There is a soft rock radio station here in Philadelphia called B101. A few years ago, driving, I pulled up behind a bus at a stop light. On the back of the bus was an ad for B101—a picture of a bright bumble bee next to the call letters.
It occurred to me that it would make a great name for a course—one we could probably all benefit from.
Our culture specializes in doing. Most of us have the equivalent of an advanced degree in it, in fact. But being? Well, that’s just not something we’re taught.
So an introductory course in being might be just the ticket. Unlike all those courses we took whose textbooks and notes—if we even still have them—are gathering dust in our attic, I imagine we would consult our notes from Be 101 quite often. We could pull them out whenever we found ourselves in the throes of anxiety about our circumstances or despair about all the ways we are failing at life.
In fact, our Be 101 notebook might rest on our nightstand like a sacred text—pages dog-eared, favorite passages highlighted in yellow, margins full of scribbled comments.
In Be 101 we would learn that we are not our thoughts. We are not our accomplishments. We are not our looks. We are not our possessions. We are not our professions.
Come to think of it, in a culture as ego and achievement driven as ours—with an economy built upon the principle of dissatisfaction—Be 101 would be the most subversive course in the entire curriculum.
Turning to the Teachers
Who are the experts among us who could teach us about being?
I’m sure you have your own favorite teachers. As for myself, I look to the Trees.
Trees are amazing instructors in the art of being. They stay put, root themselves deeply in their own place in the world, and simply go about becoming more of what they already are. They stand. They breathe. They become.
Some trees have been breathing and becoming for hundreds of years, some for thousands. In California there is a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine that’s been alive for more than 48oo years. Think of it. That Bristlecone was already 2300 years old when the Buddha sat down under another tree and became enlightened.
Can you imagine standing in the same place for 4800 years with no place you had to go and nothing you had to do but be yourself?
Sometimes when I’m in the woods I’ll lean my body up against a tree trunk to take in its energy. Invariably it reconnects me with a quiet, centered place in me that has no agenda and no anxiety. There, at the feet of these great ones, I am reminded of my intrinsic worth and my timeless essence. There I am reminded that—despite all of our human activities, ambitions, and aspirations—there is really nothing more precious than Being itself.