The Veneration of Busyness! – It’s time to stop!

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We’ve all heard the saying by Benjamin Franklin,

‘If you want something done ask a busy person.’

Maybe that’s you. Are you constantly rushing from one thing to another? Is someone you know regularly late to meet up because they are just ‘rushed off their feet.’ When you meet with friends is the person who thinks their life is so busy, always the last to arrive? Dashing in at the last minute in a flap about how busy they’ve been just to underline how difficult it has been to find the time to see you. Even when people are away from their busy work life they then dash to the gym or exercise class. They are now busy getting fit. So being busy is often seen as synonymous with being important, at least by the people claiming to be busy.

I however, prefer the old Zen saying;

‘You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.’

We have become a society that venerates being busy. We don’t give enough value to doing ‘nothing.’

This is particularly strange because there is a growing feeling that our children’s lives are too full. Their days are filled with school, followed my swimming club, music lessons, rugby or football practise, netball matches, extra tutoring and homework, to name just a few activities. But many parents are beginning to think that children benefit from unstructured time. Time may be spent on their own, or time telling you that they are ‘bored.’ However, we all know that a period of boredom regularly develops into something more fascinating. Something that your child discovers for themselves from the quietness within.

The basis of all life is a field of creativity and intelligence, but if we fill all of our time with frantic activities we never get to settle our minds enough to experience this field. We confuse activity or busyness with achievement. Someone who arrives at the office at 7 am every morning and is the last to leave every evening looks busy. But are they actually achieving more than everyone else? Are they in fact just trying to give the impression of hard work?

The business environment is probably the worst place for venerating being busy. People are judged by the hours they put in, not by their output. People are thought less of if the leave the office on time at the end of the working day. Putting in extra hours is what it is all about if you want to get that promotion and make your way to the top.

So being busy and being productive can often be two different things – but far too much credit is given to the busy aspect. We all know friends who are regularly too busy to meet up. The reality, sadly, is that being too busy is a myth. No-one is ever too busy. If you are a priority and they care enough they will make time. We all know people who constantly post how busy they are on social media. Do you, like me, have to stop yourself from replying, ‘well stop leaving messages on Facebook and get on with it.’

People boast about how busy they are. At this time of year people also understate their readiness for Christmas. You hear people saying they have done nothing when you know they’ve bought and wrapped all their gifts already. What is that all about? I think it’s about a lack of self-worth. We are only as good as how busy we are. It’s a very sad state of affairs. We need to stop, look at the sky, smell the roses, meet our friends, phone our parents, read a book, cook a meal from scratch, leisurely write a letter or go for a walk.

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Enjoy a walk on the beach

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Stop a moment for tea

I suspect many people fill their lives with ‘stuff’ to stop them having to look at issues in their lives. If they fill every moment then there is not time left for introspection.

One of the things that I loved to hear, when I learnt Transcendental Meditation 40 years ago, was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s saying

‘Do less and accomplish more. Do nothing and accomplish everything.’

Of course, Maharishi was talking about the time that we should spend in meditation every day. By taking time for ourselves, to recharge our batteries and dip into that reservoir of creativity and intelligence  we return to activity refreshed and with greater clarity of thought. We are able to accomplish more on the basis of the time we spend doing ‘nothing.’

We need balance in our lives. We all enjoy activity, getting things done and  a sense of achievement, but it becomes counter-productive if we never take time out. So I think that old zen saying is very apt, so here it is again:

‘You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.

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