So many of us busy ourselves to avoid confronting the emotions that arise when sitting still. If we are constantly jumping from one obligation to another, we do not have time to deal with the discomfort of simply being in our own company.
Busyness as Purpose
Almost every human in the Western world wants to believe their existence on Earth corresponds with a purpose they were put here to execute. So many of us love to fill our schedules on a daily basis, dashing from work to the gym to running errands that even in our downtime we are making plans or entertaining ourselves with media.
But what is the real reason we like to be busy? Is this hunger to achieve our personal goals a distraction from dealing with the deeper feeling that we don’t know why we’re here, who we really are, and what we are meant to do? It would certainly seem that way, because once our personal goals are accomplished, we generate new goals. Rarely do we take the time to sit in gratitude (inaction) for what we have achieved before we are on to the next thing. Life then becomes a checklist of events rather than a flow of self-awareness.
The Discomfort of Waiting
Hate waiting for a delayed train? Can’t stand it if your phone dies in a restaurant while you are waiting alone for a friend? It is torture for most to listen to their inner monologues with no distraction. Why? Because there is no external validation. Frustration, sometimes even guilt, arises at perceived wasted time as a result of doing nothing. The irony of our discomfort in waiting is that we always are – we just find ways to fill that void instead of making peace with it.
Then there’s other people. Since other people around us are busy, we think we should be too. It makes us feel important to create schedules that push our bodies and distract our minds. When we are busy, we struggle. Therefore, in the few moments when we pause, our sense of accomplishment is greater. Our appreciation in sitting still is higher, but the joy also comes because we know the time is limited to when we must busy ourselves again. Other people are doing it, so it must be the right thing to do. External validation creeps in to remind us we are not important and our lives do not matter if we are not accomplishing tasks.
Then there’s money. It is human nature to be curious and hungry to learn new things. We are always expanding. Western society capitalizes on our curiosity at a young age, teaching us that we must channel it into ways that make money. Our busyness serves to feed us, keep a roof over our heads, and protect us. We are taught we must be productive, and our actions must make money. Guilt and fear arise in pursuing passions that do not provide monetary gain. Busying ourselves in actions that offer no financial reward are viewed as selfish and foolhardy by many who operate in the shared belief that wealth equates to worth and life satisfaction. But little mention is given to how very few people ever feel they have enough. These actions that bring only joy are labeled as “hobbies.” A greater sense of accomplishment and praise from others is then derived from turning a “hobby” into a financial transaction. No one ever asks an actor if they are happy. They ask what they have been in because they want to know if the actor is making money from the craft to determine the actor’s success.
So many people do not find joy in their journey by focusing upon where they are now, only in thinking about where they are going. Thus, the joy is always out of reach. Once the journey reaches its destination, a new journey is carved out, perpetuating the cycle. The lack of connection to the present moment is the source of suffering. This is why people love traveling, playing sports, or participating in adrenaline-seeking activities. Joy is found more easily in these activities that encourage connection to the present moment, a time when the mind is less resistant to the reality before them.
It is no coincidence that mindfulness is becoming a popular trend in the Western world. Many are turning their attention to spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation to bring them the peace they crave and cannot find in being busy. Since technology has become such a core part of our daily lives, feeding our hunger to always be busy, our poor selves are worn out. We long to find comfort in stillness. Meditation offers the self the chance to be heard. That’s why so many people struggle with it – their minds are not used to a calm state. The tragedy that is the case with so many people who seek emotional fulfillment in partners, career, finances, travel, and ingesting substances is that nothing ever feels enough because all the self truly wants is for you to sit down with it, speak kindly, connect to the moment and find the profound joy that exists in every breath.
Some Tips To Reconnect With Yourself
1. Meditate whenever you can, even if it is a struggle at first. Start small. Close your eyes for five minutes every day and just ask yourself how you are feeling. Connect to your emotional body and ask why you might be feeling a certain way. Release it. Connect to your physical body and notice any ailments.
2. Speak kindly to yourself and about yourself in front of others.
3. When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, take a moment to think of the many wonderful things that you have in your life. Gratitude is the key to happiness because it does not long for more.
4. Spend some time every day completely alone and in silence.
5. Be conscious of blaming others for their actions. Ask yourself what their behavior might be trying to teach you. By turning the attention back onto yourself, you will begin to understand yourself better.
6. Find time to pursue your passions without guilt or shame in your ability.
7. Respect your body when it is tired and rest.