Though in the western world there is the belief that “having” is perceived to be worth more than “being”, if we try to change our perspective for a moment, something new – and maybe unexpected – can arise into our lives.
To Have or To Be?
Some time ago, I reached a point in my life where I was supposed to feel like I had it all.
My material possessions were at a very good point, as well as my job situation and the many things I kept myself busy with during the day. But, I had a void that made me feel sad and lonely.
It led me to ask myself: How come I feel this way? Why do I sense this sort of emptiness right in my chest?
I put on my Indiana Jones hat together with my Han Solo spaceship, and I went on a serious quest.
How to shift our internal GPS “from having to being”?
I turned to books, videos, films, therapists, friends, sports: anything that could give me a new perspective and help me reshape my understanding.
I found that the nagging need to own things resulted from that void I felt in my chest.
Why was I looking for material things to own, instead of looking for what I actually wanted to feel: Love, acceptance and belonging?
The reality is that I was so connected with the “western” standards of having that I was looking for 1 kg. of love, a size 10 of acceptance and some belonging to go in the wrong place.
I had to turn the tables. The GPS had to be set on the inner side of myself instead of the outter one.
Clothes, shoes, food, medicines, social media satisfaction or even yoga props and outfits were not what I needed. On the contrary, I was absolutely full of them.
Hugs, kisses and loving words were what I was missing. And they were so close because they were inside of myself.
To Be is to Have
In a way, to Be is to Have: It is just a different kind of possession. Instead of owning things, you own yourself and your values. You own your destiny and your choices. You own your life!alice bellini
And values –as well as our lives– are much more concrete than what we think: Values are actions.
Indeed, they determine the way in which we choose to behave and act. They help us live our lives based on who we are rather than the material things we own.
It’s all relative. There’s no right or wrong, good or bad. There’s only ourselves, what we want to do with our life and how we want to get there.
How do I start to Be rather than focus on what I Have?
In such a material, flashy and fast moving world, how do you find out and subsequently remember who you are at any given moment? Is there something I can do in order to start being instead of having when I realize that the void is taking control of me?
Indeed! And it is something you can never leave behind at home. You don’t have to remember to put it in your bag, you don’t need a prescription for it, you don’t have to pay for it. It has no side effects and, guess what? It’s something you already have and do on a regular basis.
To Be is to Breathe
All you need is your breath. To be is to breathe. That’s our first, most important, action in life, the one that generates all the others.
Every time the void starts owning you, you can go back to your breath and start focusing on it, without judgment.
Paying attention to our breathing can replace the many actions we would do otherwise to fill up the void (smoking, drinking, working extra hours, meaningless relationships, you name it).
Why is that helpful? Because it allows us to be in the present moment and listen to our truest self, instead of getting distracted by regrets of the past or fears for the future.
Every breath is a present we give ourselves. It’s something that we do for ourselves. It’s a constant gift, a constant act of love and kindness.
It is a metaphor that can help us close the circle: Because the very first people who should love, accept and make us feel part of something is ourselves.
We are responsible for our own love, care, acceptance and life. We are in charge. It’s up to us. And this is the most empowering thing of all, because we can be who we want to be, regardless of what other people think, the past or the future.
That’s why to be means to live in the present moment.
An invitation to journal
- When you have to meet somebody for the first time (work, date, event, zoom call), do you tend to talk about what you do, have or are?
- How much weight do you give to your appearance? Does it make you feel more or less powerful to dress in a certain way?
- Think of some of your belongings (phone, car, house, clothes). Imagine owning a less valuable version of them. Would you be the same person? What would change? Why do you think that is?
- Have you ever given up a core value for money? (Family, love, integrity, coherence) What made you do that?
- Did you ever pay attention to your breath? Would you be able to describe the way you breathe?
Find a comfortable spot, close your eyes and take 5 minutes to pay attention to your breath.
Whenever your mind starts wandering away, go back to your breath without judging neither your way of breathing nor your moment of “distraction”. What does it feel like in your body?
If you can, try to take even just 1 or 2 minutes everyday to do this exercise and keep track in your journal of how this makes you feel and of the changes that may or may not happen within you.