Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Really Busy

-Sunset at the Desert Retreat House-

There was an article yesterday in the New York Times about how overscheduled and overextended most people are in their everyday lives nowadays.

Ask people how they are today and the stock answer is 'super busy,' 'crazy busy,' or 'insanely busy.'
Nobody is just 'fine' anymore.

This struck me as being so very true in my own experience. People are always telling me about how really busy they are, even in the summer vacation season people are really busy, even out here in a desert, my neighbors tell me how really busy they are.

Kids may be off from school but they aren't just hanging idly around, they are all attending summer camps or taking swimming lessons or studying violin, and the adults are also really busy at work or in the home - engaging in projects, making plans, sending emails.

And even when people go on vacation they rush to the nearest computer to browse the web or play a game or watch a movie or send a text- everyone is always really, really busy - "insanely busy."

The article in the Times reported a recent study conducted by a group of psychologists and neuroscientists who discovered some surprising facts about just how uncomfortable most people are being "idle" - left alone with their thoughts. In fact people in this study were so uncomfortable that after about 6 minutes of being left alone in a room with nothing to do, they willingly administered  electric shocks to themselves as the price for being set free, allowed to leave the room and go back into a world of constant activity.  

The scientists concluded that people are so fearful of being left alone with their thoughts because there they come face to face with their own depression, problems and worries, so they will do anything to avoid being alone and introspective. 

I actually  think "insane" or "crazy" are probably good words to describe this kind of chaotic addiction   to constant activity, leading to all sorts of physical, mental and spiritual "unhealth." 

Doctors tell us that when people are unwilling to face their own "demons" ( sadness or fears, addictions or frustrations in life),  those "demons"  take control, causing any number of physical problems like rashes or stomach ailments  - a person who is "insanely busy" all day long often finds it hard to get to sleep at night.

Scientists also tell us that it is during the times when we are alone and idle that we tend to be most imaginative and most creative. I don't know anyone who has ever written a poem or book or come up with a great idea while suffocating in a quagmire of "really busy, crazy busy" days. 

Personally, I have designated at least two times in my own daily routine for some moments of quiet "mindful mediation"- when the sun rises and then again as it sets.

Actually I sometimes resist using the phrase "mindful meditation" because some people may think that this daily meditation practice involves some sort of high level of spiritual training demanding some highly developed  skills- maybe that's why I like the Zen description  of "mindful meditation:"

sitting and staring.

In the morning, and then again in the evening, I sit in my garden or on the patio and I deliberately do nothing--I sit and stare. I try to clear my mind of thoughts, awake in the present moment.  This is not a time for "busily" planning the day ahead or thinking about the day that has past.  But of course,  from time to time, a thought will enter my mind, perhaps a concern, a frustration, something that is bothering me. And when this does happen, I simply acknowledge it and let it go.

My designated period of "sitting and staring" is one of the richest, fullest and most important times of my entire day.

I don't know of anyone who can't spend a few minutes of every day pulling the plug on all the crazy busyness. The summer season may be a good time to "get into the swing of it" - do-nothing, sit and stare!


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