being and doing

Fred resting his head on my hand
Fred resting his head on my hand

When I first moved to Cambridge, I worked as a cook for a community of nuns. I’d always thought of myself as a pretty good cook, but had never done it professionally. Even though I’d enjoyed cooking (somewhat) over the years, I agonized over every meal that I prepared for the nuns. I always doubted it was good enough. So, four nights a week, I made dinner for this community, stressed and sweated it out, and had to try to let it go as I drove home each evening.

After a couple of months, one of the sisters whom I’d formed a pretty close relationship with, asked if she could speak to me alone. I was sure I’d not lived up to their expectations, try as I might, and they were going to find someone else to cook for them, or at the very least give me more pointers on how to improve. But the conversation wasn’t about that. As we sat in her office, she looked at me with the most compassionate and loving smile and told me that I was trying too hard, that I needed to relax.

Trying too hard? Trying too hard to please, to do the right thing, the perfect thing, the best thing? How could I be trying too hard to be better?

I felt in my mind that trying to be “the best” was what I was supposed to do. That the more I tried to please, anticipate needs, go above and beyond expectations, the more I’d be appreciated, respected and loved. And in one very short and loving conversation, I was told that this wasn’t true. I also saw that all of my trying to impress and please them was not overflowing from my sense of self-love, respect, and care, but from an absence of it.

I was trying to make up (by over-doing) for what I deep down felt about myself…and it didn’t work….thank God. There is so much talk these days about finding out what you are supposed to do for work in the world; how to find your true calling, your passion, your gift, your hidden talents and abilities, and how to share these with the world. There is so much focus on doing.

It has taken me a long time to realize that what others really need and want from me is exactly what I need from myself. What I want to be is a relaxed, confident, peaceful, me. When I come from the place of inner peace, inner knowing, self-love and trust, then everything on the outside supports that inner vision. This is my true work: be first, then do.

“When I began observing my own flawlessness, I started to notice my external world reflecting this….so, the kinder I am to myself, the more outward events will reflect that. The harder and more judgmental I am toward myself, the more my situation will match it. The universe always proves me right in my opinion of myself!” pg. 160 from the book, Dying To Be Me, by Anita Moorjani


37 thoughts on “being and doing”

  1. Again, you take my breath away with your post. You continually are mining the gold for us. You take us to the golden nugget of what we need to look at within ourselves. You become the “everyperson” for us with your personal stories. I am now almost done with reading the book – Dying to be Me. It is a “gem.” Thank you again for being so open about yourself so that we, too, can open ourselves.

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful, kind and supportive words Mary…they are (as you are) very much appreciated, Loving thoughts to you today, Mary

  2. Love this! I’ve noticed that the slower I go, the more I get done. When I rush around trying to get everything done in a hurry, I am a lot less effective. When I slow down, it’s easier for me to be peaceful and centered.

    Eileen Gillan 410.889.0210 410.409.3197 cell

  3. Dear Mary, it seems to me as if you already do mountains more than most people in your life. I have always been confused because it has been said that being like a child or a lily of the field is the way. Yet, accomplishment seems to be the life – style of most teachers, like you. You accomplish soooooooooooooo much. Confused Sarah

    1. I love your question Sarah! When I feel open, peaceful and “trusting that all is well”, the action that I then take feels more like “fun”…it is a pleasure and sometimes a down right delight! When I come from the place of loving my life, the work that I do doesn’t feel like work (and isn’t in the range of struggle, sacrifice, difficult, discouraging,). And the “work” that I am talking about isn’t just with clients, it can be driving to the grocery store, cleaning up after one of the kitties, putting away the dishes or making my bed. When I am not in a good place, even a simple thing like calling a friend for lunch might feel like a chore. So I try not to do anything without first getting right inside. Does this clarify? If not please ask again. Have a wonderful day, Mary

  4. This is sooooo true Mary. When i relax into myself and feel good about myself my day and the many, many people within it just seems to be a big easy wonderful exchange…when i am in my place of fear my day is just filled with the same…i have been off from work for 4 days and in my absence my computer crashed, my student was late and my day is crazy crabby…time to turn it around 🙂

    1. Yes, yes, yes Janette! thank you for this. Sending you wishes for a day full of light and surprise!

  5. Hearing in my head Simon and Garfunke’s song
    Slow down, you move to fast
    Gotta make the morning last. . . . Life is groovy!

    One thing that always brightens up every morning is checking in here, being uplifted by Mary’s post and passing the delicious plate of insights and comments from all you wonderful women and our occasional man!, who comment here.

    Slow down, we move too fast. . .

    1. And your presence and comments are so appreciated Susan. Sending you a warm hug today from the below zero land of upstate NY! Love, Mary

  6. Lovely post and quote. I , too had it backwards ( and sometimes still do) but when I heard ” we are human beings not human doings ” it began to resonate . I often think if this when I see a severely mentally and physically challenged person, BEING in a wheel chair ….. and the gift of their presence .

  7. This post is spot-on for me. The more I hurry, the more mistakes I make causing me to repeat what I did in such a hurry!
    I see you are getting a dose of Fred Therapy. See his wise smile? We need to watch the cats more as they only hurry for important things like food!

  8. “I felt in my mind that trying to be “the best” was what I was supposed to do. That the more I tried to please, anticipate needs, go above and beyond expectations, the more I’d be appreciated, respected and loved. And in one very short and loving conversation, I was told that this wasn’t true. I also saw that all of my trying to impress and please them was not overflowing from my sense of self-love, respect, and care, but from an absence of it.”
    Mary, in this one paragraph, you have paraphrased my life in raiding two stepchildren who were badly scarred from their parent’s divorce and the splitting up of four children, the mother, leaving two behind. I tried not to replace her but to make up for the loss both these kids experienced. In so doing over the years, I lost myself in trying to please these people. One day I woke up after an incident in which it was pretty clear I wasn’t being respected. I needed me back.

    1. thank you Sandy, for sharing your life and the wisdom you’ve gained, here with us. Sending you a warm hug and loving thoughts of “Home” today, Mary

  9. I need to remember all you touched upon today, Mary. I echo Mary Solomon’s words of appreciation for you.
    Look at that sweet Fred, loving you just for being there with him, he looks blissfully happy, and is soaking in the peace . Those who love us, love the simple pleasure of our presence… What if Fred was too busy catching mice all day to snuggle?

    1. I love that thought Bobbie! We actually do have mice living in the walls and they like to get under the sink, jump into the garbage, and pick out the food. Fred often times sits in front of the sink just listening to them (I’m sure he’d love to get one but doesn’t know how to)…but he always comes away from his watch when I call him for a snuggle! Sending you thoughts of happiness and peace today, Mary

    1. Oh thank you Terri! Loving thoughts filled with adventure and happiness to you today,

  10. Thank You Mary, it has been very crazy with the holidays, remodeling, and moving my husband’s terminal uncle up here. I realized that after getting terrible ill this last week that I too was trying too hard and not giving myself sometime to breathe. As I am trying everyday to minster and show God’s loving peace to Uncle Jim due to his urgent desire to cross over I first need to fill myself with God’s peace and assurance that everything will work out and God is going to put him in his loving arms and carry him over to be with him.

    1. Beautiful Joan. Thank you. May your days and nights be filled with the light of knowing that all is well and is unfolding perfectly. Love, Mary

  11. Such wise words (once again) Mary. Thank you for reminding us to relax, enjoy, and be ourselves. Do you think it is our quest for perfectionism that drives us? Hoping for a little less perfection (and anxiety) and a lot more peace.
    Love and wishes for a wonderful day, Marian

    1. Thank you Marian. I was raised with the belief that hard work, struggle and sacrifice were the only noble (good) ways to work/live, and so for me, dropping that belief and trusting in a much larger, kinder and supportive God/Universal Spirit has been a big leap of faith. Sending you thoughts for a rich and wonderful day! Mary

  12. Thank you, Mary, for such timely words. I’ve been in a season of my life that is much like you described in your post. I so needed to hear the wisdom of “relax and be myself”. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    1. Thank you Alison…(relaxing into life is an on-going practice for me). Sending you loving thoughts, Mary

  13. Loved this morning’s message as always, Mary, but I just have to tell you that over the months, I have fallen in love with Fred. What a handsome boy!!!!

  14. During my sabbatical in Sept and Oct it was my challenge to just “BE” and refill the well. At the beginning I felt so restless, but I didn’t give into that feeling. I just moved through the feeling. Then the being started to come. It was such a helpful process with me. Now back in the swing of things again, I have to remind myself to BE as much as possible– like you, I am more centered and peaceful when I do– and more pleasant to be around. 🙂

    1. I really appreciate you sharing this part of your journey Barbara. Sending you a warm hug today, Mary

  15. I love this sweet photo of Fred! Animals are great teachers. Fred is just being. Beautiful. I take yoga twice a week. One group and one private lesson.(both with my man.) This has helped me with just being. I really love and need it!

    1. Thank you Cindy…Fred is one of the beings in my life that makes me smile and relax..his look just invites me to pet him (and when i do, I always feel good). Have a day full of wonder and delight! Love, Mary

  16. You’re responding to comments again! You haven’t done that for so long, I’d given up leaving any. I know you read them, but my time is so limited it didn’t seem worthwhile. I enjoy your posts very much – yes, I’m one of the lurkers – and always enjoy seeing them. I’m glad Jon talked you into trying it and you’ve stuck with it.


    1. Thank you Nancy…you are right, I do always read comments and have never been comfortable with not commenting. …and yet, just saying “thank you” for commenting has seemed too superficial at times. This is still an issue for me and I haven’t yet found my comfort zone with it. I very much appreciate you taking the time to tell me how you feel about it . Love to you, Mary

  17. .. It is SO wonderful when you respond, Mary . Some of your answers further illuminate and explain questions that we might all be thinking , too . For example your reply to Sarah’s question from the previous post. That reply really touched a cord within me.
    Oh, I think your prerogative is to reply ( or not ) as you can , feel inspired or able to . I respect too , that if you reply to some , and haven’t gotten to mine, you had time for just that much , you had gotten interrupted or busy. I feel I need to respect you and your time and efforts as well. I am happy if you can , or if you can’t, or with a brief thank you . It will make the blog even more instructional , interesting and dynamic. If you and all of us come to a free and easy acceptance of how your inspiration to reply unfolds, that would be wonderful. For example : no hurt feelings if you reply to someone other than me. It’s just the direction you were going and we need to respect that! We need to respect your time and efforts.
    Being a deaf person who tries to relate to everyone , this is my only way to participate in a group experience. It is very wonderful for me, I appreciate it more than I can say.

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