In some Buddhist tradition being busy is like a form of laziness. This concept was life changing for me.

The Activity Cleanse

by | Sep 9, 2019 | Uncategorized

 It has been a while since I last wrote. I realized in the winter I had fallen into an old familiar trap – becoming too busy. I heard once on a podcast (unfortunately I can’t remember which one or who was speaking so this will be anonymous but I swear the source is solid) that in some Buddhist tradition being busy is like a form of laziness. It is a sign that you’re not engaging the necessary work to hold the space in your life necessary to recognize, and then act on, the true priorities in your life. 

This concept was life changing for me when I heard it. In our Western culture being ridiculously busy is a sign of how important you must be. It’s a badge of honor in many circles to be constantly multitasking. Taking the perceptive that this in fact a way of simply avoiding making the call on what is really priority in your life was an about face for me. 

In some Buddhist tradition being busy is like a form of laziness. This concept was life changing for me.

Around the same time I had heard this podcast, I had also recently got a new license plate and through complete random selection the letters on the plate were BSY. It was like the universe was pointing a big red arrow saying “look here, you’re doing this and it isn’t good – fix it!” I made a pact with myself that day to be more mindful and vigilant about where and how I spent my time.

You’re probably thinking, “that’s all well and good to say but another to do”, and you’d be quite right. Despite the pact that I made I still slip into the routine and habit of over committing myself. I have many interests and I love to indulge them all. Like being at an all you can eat buffet of activities and wanting to sample everything until my plate is so full I don’t even know where to start.

It’s an insidious thing too, as it seems to creep up unexpectedly if you are not completely vigilant. You say yes to one or two things then the next thing you know you’re in the thick of full on chaos. Like one of those wild jugglers with ten spinning plates on sticks up in the air who is also juggling five balls with his feet at the same time. 

Here’s the thing about busy, since you’re moving from one thing to the next you’re never really present with anything. Like food or wine tastings, if you don’t stop to cleanse your palate between flavors everything ends up running together and you never get to really savour any of them. It actually saps you of precious life and you don’t even really enjoy any of it on the way because you’re too busy moving to the next thing.

Here’s the thing about busy, you’re never really present with anything.

I realized this winter I was slipping again. I decided I was doing an activity cleanse, and I was going to ‘Marie Kondo’ my life!

 Before I stripped anything away though, I took time to pay attention to where I was spending my time each week. Then I started to cut back slowly on those things that really were unnecessary. Where my commitments were minimal and expectations lower. Like entering a pool, I decided to take the slow decent of the stairs and get used to each new level rather than cannon-balling into the deep end. This worked well for me, I’m not an extremes kind of person, but I think for the right person ripping everything out in one fell swoop can work too.

Then I did the hardest thing, I forced myself to just hold that void of time. Resisting the urge to fill it up and instead use it to just be in silent reflection. This is where I fully grasped how much work it actually is just to hold space in your life, especially in our busy obsessed Western culture. Keeping it at bay is hard work, and abstaining from opportunities I generally would jump into was so much harder than I thought it would be. Even when I had a moment to sit or was waiting in traffic or at an elevator, resisting the urge to pick up my phone and check Facebook or email was challenging.

I spent a lot of time in meditation. It takes so much more time and space than I had expected to gain perspective again. I didn’t start committing until I was in a place where my default wasn’t to fill every moment, and where I could be at ease with quiet and solitude (when I got it) without the urge to fill it.

Many mediators take themselves out to the middle of no where and disconnect completely to achieve this. I knew that this isn’t something I could commit to in my current stage of life. However, I did find many small ways to achieve it by forcing myself to choose only three areas of focus. My family and work (so I can pay the bills) were necessary choices, so that really only left one area and I had to make choices. And making choices is hard! There’s always this crazy looming fear that I may choose wrong. Initially I had a lot of anxiety around it, but it’s like a muscle too that develops over time. As I started saying ‘not right now’ (as a people pleaser a flat out no is still not within me) more and more, I actually found it easier to stop taking on so much.

Slowing down the pace of my life has brought so many blessings. Being able to focus has allowed me to really savour and more thoroughly enjoy, with deep gratitude, the activities I have chosen to add back into my life. I’ve also discovered quality of time is much more important than quantity, especially when it comes to time spent with family and friends. Being fully present with those you care most about is really the greatest gift you can give.

Meditation for Activity Cleanse

Get into a comforable position, either seated or lying down, and just lay still. After a moment or two begin to witness your breathing. Noticing the feel of your rib cage expand, or the sensation of breath in your nostrils. Allow the breathe to come and go just witnessing it. 

After a minute or two of breathing, begin to scan your body from the top of your head to your toes. Noting any areas of stress or tension, and just gently allowing those areas to relax as much as they are able today.

When you are relaxed, focused on your breathing again. As thoughts come in, allow them to drift like clouds across your mind and release them. As you realize you have become caught in a thought, you can just note it by saying ‘thinking’ to your self and come back to your breathing.

After several minutes of quiet. Begin to reflect on your day. How do you feel about it? Do those feelings create physical sensations? Do you feel pushed and pulled?

Time is an absolute non-renewable resource. Every moment that passes is one you have given to something, and it you can not give it back. Where are you moments going? How do you feel about what you are giving your most precious resource to? 

If you could change how your time was being spent, what would that look like? What is your ideal day?

Reflect on this a while, and when you are done genetly bring yourself back to your surroundings. It is helpful to note anything inspirational, insightful or troubling you experienced while reflecting, and to take note of any commitments or changes you would like to make in your life.