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There's a layer underneath doing and thinking that most people have very little awareness of, and so they can't do much about it if they're stuck.

In this episode, Leo looks at the ways of being, and how it's probably the most important thing when it comes to changing our lives.

Topics Covered

  • Leo's reflection on the of podcasting process, and how he’s learning
  • The collaborative effort behind the podcast, including the music composed by members of the Fearless Mastery program, contributions from Leo's son, Justin, and Amanda's work behind the scenes
  • Ways of being as a critical layer of our actions and decisions
  • The layers of doing, thinking, and being, and how they influence our behaviors
  • The importance of recognizing and working with the layer of being to address resistance, fear, and other emotions that hinder progress
  • Expansive ways of being such as joy, love, curiosity, and compassion
  • How to practice working with the layer of being: noticing, sitting with it, and choosing a more desired way of being
  • The Zen of being, emphasizing the practice of being present and relaxed in the moment
  • Updates on Leo's writing project, a book about his grandmother, and his next purpose project involving Zen sewing


 Welcome to the Zen Habits podcast, where we dive into how to work with uncertainty, resistance, and fear around our meaningful work. This is for anyone who wants to create an impact in the world and cares deeply enough to do the work. I'm your host, Leo Babauta, creator of the Zen Habits blog.

Okay. So today I'd like to talk about ways of being and another way to put it is. It's the Zen of being, it's a really, really important topic that is hidden from most of us. We don't even know that it's there. And so we kind of try and figure out how things are going and we miss out on what's really happening underneath the surface.

So this is going to unlock a lot for you if you're able to like work with this way of being the Zen of being. But before we get to that, I'd like to do a little bit of meta talk, which is talking about how this podcast is made and share a little bit of behind the scenes, just because I think it's interesting and I'd love to share with you what I'm working on and what else is happening here.

But also I love for you to be a part of this. And so just taking you along for the ride is what I intend to do here for a couple of minutes. So the first thing is just that I'm learning as I go with this podcast. I don't know how to do a podcast. This is my first season. You know, it seems like it's something that isn't that hard to do, but there's a lot.

That I'm learning, learning about microphones and cameras and lighting and audio and editing, but also how to publish it and upload it and all these fantastic things. And so I'm learning as I go and that's actually a lot of fun. I am someone who loves to learn and yet it's intimidating sometimes when you don't know what you're doing.

So this is me practicing right here, right now as we're talking. Practicing with making this podcast and learning as I go and not knowing how to do it and having it be a little bit messy. I'll let you in on some things, which is that we've had some messiness behind the scenes. Some, you know, this very episode actually I recorded with the wrong microphone.

So I'm rerecording it now. And that's again, some messiness. There was some messiness when I launched, there was some messiness with titles, and some of you have been really nice to send me emails and let me know, like this, this thing, the audio was a little bit messed up here, or the title was the wrong title, or, or whatever, and I really appreciate that.

I just want you to know that when you send me feedback, whether it's good or bad feedback, you've messed up, or there's a typo, It helps me to improve this and that's really the intention here is to get better and better as I learn. To keep improving, keep learning, and have fun with it. Let it be a little bit messy but not let that stop me.

One great example is someone requested that we do transcripts for every episode for people who can't necessarily hear as well and so I said, of course, that's what I should be doing. And so I, uh, we've been doing that now with every episode and I went back and create transcripts for the previous episodes as well.

So I just wanted to let you in a little bit on the messiness of the process behind it. And I'm still learning. And my intention is to keep learning and having fun with it. A couple other things about the podcast, one is that the music that you hear at the beginning and the end of the podcast, it's not just some stock music that we searched for and found.

It's actually created by people who are in my fearless mastery program. So that's my small group mastermind coaching program with about 20 people in it. And a couple of them are musicians or composers. And so they collaborated here. The lead being Salem. And she is a professional composer and musician and music teacher.

And so she was the lead of that and collaborating with her was Robrecht from Belgium. He's a musician and um, just put a lot of magic and heart into it. And the both of them put a lot of heart and their talent and, and you know, their art into that music. And so it's really special thing to have that at the beginning and end of every single episode.

And I just want to say thank you to both of them. Another person who you'll never see who's working with every single episode is my son, Justin, who has some background in video and music editing, and now he's the audio and video editor for every episode, whether it's the audio episode, if you're listening to that right now, Or the YouTube video episodes.

And, uh, if you haven't watched that yet, go to YouTube because we're also doing some YouTube only videos that you won't find in the podcast, uh, including one on overwhelm, another one on rituals. And so, um, go check out the YouTube channel, but I want to give a shout out to my son, Justin. It's been really meaningful working with him and both of us are really excited about learning and, and working on this together.

And so. I wanted to give a shout out to Justin. If you're interested in hiring him for your podcast or videos, he's available. And all of this you can reach me at podcast at zenhabits. net. If you want to reach out to, uh, hire Justin, if you want to give me feedback and, and, you know, corrections and suggestions, all of that is welcome.

One last person to mention behind the scenes is Amanda. Amanda is one of the leaders of my team on Zen Habits and she also helps people with Fearless Mastery and Fearless Living Academy and is really running a lot of the show behind the scenes of all of this and this podcast is in big part due to a lot of her work and so I don't want to skip over her work even though it's You might, you might not hear it or see it.

It's all there unseen and very much appreciated. So I just wanted to give a shout out to some people that you might not know are working on this or have contributed to this in a really big way. It's not all me, even though my handsome face gets to be on the videos and my, my voice gets to be on the front and center on the podcast.

There's a lot more going on. Okay. So that's some of the behind the scenes. Let's talk about the actual topic of this. Let's get to the. The heart of this podcast, which is ways of being I'll get to the Zen part of it towards the end But first I'd like to talk about ways of being and why it's really important and how to work with it So ways of being there are different layers to everything that we're doing in our lives And one layer is actually just the doing layer.

So it's what are you actually doing? Are you writing? Are you emailing? Are you out, you know, for a walk? That's the doing part of it. And so if you wanted to change a habit, for example, I want to exercise more. The doing is putting my shoes on, I'm getting out the door, and I'm actually going for a walk. Or I'm lifting weights at the gym, or whatever it is that I'm doing.

That's the doing part of it. And that's the part that everyone relates to. We're like, yes, I'm doing it or I'm not doing it. And that really misses out on the why behind it. What's going on. That's having me really tripped up and resisting it and not being able to do it. So that's the layer of being there's another layer that I should mention, which is the layer of thinking.

So thinking is like all the thoughts that we have about it. And if you're really stuck in like overthinking any overthinkers in the audience. Yeah. So if we're overthinking or we're stuck in indecision, that's our brain spinning around. But why is our brain spinning around? Why are we having all these thoughts?

Why are we ruminating? Why are we caught in indecision? And the answer to that is not in the thinking layer. It's actually in the, the being layer. The way of being. So let's talk about the being layer because this is actually what trips us up and causes us to overthink. It causes us to resist and not do the things that we want to do.

Why am I not exercising? Why am I not eating that healthy diet that I wanted to? Why am I not writing my book or, or launching? Whatever it is that I want to launch into the world. The reason why is in the being layer. Being layer is, for example, fear. I'm feeling some fear, and so I'm just, you know, not able to progress, or I'm judging myself, and I'm feeling a lot of, like, judgment.

Uh, another l part of this layer of being is emotions. I'm feeling sad, I'm feeling frustrated or angry, feeling overwhelmed, I'm feeling anxious, feeling lonely. And all of the other emotions that go there, these are all in the layer of being. So hopefully you can see that the layer of being is, we often feel it down here below the head.

Thinking is all up here in the head, and most people are either up in the head or they're focused on doing. I need to be doing, doing, doing, doing, thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking. So we try and rationalize things, we try and figure it out, give me all the answers, all the reasons, and plan it all out, which is all up here in the head.

And then we're like, I just need to start doing. So we start to go to the doing part, but we're ignoring an entire layer, probably the most important layer, which is the layer of being. So layer of being is like, Oh, how am I feeling about this? Like what's, what's causing me to overthink what's causing me to put the brakes on and not do.

And we can guess that a lot of times it's fear, anxiety, overwhelm. These are all like related. Kinds of things in the way of being and how do we actually shift that so there's actually a whole nother? realm of the way of the layer of way of being which is there's actually a lot of other ways of being that are Expansive so you could feel that fear is often contracted Anger frustration they don't have to be contracted.

They just often are Anxiety these are like contracted ways of being both Emotionally contracted, but also physically you might not be able to see me right now if you're listening to the audio, but I'm like shrinking physically. You can go watch it on YouTube. Um, the, the video version, you'll see my body like shrinking.

This is contracted. And so when we're contracted, we don't feel like doing a lot of stuff. I'm feeling tired and exhausted and overwhelmed. So expansive is joy. For example, love, compassion, play, adventure. Um, what are some of their can, uh, open, expansive, um, ways of being curiosity, magic, divinity, peace, oneness with the universe, power, leader.

And by the way, these are not my terms for ways of being. These are things I've gotten from my coach, Adam Quiney, and he wrote a whole book on it. I do not have the, uh, actual copy. I have a. An old copy that I read called Spectrums of Being, but his, his actual book that came out, he changed the title and it's called Who Do You Think You Are by Adam Quiney.

Q U I N E Y. Look it up on Amazon. It's a great book. He not only talks about these ways of being, but also lots of in depth things on how to work with it. And a lot of the stuff I learned from him. So I want to give him a shout out and credit and say, go buy his book. It's awesome. He's an amazing guy. So.

Ways of being. So I've mentioned some of them, and these are the expansive ways of being. Why is this important? Well, hopefully you can see by now that if it's unseen, there's nothing we can do about it. We don't know that it's going on. It's like, what's going on under the hood? You know, my car's not going.

That's the doing part, right? Uh, well, then I need to like come up with a better plan, but we might not see there's actually something like under the hood, the radiator is broken or whatever. Uh, that's so if the way the radiator is broken and we have no idea that there's anything under the hood, all we see is the car is either going or not.

And it's really like, there's nothing we can do about it. We can try and push the car and force it to go. But until we actually address what's going on underneath the hood, we're, we're really just trying to force our doing without actually knowing like what's getting in the way. So the layer of being is, is what's getting in the way.

It's like I'm feeling contracted about this. I'm feeling a lot of fear and there's a way we're thinking about it as well, but I'd say we get too caught up in the thinking part. So if we don't know that's going on, we can't do anything about it. So how to practice with it would be, first of all, just notice that it's going on.

Catch yourself during the day when you're feeling really distracted, when you're doing something that you, you know, not necessarily want to be doing and catch yourself actually, you know, like, What's going on here? What's going on in the layer of being? Can I just notice that I'm feeling contracted? I'm feeling fear.

I'm feeling resistance. I'm feeling frustration or tiredness or overwhelm, anxiety, sadness underneath all of that. And one big one for me recently has been helplessness, like something I'd never want to feel, which is helplessness. So I'm just learning to notice when that's showing up. So notice when it's showing up.

The second thing you can do is just be with it. Could you just like stay in this contracted state? We usually want to get out of it or fix it or somehow banish it from our lives because we just have a hard time being with these states. But what if we could just sit in them for a little while and not need to run from them?

They don't, then, they lose their power over us when we are able to be with them. So you just sit in sadness, sit in frustration. I'm sitting in helplessness. Is one of my current practices, and so just sit in it, and so I don't need to run from helplessness anymore. And then it loses its power over us. So we notice it, and we sit in it, be with it.

We might bring some breath to it, some love, if that helps us to be with it more. And then, finally we might ask, what's another way of being that I might want to try? I wouldn't suggest going to this first, I would do all of these other steps first. But after you've practiced a little bit with being with it and bringing love and breath, Then it's like, well, is there another way of being I'd like to choose into?

And when you've chosen something, you know, I've listed some here, love, compassion, joy, play, adventure, curiosity, leader, power, commitment, divinity, oneness. What are some other ones? Peace. Those are the ones, did I mention curiosity already? Uh, connection is another good one. So listing all these ways of being, you, um, choose one and you, there's not a right answer here.

So you can choose any, I want to freaking play more. So just choose play and then write that down somewhere, put it somewhere where you can see it and then allow yourself to just. Like, what would it be like to play? This is actually how I'm doing this podcast is bringing a lot of play to it. Like just having fun.

I don't record, I don't have a script for the recordings. I just press record and I start talking and this is for me a lot of fun. So I'm like, let's just see what comes out. And if I don't like it, I can always delete it. But every single time I've actually loved every episode. And so I just send it to Justin and he edits it and we upload it.

So that's me bringing play. So like, what would you like to do when it comes to play? Um, what would play have you be doing around your project? It doesn't have to be play. It could be love. It could be curiosity. It could be, you know, joy. It could be some kind of, you know, create, creativity would be another good one.

And there's really, like, an infinite amount of ways of being. These are just some to choose from. If you're doing a habit, another thing to notice is, like, let's say you want to change your eating style. And so you're like, Okay, I'm going to eat all these healthy foods and no junk food, right? So that's your plan, that's your thinking about it.

And then you start doing, and you're like, Okay, I'm eating the kale, I'm eating the avocado, but then all of a sudden I just, you know, crammed a whole bunch of cookies into my face. Definitely not a real life example from my life. So, so then I'm like, why am I doing that? So I'm looking at the doing and, and then I start thinking like, what's a better plan?

Which is great. There's nothing wrong with doing or thinking. These are, these are important layers. But we might also do is notice like what's going on underneath in the layer of being. And in that layer of being, we might notice like, Oh, I'm feeling really contracted about this. Like it was feeling like I can't do it and I'm feeling defeated and I'm feeling like.

Discouraged and I'm just feeling like it's pointless so we can just notice all of that. It's like, oh, yeah, that's my way of being right now and I can just sit in the pointlessness and discouragement. I can just feel the sadness of that disappointment, bring some breath, bring some love and practice with that for a while and Honestly, like there's nothing wrong with eating cookies.

Like I don't want to say there's anything wrong. Like you have to eat super healthy. That's not what this is about. I love I make a great, uh, vegan chocolate chip cookie. So I love that. Maybe I'll make a video on my favorite foods at some point. So we would look at the layer of being and then we might be like, Oh, what's, what else would I like?

Maybe there's a, a compassion that I like to have when I come to the, you know, I eat the cookies and I can bring compassion to myself for like feeling disappointed in myself. And then when I look at the next thing I want to eat, like what would be the most compassionate thing? This is one of mine actually, this is why I'm a vegan, is that my eating is actually The way of being that I, I practice being is compassion.

So like, Oh, compassion is the way of being. Veganism is the, is what comes from that compassion. I'm not saying that you are not compassionate if you eat meat or whatever, but I'm just saying that that's how I practice with it. Okay. So we can bring that to eating. We can say compassion is the way of being that I want.

And then we're going to practice. And then what you'll notice is that you contract back to the old way of being. This is how it works as we contract. Back to our old way and then we can expand and then we contract and for me it's almost the practice is almost like breathing It's like expand and then contract Expand contract and we just keep going back and forth back and forth if we don't Practice consciously with it.

We will stay in the contracted state more often. We will still expand as just A natural part of being human is you expand and you contract, but we stay in the contracted state more often if we don't learn to practice with it. So we can practice. Last thing that I want to talk about around ways of being is the Zen of being.

So this is my understanding of Zen, and I'm a Zen student, but my understanding is limited. But my understanding is that Zen, often a very big part of it, is about being in the way of being. And let me try and clarify that a little bit. Again, most of us are caught up in the thinking or the doing. And when you practice Zen meditation, the practice is just sit.

So there's actually no doing. I mean, the doing you're doing is sitting, but it's very limited. You're not able to go out and check your phone. You're not able to go out and do anything. So there's, you're really like restricting yourself from the doing part. And then when you sit down, you think about, you think a lot, right?

So there's a lot of thinking at that layer. So you're not allowing yourself to do, so you just think all the time. And in Zen practice, what we encourage ourselves to do is to drop some of that thinking. It's not that thinking is bad, it's not that doing is bad, but we're always in those layers. So what would it be like to let go of those layers for a little bit?

What happens is all that's left after you've dropped the doing and the thinking layers is being. We're just in the layer of being and that is a very relaxed way of life. It's peaceful. We might still feel sadness. So it's not that we're always feeling, you know, joy and happy, but that sadness is not a problem.

It's just a part of my being. I might feel anger. I might feel fear. I might feel all of it. All of it is available in this way of being, but none of it is a problem. It's just the experience that I'm having. And as we learn to relax with that more and more, all of that just kind of flows through us.

Sadness doesn't stick around as long. Not that it would be bad if it did, because sadness is just a way of being, but it, it tends to not stick, stick around as long if we're not trying to suppress it, or run from it, or distract ourselves, or whatever it is we do with sadness. difficult relationship we have with sadness, we try and move away from it, but if we can stay in it, actually it just kind of comes and goes, and then it's not such a big deal that we have sadness or fear or anger or any of it.

So that's the zen of being, and the practice is just to keep dropping into that, and not making it wrong if you're not. Not making it wrong if you get into the thinking or the doing a lot. Okay, last thing I want to say before we close here is give you an update on my project, which is my writing my grandma's book.

So thanks to the structure and the why and all the things that I've been talking about here. I've been actually creating a lot of movement with that book. The book 94. Um, just to update you if you haven't listened before. And I've been working on a book about her for years now. I think it was 2019 when I interviewed her.

So I interviewed her 2020. I interviewed my mom and, and some of my aunts, maybe in 2021, I was writing the book like sporadically, but I haven't gotten it to done. So this. During the season of this podcast, I've decided to take that on as my purpose project. And I actually, I've been writing a lot. Every weekday, I've been writing a little bit, like 30 minutes, and it's moving along.

My mom is my accountability partner, so I've been writing to her on Mondays, and telling her like what I did last week, and then what I'm committing to do this week. I block off times during the day, every weekday, and I've been moving toward it. Last week. I got to the end of all the material that I had and I said, mom, I need more material.

Go interview grandma and send me the audio, which she did. Thank you, mom. And, um, so she's been a huge part of this project. My mom, she's every, she's encouraging me. She has given me lots of facts. She's read, she's my editor. Really? She's a fact checked me. Um, so she's done, if not as much work as me, probably more, but the update I wanted to say is it's close to being done.

I'm going to take the audio that she did and, and put it into the book. And then there might be a few more things. I'm going to go back and revise and send it to her. And I'm hoping actually in the next couple of weeks to be able to send it to my grandma. Maybe not, maybe it'll be another month or more, but that's my hope.

And so if I finished that, the next thing I'm gonna take on is my Zen sewing. It's a Zen Rakusu. little little robe kind of thing that you hang around your neck. So as a Zen student, that's part of my training and my practice. And when I'm done with that, I can then take my Zen precepts. And so that's what I'm hoping to do soon.

And so I need to finish that sewing. I've been resisting it. So that'll be my next purpose project in the season. Okay. That's all I've got for you. This is a good episode packed full of stuff, not only about the way of being, but, uh, with some updates and some insights around the podcast. I hope you enjoyed all of that.

Again, keep writing to me [email protected]. I bring people on to do coaching. I've already started doing that. So if you want to be one of those. You know, write to me, [email protected], or give me your story. Give me your questions. Give me the things that you're struggling with and be a part of this season.

It would be really meaningful to me. Thank you, my friends. Have an amazing day. Thank you for listening.

If you haven't already, please subscribe to this podcast and your favorite podcast app. If you found this episode useful, please share this podcast with someone, you know, who cares deeply. That would be really meaningful to me. And if you'd like to dive deeper with me into this work, please check out the blog at or get in touch at [email protected]. Thanks for listening. And I hope you'll join me every Wednesday for more episodes of the Zen habits podcast.

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Intro music composition: Salem Beladonna & Robrecht Dumarey

Editor: Justin Cruz