Magnetic Wisdom: Do Be Do Be Do


Written by Brittany Veenhuysen

I picked out a magnet for my parents’ fridge when I was ten years old. I thought it was pretty cool.


The joke is that two well-known thinkers hold such confident, yet opposing beliefs about the relationship between being and doing. And the third guy throws it into a chorus for good measure.

I recently spotted this magnet in my parents’ kitchen, and it gave me pause. In light of this month’s focus, which is self-reflection (as a break from action), I believe all three of these quotes are especially pertinent.

Are we defined by doing, or by being?
Does it even matter?

At the root of the answer is masculine and feminine energy. These energies have different names across many cultures and religions: yin and yang, Shiva and Shakti, and the right and left sides of the brain and body.

Masculine and feminine energy does not mean “man energy” and “woman energy”. It is not only possible, but important, that both sexes embody both energies; however, it’s more natural for men to display traits associated with masculine energy, and for women to display traits associated with feminine energy.

On both an individual and societal level, it’s important to find balance between these energies (in artistic depictions, each energy often composes one half of a whole). However, for many centuries, traits relating to masculine energy have been valued high above feminine traits, so much so that feminine traits are most often seen as weak, illogical, irrational, time-wasting, unintelligent, and unproductive, especially in the business world.

Over the centuries, women have grown used to exhibiting traditionally masculine traits and adopting masculine beliefs in order to gain acceptance, which also requires dismissing and stifling our natural feminine instincts.

To do is to be.

The belief that who we are is determined by what we do is heavily steeped in masculine energy.

We place a lot of stress on speaking about “what we do” from nine in the morning until five at night, and it’s usually the second question we ask a stranger, after their name. As women, what we “do” can be a stressful conversation topic. Society places us in camps based on a very masculine concept of what matters most, and deep-rooted masculine beliefs can pit us against one another. For example, women who work at highly-skilled and high-paying jobs requiring years of education and special training (more masculine pursuits, in other words) may look down on women who are full-time mothers.

However, the concept of “to do is to be” is not false! When we are doing, we are being, to a certain extent. We are working, we are playing, we are conversing, we are experimenting, we are planning, we are moving, we are growing, we are giving, and we are learning. This is all the stuff that composes a life. Our past doings have helped create the people we are now, and our current doings contribute to the people we will be tomorrow.

The problem is that if all we do is… well… do, we risk losing sense of the bigger picture: who we are and what is important to us. For example, you might launch a company with a vision of helping people meet their needs, with an overarching vision of having more time and energy to do other equally important things. However, as your business grows, you take on some extra clients outside your original scope, hire staff, shift your focus, grow more, and sleep less. One morning you wake up and realize that you have essentially trained to be a specialist at something you never wanted to be, and you’ve been overworking for the last three years.

To be is to do.

There is another belief, one that is more difficult to put into words: By simply being, by opening our hearts to deep honesty, by discovering that we are enough right now, and by diving inwards to brush up against all that is truly important, we are actively participating in life. We don't need to be making money to participate. We do not need to own impressive things to participate. We do not need other people's approval to participate. This belief is steeped in feminine energy.

If you can't help but roll your eyes at these words, you are not alone. This concept is not only discouraged in our society, it’s often the butt-end of the joke. Upon hearing that someone is taking a break from work for some inner soul-searching, a common response is, “Does she think that's going to put food on the table?” If someone takes a journey to the other side of the world in pursuit of self-discovery, they are often criticized as being self-absorbed, naive, lazy, or in some way screwing themselves over. We measure fulfillment largely by the money we make, the jobs we have, and the things we own. "To be is to do" suggests the opposite; that fulfillment lies in a deep understanding and pursuit of our deepest desires, our soul, our true self.

At Yvonne Winkler, we strive to bring back this introspective period of self-recognition and discovery. You have enough, and are enough, at this very moment. You are not a constant unfinished work in progress. You contain everything you need for fulfillment, if you take a closer look.

It’s important to take a break in all this frantic doing to sit back and reconnect with your soul and your deepest desires. Tuning into ourselves is just as important as pursuing external progress. When you take time to reflect and to be, you can go back to doing with a fresh spirit and deep clarity..

Do be do be do.

Yes, I’m including an analysis of “do be do be do”, and I think it’s the most important quote in this trio, to be honest. If we were all Buddhist monks, we would exist in a constant state of being. In the current world, we live in an uninterrupted state of doing (until it’s interrupted by an event like a mid-life crisis that forces us to reflect). In an ideal world, we would surge forward in a period of doing, and then pull inwards and take time to be: to reflect and discover our inner desires. With a rejuvenated mind and clear heart, we would take action again, before pausing once more to be.

In other words: do, be, do, be, do.