The ‘being busy’ demand and how we can relate to it

‘I am busy’ seems to be the default answer to the question: ‘How are you?’ The ‘I am well, how are you?’ automatic response seems to be replaced by ‘I am busy, you too?’. Telling each other how we busy we are is indicating how important we are, and it also implies that being busy is the new ‘usual’. Being busy is a benchmark that ‘decides’ who is worthy, or who is not, who is important, or who is not, who is lovable or who is not and so on. The ‘I am busy, I am worthy’ message does have the potential to be an underlying driver of our response and believe in being busy all the time.

The ongoing multi-tasking overload, the constant need to be on the go, every minute checking of our phones, the jumping from one task to the next, juggling demands, appointments and meetings is fed by the need to control our lives all the time. No wonder why we believe we are busy, because there is so much to do at home or at work. Workloads are increasing, resources and budgets are dropping, we are expected to do more for and with less. Everywhere is demand and there doesn’t seem to be an end to it. The result is that we feel exhausted and stressed and we do the best we can to meet daily challenges. And we accept and believe that life is busy – full stop.

Brené Brown once said: ‚one of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy’. There is no need to be busy. Of course, there are many tasks and duties we got to do, but believing we are busy all the time doesn’t seem to help, and it doesn’t seem to be a true reflection of facts. We are feeling busy because it feels good, it implies a status symbol and provides a sense of being in charge and being important. Being busy doesn’t mean that we must make tough decisions, decisions are already made, and we simply act on it. External demands and circumstances are in control of our way of lives. So being busy is an easy way out. It actually takes courage to step out of this vicious cycle.

‘Ben Hunnicutt, professor of leisure studies at the University of Iowa, explains, busy is actually one of the seven deadly sins; it is slothfulness. In the Middle Ages, slothfulness had two forms: one is lazy, the other – acedia – is running about frantically. “There is no real place I’m going, but by God, I’m making great time getting there.” (taken from Tony Crabbe, ) How thought provoking.

Yes, think about it. There are many reasons why we are busy: avoiding making tough decisions, being addicted (dopamine release), society demand, reward and expectations.

So, the question is how can we work with this trend more wisely, and how can we respond with mindfulness and compassion?

A few questions to consider: what to say when being ask ‘are you busy too?’, ‘how to deal with the inner critic and judgment?’, ‘how to deal with a sense of unworthiness that might be evoked when our answer is ‘I am not busy’?’, and ‘how to deal with a sense of guilt that may surface when we are not buying into the mandatory busyness default reaction?’.

What to answer: As we all know the answer is not only words, it also contains non-verbal cues and can be displayed in posture, facial expression and gestures. Perhaps taking in an attitude of compassion for the other could help to start with. Take a breath or two before responding. Be aware that the feeling of being busy has underlying reasons (fear to be unimportant, unworthy, unlovable, bored, underachiever, vulnerable). Rather than saying ‘yes, I am busy too’ – see whether it is possible to say ‘I am focusing on … at the moment’.

Dealing with the inner critical voice and feeling of guilt: Keep in mind that probably no one ever said to you ‘what, you are not busy, then you must not be important, or must not be clever, or must not skilled enough’. Right? But you can hear that voice inside acting as if this would be the truth. The good thing is that it is not the truth. It is just our mind that is making it up.

Nevertheless, you are perceiving and experiencing a combination of tasks not as busy, but your mind may come up with the same story again ‘what, you are not busy?, ‘everyone is, what is wrong with you, you should be busy, others are too, you should work harder …’ Does that sound familiar? And it might evoke a sense or feeling of guilt too.

The invitation is to simply notice and acknowledge the thoughts, to bring kindness to the mind and body by practicing self-compassion. Descend awareness into the body, ground and anchor yourself. For example, being aware of the soles of your feet, being aware of all senses, placing your hands over that part of the body where you feel the judgement or guilt or any other feeling the most. Notice the gentle touch and the gentle rising and falling of this part of the body with every in-and outbreath.

The regular practice of mindfulness meditation and compassion helps developing greater capacity for attending to and being with any discomfort. The brain becomes less hooked and reactive with further practice. A very useful practice for  coping is the three minute breathing space. Feel free to listen and practice it on

Explore your relationship with ‘being busy’: Do you find yourself saying ‘I am busy’ very often? Then a good way to explore this to list every task and activity right from waking up in the morning until you go back to bed at the end of the day.

Write down what happens during the day, morning, afternoon, evening, work days, weekends. Maybe just chose one typical day of yours and see whether you can be detailed and specific (include brushing teeth, shower etc). Once the list is done have a look at it. What do you notice?

Then go through every task on the list and divide the list into things that lift your mood or that feel nourishing and into things that feel more draining or depleting. Put an ‘N’ next to all things that are perceived as nourishing and put a ‘D’ next to all things that dampen your mood. Sometimes you may not be able to decide whether it is nourishing or depleting. Then put ‘N/D’ next to it.

Investigate and consider depleting activities that can be stopped or that might feel a bit more nourishing if you would bring a different approach to them?

Ordinary and routine tasks may often feel depleting. What would happen if you could bring a beginner’s mind to it? Here is a way to consider ‘The cup in your hands. . . There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes. . . . If while washing the dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future – and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.’ (Thich Nhat Hanh ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’)

Back to the list. Having a look at the nourishing activities and considering how you could have more of them? Is there anything you could let go of to have nourishing activities more often? Explore your sense of busyness. Look for where there are any attempts to fill space with stimulation. Can you bring more mindfulness presence to it?

It is OK to not be busy. It is OK to be focused or having a sense of accomplishment without any sense of busyness. It is OK to pause and stop and to think clearly, and to fill the gaps with awareness and presence. It is OK to just BE.

Day of Mindfulness – what to expect

This retreat day will be offering you greater insight into the impermanence of our mind- and body states. It is a great opportunity to take your experience and use of the MBSR/MBCT and mindfulness skills beyond the formal mindfulness-based programs.

This retreat day intends to assist you with establishing mindfulness and fostering mindfulness skills across all sorts of situations in your live. During the day we will be cultivating a sense of being and non-doing from moment to moment.

And the practice of mindfulness meditation invites you to be open to any experience, no matter whether pleasant or unpleasant or neutral.

Each practice is an opportunity to cultivate aspects of equanimity. And that doesn’t mean that you have to be a super meditator or that you have to try very hard. It is just a matter of keeping some principles in mind as you connect with your experience in the moment and these attitudes can help support a sense of equanimity.

Why should I attend?

 This intensive day is a great opportunity to look after yourself, to explore what the non-doing is like. It is just time for being with the ever changing experience and its qualities. The day of mindfulness is a rare day, a day for exploring what it is like not to fill our time with distractions, noticing what comes up and quality of contact with this experience as it changes (moving toward/away/ against or meeting it). We get to be with this changing landscape of our mind through the day, non-judgmentally.

How is this day structured?

The day of mindfulness is guiding you through different mindfulness meditation practices: sitting meditation, walking meditation and mindful movement. Some of the meditations will have some introductory instructions and then be practiced in silence.

Why silence?

 You may have noticed this day of mindfulness is often referred to as ‘silent retreat day’. Why silence? Being silent means that you are encouraged to not socialise or initiate contact with other participants during the day. Treat the experience of silence as a gift and a generosity for  yourself  and  others. Using less eye contact will help you tuning insight and will reduce the amount of interferences.

The practicing community

 This day of mindfulness is offered to people who are practicing mindfulness, who want to reconnect with or refresh their mindfulness skills, and/or who want to spend a day in the space of guided and unguided silent meditations.

What do I need to bring?

  •  Water
  • A Mug for tea/coffee
  • Lunch: please note there is no lunch catering, no fridge; please bring vegetarian meal
  • Bring mats, cushions, blankets, or any other items to help in your practice. There are chairs too in case you prefer to sit on a
  • Sun cream, umbrella (or rain coat just in case), sun glasses (will do walking meditation outdoors).
  • Comfortable clothes, wear loose fitting clothes, perhaps bring socks as temperatures may

What if I struggle?

 There will be a message board where you can leave a note for the mindfulness teacher. Lunch time can be used for check-in with the teacher.

May you enjoy this day with kindness and compassion.

On Walking

Who would have thought that WALKING can be quite meditative? Yes, it is actually true – because everything we do can be used as meditation if we bring awareness and attention to it. Really tuning into what is happening in the moment without any distraction helps to be fully present.

Walking meditation comes with some ease, we do it anyhow, we don’t have to add anything at all. We walk and breathe. In the context of mindfulness, we do it in a particular way. And the good thing is we can meditate so very often without any additional or extra time. Every walk can be an opportunity to meditate.

Most of the time, we walk from A to be, there is place we want to get to and we just walk with there without any noticing, well most of the time. We walk on autopilot whilst our mind is very often occupied with thoughts and worries.

Walking meditation invites us to pay attention in a particular way, in the now and by noticing the act of walking itself. When focusing on the experience of walking, the embodiment of walking we are no longer lost in automaticity, ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.

Walking meditation offers us to turn attention inwards, connecting with our body when things are getting frantic. Bringing attention inside leads to inner calm and clarity which leads to greater quality of this very moment.

It can be quite liberating, letting go of past and future, whilst simply focusing on every step we take – and it is the walk itself, not the finish line we are aware of. Don’t have to get anywhere, we are already here. Every step taken with intention helps quietening the mind. Inner peace, clarity and stability can be experienced when we deliberately pay attention to this one step, the next step and the next step.

Mindfulness, walking and breathing in awareness and if possible a smile on your face. That is it. How do we do a walking meditation?

Mindfulness is the key for being aware of walking, breathing and smiling. Mindfulness offers awareness in this very moment with an attitude of non-judgment and a beginner’s mind.

Participants find below suggestions very helpful when they at the start of their practice:

  • Take a few steps at home – that may help feeling a bit safer and might be easier to focus; once your attention can stay for longer go for a walk in nature and later focus on walking wherever you are; start slowly
  • Start with a few steps – no marathon needed
  • Pace doesn’t matter – start slowly, but not too slow that you fall over
  • Morning practice is always recommended – a nice way to start the day – it helps setting an intention for the day
  • Take your shoes off and connect with earth – feel the support and groundedness
  • Walk like a king (that’s what Thich Nhat Hanh said) – with dignity and uprightness
  • Walking meditation can be done everywhere, between meetings, from the car park to the office, from the garage to the house, when shopping etc

Be aware of the breath when walking. Maybe bring some playfulness to the experience of walking and count the steps with every inbreath and outbreath. Experiment and tune in with the rhythm of breathing and walking.

And here is a guided standing and walking practice.


Three Minute Breathing Space (3MBS)

The Three Minute Breathing is a very useful coping strategy. It helps us pausing intentionally to simply checking in with this moment. A moment that may feel unpleasant and challenging, or a moment that feels quite nice and pleasant. If the experience is more about struggle and difficulty the 3MBS offers us four different ways of dealing with it. It is recommended to practice this technique not only for coping, but also on a regular basis. It helps us checking in with whatever is showing up. There is an intention that helps to pause, to see more clearly and to investigate with curiosity. It can help calming the mind and body and helps us in proceeding in a much more calmer way. By seeing more clearly we can also choose a more skillful action to respond. The 3MBS also helps being more aware of and expanding on pleasant experiences. With the same openness and curiosity we are noticing moments that feel nice and that we might have missed if we wouldn’t stop with intention.

Step 1  Opening Awareness – checking in with thoughts, emotions and sensations. Simply noticing what is present in this very moment. This might be something pleasant, unpleasant or kind of neutral. Use three guiding questions: what are my thoughts; what are the emotions associated with the thoughts; and how does it feel in the body? Located sensation in the body.

Step 2 Grounding – shifting the focus of attention to the awareness of breathing. Noticing breathing sensations and movements in the body. Making space for the incoming breath, and letting go of the outgoing breath.

Step 3 Proceeding – expanding awareness to the entire body, environment, soundscape.

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