“We get such a kick out of looking forward to pleasures and rushing ahead to meet them that we can’t slow down enough to enjoy them when they come,” ~ Alan Watts
We live in a very tired world. The majority of workers suffer from burnout and extreme fatigue. And things nay not be different in other countries either. Slowing down can be frightening because ‘doing nothing’ leaves us feeling vulnerable and exposed, emotionally. Overworking hides these feelings of inadequacy or worthlessness, not just from others but also from ourselves.
As long as we keep busy, we can outrun that internal voice that says things like – ‘I am never good enough.’ Workaholism, therefore is just a form of escapism. The good old advice from zen masters is to “be more, do less.” For sure, you’ve heard that before. But we turned it on it’s head – ‘do-less; be-more’ has been made a personal development fantasy of our busy time – an honorable aspiration that everybody knows about but few actually practice. When meeting someone for the first time we usually ask, “What do you do?” We ask because, in our time and culture, identity is defined in large part by occupation or job title. It is how we typically define ourselves and how we understand our place in the world. We also classify and value people based on what they do. So, when we tell people that they should be less busy – that they should slow down, we get a ‘ yes, but ….’ reply.
Yes, but stamina and will power should be worshiped. Success through stick-to-itiveness is something our society adores. We have been told by the great men who walked before us: Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going!” and John Rockefeller expanded on that by mouthing, “There isn’t any other quality so essential to success as … perseverance … it overcomes almost everything, even nature.” We have conditioned ourselves to admiring perseverance to the point that – denying the needs of one’s body, mind and soul in pursuit of some external goal is seen as super-humanly virtuous.Yes, but we believe our self-worth depends on how much we do. Nobody ever says it out loud. Yet, most people feel better when they’re overly busy. We believe that the more work we can stuff into a day, the more deserving we are. We judge others by how much they accomplish, because this is the way we judge ourselves ! So much ingrained in our psyche it has become, that most of the time we don’t even realize it is there.Yes, but being busy gives us a sense of control. We like progress. We like growth. We fear stagnation and dormancy. It doesn’t matter if we are just circling uselessly around the same spot, just being busy gives us a sense of advancement. Even shooting arrows blindly into the dark, makes us feel safer than simply sitting warming our backsides. You see this clearly when disasters strike, be it a terrorist attack or a natural calamity. The first thing people ask is: “Why isn’t the government doing anything?” Because to most of us, a government that does, no matter how stupid or counter-productive its actions are, is way better than a government that does not.
One simple action that can free you from the blind busyness is this: Ask yourself what you need.
Ask yourself, at this very moment, what your body, mind and soul need. Then shut up and listen. Your body has an intelligence sharper than any IQ test can portray. Your soul has a wisdom so profound that no words can do it justice. But these superpowers of yours have a soft voice. And for many of us, that voice is further muffled and drowned amidst the loud clattering of our social conditioning, of our learned ideas about good and bad, right and wrong, “should” and “should not”.
When you listen with respect, you will hear the truth about what you need. Not some trumped up imaginary ideals approved by your ego. But, something to live in harmony, health, and joy. Certainly, you’ve censored this soft voice for a long time. So, it might get tough and the voice of truth may not speak to you for a while. But eventually it will, if you sincerely listen within. It may not present itself as a voice, but as a feeling, a knowing, a desire, or a whim coming out of nowhere.
It may tell you that you need to go lie down for twenty minutes, right now. It may tell you that you need to go to that little park near your office at lunch time and watch the birds. At times it may not be something you’d expect – that you need to drop the research assignment and go pick up a novel.
Of course there is the hard part. You need to trust the message you’re given and follow its lead as much as you can. Your inner knowing will only grow stronger if it’s taken seriously. Besides, what good does it do to have all the wisdom in the world, but not follow up with action? But it won’t be easy, at least in the beginning. The shackles of your existing belief structure will try to protest. Your self judgment will try to trap you in fear and guilt. They will give you a thousand reasons why you absolutely cannot afford to go take care of yourself, at least not in the now.
- Give yourself permission to slow down.
- Say NO to things that are not high on your priority list.
- Don’t forget to take time to breathe!
- Get enough rest!
Life makes heavy demands. Just remember to take time for yourself. The journey is long and tiring. Slow down and make yourself a priority in this life journey. Remember, you will get there in due time.
Slow down, enough. Ask yourself what you need. And take action to give yourself exactly that.