you”…”Namaste”…Sanskrit for I see the soul in you, the Divine spark in you and I bow to you…or…”Sawubona”…Zulu for I see the God in you.  

We simplify our lives.
We live gladly with less.
We let go of the illusion that we can possess.
We create instead.
We let go of the illusion of mobility.
We travel in stillness. We travel at home.
By candlelight and in stillness,
In the presence of flowers,
We make our pilgrimage.
We simplify our lives.
Michael Leunig

Start with someone relatively easy whilst you build the muscle of empathy and compassion. See their complexity, flaws, ambitions and fears, their ego, desires and ambiguities, their beauty and humanity. 

Drop out of judgement, headspace and build a bridge to their heart, very simply and quietly. When you feel your heart soften and feelings of love and kindness grow, then you know you have created a powerful virtual connection. That’s all…

Build with practice, to put people in the empty chair you disagree with, dislike or who don’t share your ideology. Create this safe pause space to be vulnerable with someone you have an issue with. When you are able, put a real person in the chair and feel the relief and nourishement of eyes and hearts meeting in full presence.

As days merge into weeks, I no longer have to insulate myself from the pain and suffering of the world and I can do something virtually to help every day. 1.5m x 1.5m is my refuge. When I feel myself being whipped around by turbulent winds, I can return to this here and now pause space, tune in to myself and whisper the words, “I see you”. I put myself in the chair first. 

I see the flaws and imperfections, the striving, the pushing, the performance, the neediness, the feelings of shame and unworthiness. I ask myself if there is something I need – some comfort, gratitude, appreciation –  I give it to myself first like putting on an oxygen mask in a flightless empty aeroplane. 

I feel the fear of the future arise – the work, struggle and suffering ahead – and know that in the words of poet philosopher Mark Nepo, “fear gets its energy from future and past.” The work is to see things as they are right now and feel grateful for the world continuing to turn even though the future is, and always has been, uncertain. 

This is the work of wisdom. The world is crying out for more wise elders to hold the pause space using this simple equation: 1.5 m2 x (a) awareness x (k) kindness x (c) compassion = (w) wisdom. Or simply W = a x k x c x 1.5m2

Let me know how you go with the experiment.

Blessings for the journey.



*In recognition that the origin of this idea is from artist Marina Abramovich. Her New York Museum of Modern Art exhibition in 2010, The Artist is Present was the catalyst for the 2017 Stella Prize winning book by Heather Rose called The Museum of Modern Love. 

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