Doing versus Being

We are programmed to do. We cry upon birth. We crawl, we walk, we chase skirts, we lead men, we kick the ball…. we do. Karm is the journey of life; it is to do and we do. We are forever in that present continuous — doing — and when not doing now, we are planning what to do in the future. Evaluating. Comparing. Setting goals. It adds up to doing. And so, we are doing, always, even when not. Doing is existential.

It helps us advance. Creates goals. Doing is action. It leads us to that sense of achievement we require. Wherever you want to be whoever you want to be — you do. You want to be popular? Top dog? Single digit golfer? Married; powerful; rich; in love …? You (need to) do. You evaluate where you are. Compare it with where you were and where you want to be, set a target and set out in pursuit.

Doing gives us a sense of purpose. A direction. Doing defines our journey. Streamlines? We forsake this identity and aren't that. That you do yoga and not zumba, puts you in a certain category peopled by others who do what you do. This is your universe. Among the many that you'll dwell in, given that each of us is a crowd. Even as you practice yoga, you run marathons, read poetry on rainy evenings, eat home-cooked meals in community kitchens, go clubbing on Fridays, build homes as an architect… You are many people. I say we are a crowd in ourselves and so we get to know the many people we are, based on we do.

So rewarding is doing, that we exist in the doing mode and rather easily forget to be. Be happy. Be sad. Be joyous. Be overwhelmed. Be moved. Be still? Such is our leaning 'to do' that when rarely we experience an emotion, we start to question it. We ask ourselves what are we doing about it. I'm sad — what shall I do about it? And we question joy just as we probe unhappiness. I'm happy; let me have friends for dinner. Perhaps go look up mom, write my will, enroll in the gym, work on team appraisals? Not simply, let me be happy. Let me nestle in this joy...


Being is the essence. Doing is evaluative. Doing questions. Being is accepting. Being answers. You can't feel sad and evaluate how far you are from being happy! But we tend to, and end up feeling worse. And yet if we don't 'do' and just 'be', it wouldn't be so bad. Being is allowing what is to be. Not dressing it up or toning it down. Being allows us to accept what is without evaluation, without self-defeating comparisons and without judgment. And in doing so, being, allows us to let go of past regrets and that fear of
the future.

Doing, meanwhile, is future-focused. You always do with an end in mind. However, truth is, we cannot plan outcomes. Goals might not materialise despite best efforts. You can plant the honeysuckle but not dictate the blossom. You can fall in love but not command commitment... The Gita with Karm at its core asks us to do, albeit with the humility that the Doer is Another and the outcome is not ours to determine or orchestrate. Do and accept the outcome as His will.

Doing is action. But action is not an end in itself. We must learn to do and savour the doing without this joy being conditional to desired endings. So you Salsa and relish the moves — not wait to lead the troupe and then savour the groove. Only, to experience such unconditional joy you'll need to switch from the doing mode to the being mode.

Being is reality. And not attempting to mould reality to a preconceived notion of how it should be. Being is accepting the honeysuckle green and finding joy in that what is. Being allows you to appreciate where you are and not be disappointed about where you could be. Being is here and now, and working to be there. Being is living in the present. The future is the future and it will unfold, but being allows you to savour the now that is. And 'do' rooted in this present-centredness. No, you needn't dismiss doing, rather you must enhance being. For, yes, the twain can meet.

Nupur Mahajan is a sum of many parts. Ideas are her business even as her creative streak sees her straddle television, advertising, publishing, radio and brands. Reach her at

The views expressed in these columns are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper.

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