I am working on busy. The I-can’t-stop, I-am-driven, there-is-a-motor-inside-me-and-it runs-on-high-gear kind of busy. Jump in, get to work, clean, cook, scoot to Shaw’s for toilet paper, get to the dump before it closes, and by the way, sweep-the-deck kind of busy. Frenzied hustle and bustle. Do it now. Get it done.
Busy tells me that quiet things don’t matter, that stopping and listening to a friend’s call or to our own intuition isn’t essential. Busy says no one cares about books or poets or creativity.
Busy is a restless tyrant with no time to stop, to breathe, to relax, to notice the world around me…that pink and purple sunset I just missed because the engine of busy revs up day and night. With all my running to get there, I usually fail to spot the here: the smiles of my grandchildren right in front of me, the few red and orange leaves already, the awaiting picnic tables in the park. Busy is so full of energy that it has no space in it, no room for what every spiritual tradition teaches: the openness of inner peace, quiet time to appreciate life’s mysteries, to feel the gratitude of being alive, to sense wonder and awe. Busy is ready, set, go.
So I am working on busy, or rather I am instituting a practice of non-busy. Attempting non-busy is the what of this endeavor. The how is much tougher for me, maybe for most Westerners. Typhoons of wild thoughts whoosh through our minds. Their primary command is, “Multi-task. Pick up the kids. Grab a quick bite. Call that client, hold the phone to your ear with one hand while you turn on the oven with the other and close its door with one hip, balancing groceries on the other. Hurry.”
It’s so hard to stop, so why bother? Why try non-busy? I suppose to feel more balanced, calmer. To see the beauty in our Casco Bay. To give that still small voice half a chance. And, believe it or not, to have more energy.
How? We hear the inner whip, “go faster.” And we work consciously to bring up a healthier slow down. We hear, “This is not enough. You’ll never finish the job.” And we remind ourselves that we are doing the best we can.
My teacher for non-busy practice is Winnie the Pooh, (the following from Hoff, Benjamin. The Tao of Pooh. Penguin Group. New York, New York. 1982).
“Say, Pooh, why aren’t you busy?” I said.
“Because it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.
“Why ruin it?” he said.
“But you could be doing something Important,” I said.
“I am,” said Pooh.
“Oh? Doing what?”
“Listening,” he said.
“Listening to what?”
“To the birds. And that squirrel over there.”
“What are they saying?” I asked.
“That it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.
When I can get myself to practice non-busy, I notice the windy thoughts in my head blow and then stop. I notice the flames of the fire in my belly cool. I notice I can shift into low gear. Tonight I sat on my front porch with my friend, Alice. We enjoyed each other, had a long chat and laughed together waiting for Nancy and D to join us. And we noticed that non-busy waiting is not about “when will they get here?” It’s about being here now. Simple.
Non-busy sitting allowed us to feel like human beings rather than human doings. Because it was a nice day.
Susan Lebel Young, (www.heartnourishemnt.com) author of Lessons from a Golfer: A Daughter’s Story of Opening the Heart, and Food Fix: Ancient Nourishment for Modern Hungers, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.