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  • Writer's pictureAntti Vanhanen

The Complexity of Being a Person (And The Profound Simplicity of Being)

Updated: Feb 11, 2020

A week ago, I watched a commercial during the Super Bowl that said:

“Being a person is complicated.”

It was an innocent line and I don’t even know what the ad was about or what happened after that line, but something shifted in me when I heard it.

“Yes”, I heard myself say, “Being a person is really f***ing complicated!”

The more I thought about it, the more I saw the truth of it.

The average life human life is complicated and relentless with a never-ending stream of things to do and accomplish.

There are dishes to clean, food to cook, children to raise, bills to pay, vacations to book, taxes to file, meetings to attend, emails to answer, the dentist to visit, others to consider, and birthdays to remember.

And that’s not all.

There are things to learn, goals to achieve, pleasures to attain, futures to secure, circumstances to improve, suffering to avoid, responsibilities to fulfil, causes to champion, and minds to win over.

But even that is not all.

There is also the self that we need to improve, wounds we need to heal, strength and kindness we ought to display, skills we should hone, confidence we need to boost, habits we ought to build, thoughts we need to control, and a consistency of character we have to display.

In other words, to be a person means you are near-constantly either:

  • Seeking something (pleasure, improvement, happiness, security, peace, progress, or confidence), or

  • Resisting something (pain, fear, insecurity, uncertainty, failure, rejection, exhaustion, or loss)

For most people, being a person is a 24/7 job, punctuated by briefs moments of fun and relief.

To make matters worse, our world is only accelerating the constant seeking and resisting.

Most things around us is changing at an unprecedented pace, springing up new problems to solve and threats to avoid while also giving us new opportunities to seize and tools and conveniences to buy, install and apply.

But what - really - are we advancing toward at such a frantic pace?

Where are we really trying to get to so desperately?

If you stop to ponder that question, you might find it surprisingly difficult to answer.

We already live in an age of unprecedented levels of wealth, safety, choice, convenience, and scientific progress, not to mention the access we have to information, services, products, and tools.

If we aren’t even remotely happy with all the progress we’ve made, what makes us believe that we would content with more of the same?

Unsurprisingly, this mad rush to make progress and become something is taking a toll on us.

Despite all the advancements and progress we have made over the past centuries, there is more depression, stress, burnout, overwhelm, and anxiety than at any other point in history (excluding wars).

To deal with these issues, we have now added a whole new category of things for us to do us persons:

We need to practice yoga, meditation, mindfulness, spend more time in nature, be grateful, write down our goals, go to therapy, and work out.

Many of us don’t even do these things because we naturally enjoy them, but because we feel we have to in order to keep up with the demands of being a person.

So yes, being a person is really, really complex.

If this sounds like a terrible burden to carry to you, you are right - it is!

Fortunately, we don’t have to carry it.

As crazy as it may perhaps sound, we can actually just lay our load down by the curb and continue on our way, light and free.

To do so, we don’t need more motivation, discipline or strength to help us carry the load.

Nor do we need to control our thinking, calm our minds, or practice meditation.

Instead, we can simply embrace the being part of a human being.

You see, our culture encourages and promotes the idea that you are a separate person, an individual that serves as the thinker and the doer of your life.

It promotes this idea that you are insecure and lacking by default, so you need circumstances, events, objects and people to fulfill and secure you.

But that’s how we’ve ended up in this vicious cycle of trying to become something and gain something to feel whole to begin with.

And we all know from first hand experience that it doesn’t actually work.

Even when we reach something that we want, we usually only feel content for a little while, and then a new need, insecurity or longing opens up and we’re off to climb the next mountain of achievement and attainment.

So what can we do?

The answer, as it turns out, isn’t about doing, but about non-doing:

Consider that most of your life is already a “doing”.

All day, you think, plan, analyze, question, ponder, strategize, daydream, and then you take action based on what your mind tells you is a good idea.

In this way, most of us spend the vast majority of our lives tending to our sense of self and what it wants, needs, and craves.

It’s a never-ending job trying to keep ourselves content and happy.

So my suggestion to you is that you take a break from all of that.

Instead of being the humble servant of your ever-craving self, give yourself even a 1-minute holiday from all the thinking, analyzing, scheming, dreaming and doing.

Open up to the moment and indifferently let your thoughts, feelings, and sensations just be.

Allow whatever thoughts and feelings are there to come and go without getting caught up in them.

Just be. If you don’t know how to just be, just breathe. Be lazy.

Allow yourself to literally to think about or monitor nothing.

After all, you were born a human being not a human “doing”.

To explain what I mean, consider that from the perspective of a person, your life is full of thinking, doing, seeking, and resisting. It’s a chaotic and never-ending ride on an emotional rollercoaster.

Contrast that with the perspective of being, from which everything is simply unfolding. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, circumstances, and people simply come in and go out of view of the being without the being being affected by any of them.

From the perspective of pure being, everything is allowed and there is nothing to avoid or fear.

If this sounds like a recipe for going bankrupt or getting fired from your job, I'm doing a poor job of making my point. So let me expand on it further:

Instead of continuing to put an endless amount of things to analyze, do, achieve, fix, and avoid on your plate out of fear that you’re losing ground or because “you have to do them”, what I’m suggesting is that you look at what feeling is causing you to do that in the first place.

It doesn’t even matter what label you give that feeling, but rather that you feel it without trying to fix it or avoid it.

When your focus is on you, the person, everything you do is in relation to you.

When everything is about you, life becomes about survival and profit. Every action is calculated and done as a means to an end.

When life is lived from this transactional perspective, the magic of life seeps through the cracks and we are left with habits and pleasures that don’t truly satisfy us. That’s why we always need more and better experiences to satisfy ourselves.

However, when you live from the perspective of being, nothing is about you, because you are an inextricable part of the fabric of the moment.

From the perspective of being, the perspective between you and reality blurs and you find yourself an inseparable part of the whole, because that whole takes place within you, the being.

Imagine living from a place where you didn’t need to keep adding things to your plate.

Imagine living from a place where you didn’t worry or obsess over problems and potential threats, but instead took on everything with an accepting, open presence?

Imagine living from a place where all the actions you took came from a place of peace, balance and freedom instead of urgency, uncertainty, and desperation?

To get there, you needn’t do anything.

Being requires no doing.

Doing is the very thing that obscures being and creates the illusion of burden.

So even if it’s for just 60 seconds, return to your timeless essence of being and drink deep from the magic of peaceful presence.

Not by doing, but by not-doing.

From being, the doing arises naturally, effortlessly, and spontaneously.

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Akash Amalean
Akash Amalean
Apr 15, 2023

Antti, you must be familiar with Maharshi from the articles you've written. Great modern take!


Feb 15, 2020

I came across this article and website when I was having a day of too much "doing" and working myself into the ground without thinking "why". Thank you for this article to bring me back to ground and remember to be.

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