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Are you busy doing, or busy being?


There is more to life than increasing its speed. –Mahatma Gandhi

It never ceases to amaze me how people spend their time. Whether its watching tv, working, or engaged in a hobby, most people fill their time to the upper limits and either complain or boast about how busy their lives are. I know only too well how easy it is to fall into the trap of taking too much on, but I also see a pattern in many people who are extremely busy, becoming frazzled rather than enjoying the ride. So the question is: are most people busy doing, or are they busy being? Is the time being filled with rich encounter or with the activity of chasing one’s tail?

For the most part, people don’t seem to mind being busy. In fact, there is a tendency to thrive in this state. When someone is engaged with a passion it is natural to want to spend one’s time cultivating it, learning about it, and spending more time doing ‘it’, whatever the ‘it’ may be. In some instances the ‘it’ can also make one feel important, valued and successful, and at the same time act as an escape from other aspects of life that are perhaps being avoided.

The downside of busy-ness is that it occupies one’s time, so there is simply less time available for other pursuits. Often without realizing it, very busy people begin to stop taking time for themselves, and distance themselves from important life events or even from friends and family. Time slips away, and so do the moments that bring meaning to one’s life. The over-extension is felt by others, and when we neglect those important to us, there are repercussions, and sometimes this means the weakening of a relationship or the loss of a friend.

The other side of general busy-ness is the relationship with control. When one is overly busy, there appears to be a correlation with the need to reign in other areas of life. It can be an exhausting cycle, running to the finish line of every chaotic day only to come home with a need to control the environment, or one’s administration, or fitness regime. It is ultimately not sustainable, and there are other ways of living.

Like most things, the first step is becoming aware. There is a great freedom to awareness. It affords the space to ask, how does it feel to turn down work or an invitation to an engagement? Is it possible to let go of the reigns over one or several of the things where the tendency is to control?

I’m not an expert in balancing a diary to avoid becoming overly busy, nor am I devoid of any control issues. I have been a busy person for much of my life, and know what it means to seek control in certain areas when other parts of are uncontrollable. My passion for yoga, philosophy and bodywork, and my commitment to my son and husband at times have had me wondering how to fit it all in. After all, there are only so many hours in the day.

Being in and out of the hospital since December 2012 has changed how I perceive time and also control in my life. When I am in the hospital as I was last week, I become unwell so suddenly that normal life comes to a screeching halt. I’m admitted into a boundaried and controlled environment, with little to do except contemplate life, read, and look forward to seeing the cherished, busy friends who manage to take time out for a visit. I think about things I want for my son as he grows into a little boy, I think about how amazingly grateful I am to be here on earth at all, to witness the suffering around me in the hospital and to do be able to do something for someone who is worse off than I am. It doesn’t take much, usually they are right next to you, or in my case, in the bed next to me, and too ill to do many of the things I can still manage on my own, like getting up to fetch fresh water or bathing.

When I come out of the hospital, there is always a period of a day or two where I feel very frustrated and unsettled. On the one hand I feel this tidal wave of relief to be free, yet on the other, I feel a lack of control in my life and surroundings with an urge to tend to all the things that have been left hanging since my hospital stay. I want to hop right back into my old life, but I realize that everything can’t be done all at once and there is an ‘easing back in’ process that has to happen. It’s at this point I find the space to meditate or to practice yoga, and come back to what is really important. I remember that I’m not in a normal functioning body, to ease up on myself; I remember that my son needs me. I take the time to value my family and friends, especially my husband who is there to support me (it’s amazing, he is ALWAYS there ready to help out). I remember how it felt to be busy in my old life, running from appointment to appointment, not having time to give all of myself to any one situation (I find there is a preoccupation that goes along with being busy). And then I remember how precious each moment is. The list of things ‘to do’ diminishes into something manageable, and slowly I move into the life I know in my current transient state outside of the hospital. In the back of my mind I know the in and out hospital pattern will continue until I receive the transplant, and this makes everything all the more precious. I realize how important it is to move slowly, to take the time to smell the roses and be mindful of each step. The pleasure of life exists in the smallest details of an experience; this is what is remembered. At the end of the day, busy-ness becomes nothing but a blur.

Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small it takes time; we haven’t time, and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time. –Georgia O’Keefe

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