Busy, busy, let’s get busy!
‘Don’t just do something, sit there.’
– Sylvia Boorstein [b. 1936 ]
Busy, busy, busy! On a daily basis we make many reasons, many excuses for our continuous activity, our high-speed thinking and how stressed we are by it all! It’s as if our happiness and fulfillment are a matter of quantity, rather than quality. The more we do, the happier we will be! But who does this benefit? What should we do about it? What can we do about it?
Yes, we do live in a fast-paced society, where if we don’t keep up, we might miss out! Where the over-abundance of material things belies the unchanging needs of human beings. A little historical perspective shows us how this increasing activity is taking a steep turn upwards this century. It has undoubtedly been accelerated by the digital age of internet, social media and smart phones – whose 24-hour news cycle is recognised as changing politics, and whose nano-second click times impact all online interactions.
This reckless activity is driven by our over-active minds. And, in turn, it feeds our minds with ceaseless chatter, calculations and must-do lists. Yes, our busy minds are driven by our feelings, our needs, our wants, our conditioning since childhood. But they also divert us from any true awareness of our deeper reality, our essential self, our heart, our soul, our purpose.
We are just too busy to stop and dive more deeply into our consciousness, to reflect on our life and its quality, or even to set its priorities adequately to meet our true deep-felt needs. This is the recipe for an unfulfilled, unhappy life where unconscious drives, defenses and karmic patterns ambush us and, not surprisingly, disrupt our sense of self. This creates stress and feeds the cycle.
‘You can’t change what you’re doing until you know what you’re doing.’
~ Moshe Feldenkreis
The time-honored way to see this busy-ness clearly, and to find an alternative to its pressures and stress, is to think less, slow down, go deeper! There are many disciplines, both ancient and modern, available to address our mental over-activity, including yogas, martial arts, dance, art and endless forms of meditation. The key is to slow down!
Whereas the mind is quick, darting from thought to thought, the emotions, the body and the deeper aspects of our consciousness move at a slower pace. We can clear our mind of thought, by whatever means we choose, while remaining mindful. Only to the overactive mind does this seem a contradiction!
In mindfulness we can hear other aspects of our being ‘speak’ to us – in feelings, words and energies. We can attune to our higher self, connected through our heart to all creation. We can connect with our deepest feelings, bringing into consciousness those core beliefs, formed early in life, that shape us but no longer serve us, and which dwell, ever active, in our bodies.
‘Those people who are least aware of their unconscious side are the most influenced by it.’
~ Carl Gustav Jung [1875 – 1961]
In short, the best and only cure for busy-ness, is Bob Newhart’s famous psychotherapy: ‘Stop it! Just stop it’ Perhaps that sounds hard. . . even harsh. But it is true! Fortunately for us all, this is not a new problem. It seems inherent in the human condition and in our nature, and many great men and women have wrestled with it for centuries. What they have found is that the symbiotic, compassionate universe has given us many means to help us do just that: stop it!
Thankfully, since it not just easy to do, the benefits are enormous! They are commensurate with our efforts. For there is no substitute for a conscious life, no greater salve for suffering, and no greater path to higher realisation and peace than to follow the advice attributed to Gautama Buddha:
‘Work out your salvation with diligence.’
‘A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So, he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusion. By thoughts, I mean specifically, chatter in the skull. Perpetual and compulsive repetition of words, or reckoning and calculating . . . That’s to say, we confuse signs, words, numbers, symbols and ideas with the real world. . . Most of us would rather have money than tangible wealth. And a great occasion is somehow spoiled for us unless photographed. . . This is a disaster. For, as a result of confusing the real world of nature with mere signs such as bank balances and contracts, we are destroying nature. We’re so tied up in our minds that we’ve lost our senses. Time to wake up.’
– Alan Watts [1915 – 1973]