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  • Writer's pictureGlenn Cohen

The balance between “Doing” and “Being”

Updated: Dec 2, 2019

Our last posts from the Inca Jungle Trail were action packed, but this post will be relaxed, on purpose. We are now hanging out in this little house on the prairie of the Sacred Valley, Peru, calming down from our extreme adventures of last week. We are not really “doing” much.

I dare to bet that you are similar to me in the sense that we are active, achievement oriented adults who excel in “Doing”, but are out of our comfort zone when we enter the “Being” mode. During  my youth, I preferred active vacations, and could not understand what was so appealing about lying on a beach. It took me many years not to feel guilty about lowering the RPM’s and to understand that relaxation is not a waste of time. I now understand that it is critical for our body, mind and soul to find a balance between Doing and Being- those who don’t, are missing out. As a clinical psychologist, I work with many of my clients on this challenge, attempting to find balance in the midst of a hectic modern lifestyle. Many discover that an excessive “Doing” mode is many times an attempt to avoid an emptiness that they fear to experience while just “Being”.  The good news is that if we dare to move out of our comfort zone, and venture in to “Being” mode, it can lead to tremendous growth. In order for this to happen, you must have faith- in yourself, and in the Good Lord (or whatever greater powers that be) that you will be able to successfully navigate across this unchartered territory without harm. If you take this leap of faith, there is much to gain.

The main reason we launched for our round the world journey was to find new balance in our lives. I retired after 30 hectic years of military and defense service, 50 years young, with vigor and stamina for another career,  but with young children who need both their parents around. We planned to find the balance between time together as a family, and quality time with each child and as a couple.  We also hoped to find the right balance between action and relaxation, Doing and Being. Therefore, our six weeks itinerary in Peru consisted of one week on the Inca Trail, one week relaxing in this house, a week trek, two weeks volunteering at an orphanage, and a few days in the jungle for dessert.

We’ll try to describe our week in this house which we found via for $60 per night. The house is beautiful, rustic, and isolated in the middle of the sacred valley, surrounded by fields, cows, and the snow capped Andes mountains. The nearest houses are in the village, a ten minute walk away. All the inhabitants of the village live along the main road, where every other house doubles as a mini-market, selling snacks and drinks from their living room. There are no refrigerators in the village, so dairy products are sold from the shelf.  This was too risky for our Western stomachs, so we opted to buy fresh milk from the Seniora who sat at the street corner every morning with her pail.

every morning i bought fresh milk from the Seniora.

This was our first time experiencing a sense of home, thousands of miles away from our house. It was a great opportunity to RESET our lives, and our daily routine. I must say that we saw immediate results. We witnessed many small things that manifested positive changes in the family dynamics and personal habits, which gave us the sense that we are on our way to fulfilling the enormous potential which lies in a journey like this. We will give examples from different categories such as: Studies, Help at home, Behavior between the kids, Play, Reading, and Routine. We defined to the kids before embarking on the journey, that there would be much “down” time, and that Mom and Dad will not be an amusement park to keep them occupied during their moments of boredom. They will have to occupy themselves by playing amongst themselves, reading and developing their inner world. They also understood that they would have to fulfill their scholastic obligations, or risk dropping down a class next year.

Home schooling- away from home

Studies– During this week we launched our home schooling project.  These two words are very easy to say and write, but let me tell you, the two words “Iron Man” or “Ultra Marathon” are easier to execute  than “Home Schooling”. There are some children who enjoy studies, which makes it a different story. Our children are more demanding on this front, and our patience and creativity are  pushed to their limits as every exercise and page  in the math booklet turns into a major negotiation. Despite my many years as an I.D.F. hostage negotiator, I’m not sure which situation is easier to deal with. Despite the difficulties, we felt that our stubberness payed off, as our children managed to study a few hours every day, and made progress during this week.

Help at home– This was always a flashpoint in our family, especially around meal time. Surprisingly, during this week we saw that the children actually enjoyed helping, and the chore schedule we hung on the fridg actually worked. Preparing food, setting table and washing dishes, became a part of the children’s routine. Heehah!

Behavior– Our three kids fight quite a bit between themselves, and this can drive us nuts. During this week we instituted a new token economy. Every act of violence, whether verbal or physical, would be rewarded with a fine which would contribute towards buying treats for the rest of the children. We actually saw some novel manifestations of sibling compassion. Who would have believed that our children would actually help each other with homework! Moments like these warmed our hearts and gave us hope that we’re on the right track.

Play– We adopted the old school approach, and put the emphasis on traditional games with no screens or technology. Collected bottles of mineral water turned the living room into a makeshift bowling alley. The kids bought a slingshot in the local market and  turned the back yard into a shooting range. The kids enjoyed connecting to their primitive side and would squeal with joy when a rock propelled from a huge rubber band would topple a target.

Reading and Writing– Our kids have not discovered the joys of reading yet, but we did see rays of hope this week. I had a moment of nachas (Yiddish parental pride) while reading a book and cuddling with Yali. He surprisingly said; “I don’t need my smartphone this year… It’s an opportunity for us to spend quality time together as a family.” (The background is that his phone died only a couple of days before embarking on the journey, and despite enormous resuscitation attempts, we did not manage to salvage it.)

He continued to state that he intends on reading English books, which is a dream come true as far as I’m concerned. In the writing department, I discovered a need to document and share our journey as an important part of processing what we’re going through, and this definitely enrichens the experience.

The children read these posts before they are published, and while they take an active part in the editing, it becomes an opportunity to process the journey’s experiences together.

Routine– Waking up with no alarm clock, walking into town to buy fresh milk and bread from the Seniora with the milk bucket and the Senior with the bread wagon.  After studies, we would play or go for a stroll and discover water canals which lead to a nearby waterfall. There was no need to go anywhere since the house and its surroundings met all of our needs. The furthest we ventured was to the local market which challenged our olfactory bulbs.

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