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Beyond Busyness

This post appeared on the Huffington Post on January 27, 2015

I am writing this post at 2:46 in the morning on a late Sunday night/very early Monday morning. My mind woke up with a buzzing, restless energy, churning around the upcoming week’s schedule… a full mix of patients, kids’ activities, birthday parties, meetings, and dental appointments. All of it necessary, most of it enjoyable or rewarding, but still… busy.

The benefits of financial security, an active family and social life, and pursuing a dream career are tangible. Seductive even. These carrots convince us that we lead busy lives because we are important, or because it is a necessary part of a fulfilling life.

But these days, I find that it is not just the schedule that is busy. My mind is busy. My heart is busy. I am often find myself feeling overwhelmed, fragmented, and uncertain of where to place my next step. I lose time surfing the Web or fooling around on my phone.

Sometimes, maintaining a hectic life pace is a way to avoid what lies within us. Anxiety over the choices we make. A distraction from our flawed relationships with others, or even a flawed relationship with ourselves. Uncertainty about the work we choose, and finding alignment between the work that fulfills us, and the work that supports us. Worry about our children’s health and well-being, and the safety of the world in which they will live and raise their children.

When I keep myself moving and my life full of activity, I don’t have to face questions like these. These are questions I don’t have answers to, and I feel uncomfortable not knowing answers. I allow my external busyness to take on a life of its own. Instead of busyness becoming a purposeful part of the natural ebb and flow of life, it becomes life itself, a distraction from examining that which matters most.

When I wake to this realization at 2:46 a.m. on a Sunday night, I know it is again time to rein in my life. When I am too busy to know what I am even doing and why, I know I have traveled far away from myself. The relationship that we have with ourselves is the most important one we will ever have, and yet it is the one we are quickest to sacrifice.

It feels critical to make time, every day, to come back to ourselves. To reflect on our questions, choices, thoughts, emotions, reactions. It does not take long, but we must make it a priority to honor this type of knowing. For me, this requires finding moments of stillness, in the midst of a chaotic kind of life.

I can become still when I practice grounding activities that physically connect me to my internal and external world. I run so I can feel the earth beneath my feet. I sit in meditation so I can feel the cushion under my bottom. I meditate so I can hear my breath and observe my thoughts.

When I hold my son and daughters’ hands as we walk into school, I try to deliberately notice the soft fleshiness in my grasp. For a second, I savor the sweet trusting touch, before they shoot off like rockets, now, and in the greater arc of life.

When I write in my journal, I listen for the scratch of the pen against paper, and discover the magic of words appearing in ink. I can see blank spaces where there is no thought, and messy, scribbled after thoughts in the margins. I can hold this record in my hands, the product of my writing journey and my life journey, without fear of deleted words and spell check.

Your grounding practices might be different. Yoga, nature, perhaps playing an instrument. Your practice is your way to slow your life down, in the way that meets your specific needs and desires. Even if only for a moment, you are able to pay attention to that which unfolds within you and around you. It is your way to cultivate and honor a deeper relationship with yourself.

As we ground ourselves, one way or the other, we might slow down the pace of the mind and heart. And as the pace of the mind and heart slow down, we can sink a little deeper into our emotional and spiritual worlds. Perhaps we feel a little less need to fill our lives to the brim, because we can be with ourselves just as we are.

And perhaps life remains just as full and fast, but we can enjoy the journey a little more. We practice and learn and grow. It is the blessing of each passing day.


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