The Disease of Being Busy

Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 5:56am
Photo by Tom

The Disease of Being Busy

I saw a dear friend a few days ago. I stopped by to ask her how she was doing, how her family was. She looked up, voice lowered, and just whimpered: “I’m so busy… I am so busy… have so much going on.”

Almost immediately after, I ran into another friend and asked him how he was. Again, same tone, same response: “I’m just so busy… got so much to do.”

The tone was exacerbated, tired, even overwhelmed.

And it’s not just adults. When we moved to North Carolina about ten years ago, we were thrilled to be moving to a city with a great school system. We found a diverse neighborhood, filled with families. Everything felt good, felt right.

After we settled in, we went to one of the friendly neighbors, asking if their daughter and our daughter could get together and play. The mother, a really lovely person, reached for her phone and pulled out the calendar function. She scrolled… and scrolled… and scrolled. She finally said: “She has a 45-minute opening two and half weeks from now. The rest of the time it’s gymnastics, piano, and voice lessons. She’s just…. so busy.”

Horribly destructive habits start early, really early.

How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to our children? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?

Whatever happened to a world in which kids get muddy, get dirty, get messy, and heavens, get bored? Do we have to love our children so much that we overschedule them, making them stressed and busy — just like us?

What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?

How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?

Somewhere we read, “The unexamined life is not worth living… for a human.” How are we supposed to live, to examine, to be, to become, to be fully human when we are so busy?

This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.

Since the 1950s, we have had so many new technological innovations that we thought (or were promised) would make our lives easier, faster, simpler. Yet, we have no more “free” or leisurely time today than we did decades ago.

For some of us, the “privileged” ones, the lines between work and home have become blurred. We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time.

Smart phones and laptops mean that there is no division between the office and home. When the kids are in bed, we are back online.

One of my own daily struggles is the avalanche of email. I often refer to it as my jihad against email. I am constantly buried under hundreds and hundreds of emails, and I have absolutely no idea how to make it stop. I’ve tried different techniques: only responding in the evenings, not responding over weekends, asking people to schedule more face-to-face time. They keep on coming, in volumes that are unfathomable: personal emails, business emails, hybrid emails. And people expect a response — right now. I, too, it turns out… am so busy.

The reality looks very different for others. For many, working two jobs in low-paying sectors is the only way to keep the family afloat. Twenty percent of our children are living in poverty, and too many of our parents are working minimum wage jobs just to put a roof over their head and something resembling food on the table. We are so busy.

The old models, including that of a nuclear family with one parent working outside the home (if it ever existed), have passed away for most of us. We now have a majority of families being single families, or where both parents are working outside the home. It is not working.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.

I teach at a university where many students pride themselves on the “study hard, party hard” lifestyle. This might be a reflection of many of our lifestyles and our busy-ness — that even our means of relaxation is itself a reflection of that same world of overstimulation. Our relaxation often takes the form of action-filled (yet mindless) films, or violent and face-paced sports.

I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life.

We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. It’s not just about “leaning in” or faster iPhones. We want to be truly human.

W. B. Yeats once wrote:

“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”

How exactly are we supposed to examine the dark corners of our soul when we are so busy? How are we supposed to live the examined life?

I am always a prisoner of hope, but I wonder if we are willing to have the structural conversation necessary about how to do that, how to live like that. Somehow we need a different model of organizing our lives, our societies, our families, our communities.

I want my kids to be dirty, messy, even bored — learning to become human. I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye, touch one another, and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing? I am taking the time to reflect on my own existence; I am in touch enough with my own heart and soul to know how I fare, and I know how to express the state of my heart.

How is the state of your heart today?

Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by saying, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up by saying, “I know, love. We all are. But I want to know how your heart is doing.”


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Omid Safi

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Thursday.

He is Director of Duke University's Islamic Studies Center. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam, and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion. In 2009, he was recognized by the University of North Carolina for mentoring minority students in 2009, and won the Sitterson Teaching Award for Professor of the Year in April of 2010.

Omid is the editor of the volume Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, which offered an understanding of Islam rooted in social justice, gender equality, and religious and ethnic pluralism. His works Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam, dealing with medieval Islamic history and politics, and Voices of Islam: Voices of Change were published 2006. His last book, Memories of Muhammad, deals with the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. He has forthcoming volumes on the famed mystic Rumi, contemporary Islamic debates in Iran, and American Islam.

Omid has been among the most frequently sought speakers on Islam in popular media, appearing in The New York Times, Newsweek, Washington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN and other international media. He leads an educational tour every summer to Turkey, to study the rich multiple religious traditions there. The trip is open to everyone, from every country. More information at Illuminated Tours.


Share Your Reflection



life is beautiful yet complicated and my heart is tired and wants to see

So pleased there are others that have the same perspective of a world in the grips of techno chaos.when did we loose the ability to connect to our souls? What is needed to create a better balance

This is stunning. Thank you so so much.

excellent article and speaks loudly.

I don't know how to start. I discuss what my children are doing, with them and to others about them, but I do express where they are in my heart. Friends to do this with are rarer. I do have a group of with whom I relate primarily in this territory. My in-laws are fully present; I don't turn off much and dwell too much in their realities as I see them. In that, I cheat myself. So I'm too busy too. and don't self-examine well or enough. This, even though I have worlds of time: I assign myself tasks of supreme importance which are due immediate and by which I create great stress.

This is exactly what has been on my heart for some time now. I have been talking with relatives about young girls in particular who are so lost and so sad, and my first thought is always "when was the last time a parent just sat with her and said nothing, in a park, in her bedroom, on a yoga mat....just SAT. My heart is joyful mostly because my nuclear family is so loving... yet I feel a need to reach out beyond to those who are not so blessed, this article has been a catalyst to help me to do that.. Thank you.

This is so well stated. I think that at least to some extend this disease is further along in the US than in some other cultures, It is hard to change the culture, but we can change our own situation, at least to some degree. But one of the things we have to let go of first is the need for the approval from others.


I love the idea of contrasting the human being with a human doing. What a brilliant way to sum this up. Recently I refocused on the being after three years of too much doing! Recently I have had time to build a cob oven and loved being up to my elbows or ankles in mud. My children have noticed that I've been more relaxed too - that is the best reward of all.

Oh, to know someone understands this!I remember my 13 year old once saying, Mom, why didn't we DO stuff? Everyone else has been doing stuff in the summer, I am the only one who didn't. Why didn't we go to camps and get on baseball teams and do the park programs and...(you know the list). I protested. I reminded her of dance lessons (3 kinds), her performance troup, our trips to vacation like Yellowstone and Hawaii and swimming in the little lake next door in our afternoons. No , she meant, why didn't my children do things away, on their own, without the family. I was ...confused. Hon, we are meant to enjoy each other, to love our time together, to BE. Summer is when we get to not run on someone else's schedule. Summer is FOR us. I love you children, I love seeing your play, your creativity, your changes as you grow. Why would I work so hard to send you away in summer? I will never send you away and mask it as a good thing. You may choose to leave, but I would not have you sent away from me. She pondered that for a good long time, it never came up again they are all grown and are so...busy. But none of the kids have a television, they are pretty reasonable about what tech they use, nature is important in their lives but...they are so scheduled. It is what the world is, it seems.

What a wonderful sentiment and article. I love when my kids tell me they are bored because that is the moment imaginations come alive! It is a very important point. It is the difference between living and just doing.
The Light is in the soulful connections. Darkness keeps us from the Light in the busyness.
For change look where you want to go and doing will either fall in that path or not.
How's your heart?!
Love it!

A nice meditation. I did check my Arabic-English dictionary (Al mawred al Waseet), and the English equivalent of the Arabic word haal is condition, not heart--which is what I have known all these years of asking someone in Arabic how they're doing.

Grew up on a farm with 9 siblings and wonderful, caring parents. Our "play" time was Sunday after church until we milked the cows that evening, We all had chores and of course played with each other at times but no little league, soccer, music lessons. My Dad played with us, we organized our own games with neighbors but no referees, uniforms. School & church activities happened but it was a great balance of life, the pace dictated by seasons, work that needed to be done, church, school, and family events. I am grateful for growning up in this simple way and for the work ethic it instilled.

My heart is longing for change, for freedom. Also hopeful. This is a beautiful article. Thank you.

When someone is speaking to you, listen; really listen and engage, not just 'hear'.

Wow so true; don't forget to respond! RSVP is imperative in all relationships. Engaging is empathetic. Empathy is not sympathy; it involves 'being there'.

lovedthe blog on of my favorites j truly struggle wwith this concept

Very true!!! My heart is at a peaceful state today as I spend sweet treasured time with my hubby all day,just a day at home together!!!

I'm thinking....
If you are getting HUNDREDS of emails a day, or even anything near 100, or over 20 or 30! The only JOB you need to do that day is to figure out how to not get those emails anymore. Are they really that productive? If people are sending you crap that does not respect your time, I'd just delete their emails. If they REALLY need something from you, they'll contact you.
I have to assume that your work does NOT require 100+ emails per day. How many hours per day do you actually work? If it is over 8 or 10 and if it is spread out over your entire waking hours, I'd get a different job, or find a way to change it to make any kind of sense. When you leave work, leave it. If you work from home, find a way to commit to leaving it at some point in time. Also, I'd get rather crappy with the people who are emailing you at all hours of the day. If it's not that important, let them know that they should not bother you until tomorrow. People who think that they are so important that their needs outweigh yours are not worth having in your life.

Wow! You really have all the answers for someone else that you don't even know.

I email people at all times of the day, and on weekends. I don't expect them to reply...

It sad but it's true

This article touched me. I feel how I struggle to want connection and community and yet, my urge to stay busy and isolate by performing is an addiction. I'm safer when I am in my head spiraling, thinking about the past or the future, and never the present state. Thank you for this refreshing reminder to stop, listen, and pay attention to myself, what my needs are, and find ways to reach out to others to share and connect.

Thank you for your thoughtful words. I will incorporate them into thoughts as I walk in the woods today.

Thank you for writing this good sir. It is unfortunate that almost all who fall into the busy-trap, do so with the knowledge that it is harmful. The reason I refer to it as a trap, is because once you start down the path, it is extremely difficult to get yourself out of it - it is sort of like quicksand, the more you struggle, the more difficult it becomes. It is almost as if someone needs to just let go. Let go of their preconceptions, let go of their anger, hate, jealousy, sadness and so on. This is a very difficult feat to accomplish, and many spend countless years attempting to reach this point.

It takes a deep-seated desire to change. Most people's desire only scratches the surface of their being, and they go about making changes haphazardly without truly knowing themselves. Thankfully, I've experienced a great deal of trauma/pain. (Un)fortunately, it takes some sort of life-altering event for most people to truly look within and introspectively analyze their past, present and future. With great pain comes great awareness. Luckily for me, my path led me to reconnect with my spiritual nature, where I felt the call to look within and rid myself of my harmful environment/habits. I hope anyone coming across this passage considers the benefits of meditation and nature.

And know that you are not alone! Regardless of how people present themselves to the world, deep down everyone has a feeling of emptiness. Usually this causes them to go out into the world seeking ways to fill it. This leads many people down many detrimental paths, but it doesn't have to be this way. We are enough, you are enough. There is nothing you need (besides sustenance and water ha ha) in this world other than yourself. You are beautiful. You are perfect. We are one.

thats so beautiful. It's true pain and trauma makes us beautiful, makes us better inside when we keep looking for answers.

Beautifully stated. Thank you & Namaste'

when one stays busy, it shelters oneself from asking the self-reflective questions which are thought proving and at times painful and we as a species avoid pain. I'm always working as did my Father and Brother. Thanks for the refocusing on the importance of time, it is impermanent so make the most of now and leave behind a legacy of helping others discover their true selves. Thanks

Thank you for addressing this issue. I mention this to people and they look at me as if I am from the dark ages. I have noticed since my children were teenagers from the 80's and 90's, that this phenomenon is increasing discontent, increasing stress due to the fact that communication breakdown disassociates ourselves from organization, intended actions, contemplation, and purposeful living. Your article is well written and hopefully received in a way by many who will take some time to stop and think about how technology is isolating us all and making life harder with more stress and work, than if we never had it.

Before email and texting, we wrote and received letters. Before we drove, we walked. Before iTunes and Pandora, and Sirius XM, we listened. Before television, YouTube, and Netflix, we read and shared our experience of this one life.

Writing, walking, listening, reading take time, requiring little more than our willingness to stop and savor an unhurried hour, to smell and taste a cup of tea and craft and send a silent message of love, support, or grace to someone who, upon seeing their name in our precious script, stops and remembers they matter to us.

We must rediscover and claim the eyes of our hurricanes and be human before upon finishing this mad race through our lives we find ourselves empty of all but regret.

As I reflect upon your words and my life I acknowledge that my wealth is in my time. I will not squander my wealth on frivolous activities such as television in all its forms and concentrate my attention on being thought provoked by things suvch as your words. Thank you.

My heart is open. ;)

"a human being, not just a human doing" -hell yeah!
-there's a movement about, i think they call it mindfullness... it reminds me, as reported, of zen (likewise)
there is an interesting aspect of zen; many i've discussed it with seem to see it as simply doing nothing, sitting under a tree for eternity, living off the life-force of reality, simply breathing...
but one can be aware, utterly, while also busy; when one is driving to work, working, going to get the kids, to deliver them, striving to help fulfill them artistically, socially, physically... in each of these moments, one can simply (!not necessarily easy, ofc)be doing *that* -the main stressor of business is, it seems top me, the fretting about being active... rather than simply being active...
life; worth it, utterly. spreading love & joy; perhaps more so. thanks for this article, i hope you are well, in all senses.

As I reflected on this thought provoking article, I wonder if the underlying cause of all this busyness is the resulting pressures of a society experiencing a certain amount of disintegration. It's like what happens when you heat a kettle of water on the stove. Before the burner is set on high, the water is resting calmly in the pan. But as the heat increases, so does the water's level of activity. And sometimes things go beyond the boiling point, and we hear in the news again how the pain of isolation was communicated via the barrel of a gun. Please correct me if I'm wrong in my assessment, but it seems as the means to communicate with others has become more varied (versus simply being more available), our ability to remain focussed on anything, including relationships, has decreased. I wonder if the siren call of choice and its cousin, individualism, has lead to a dispersement of humanity rather than a means to grow closer to one another. People's lives have become strewn along a continuum, resembling a fast moving conveyor belt designed to transport the "products" of consumerism to their ultimate destination -- used up and worn out byproducts of GDP. Yet, despite our knowing this, we fear stepping off in order to slow down enough to be humane to ourselves and others, because doing so risks being somehow left behind. Like an addict, we fear being disconnected from the very thing that's harming us, because its promise of meaning -- or at least the alleviation of meaninglessness -- seems so real to us. Thus, we seek to keep pace with and maintain the relationships we think we need with technology as well as people in order to survive, at the cost of growing those relationships we need in order to live, which requires the unhurried use of time.

Well, that's my two cents worth. Hope I didn't waste too much of your time, if you chose to read it.

^^^This^^^ Well-written and well thought out. Excellent analysis, Patrick.

You just mentioned the fact of life of today's world. We fear detaching from the very same thing that's harming. We all gotta be courageous to take the breaks in our busy lives that we are afraid will slow us down or make us less successful. Contrarily , a break would refill us with vigor and vision.

Patrick, not a waste, not at all. Thank you. I hope you continue to give yourself permission to write and share it.

As I reflected on this thought provoking article, I wonder if the underlying cause of all this busyness is the resulting pressures of a society experiencing a certain amount of disintegration. It's like what happens when you heat a kettle of water on the stove. Before the burner is set on high, the water is resting calmly in the pan. But as the heat increases, so does the water's level of activity. And sometimes things go beyond the boiling point, and we hear in the news again how the pain of isolation was communicated via the barrel of a gun. Please correct me if I'm wrong in my assessment, but it seems as the means to communicate with others has become more varied (versus simply being more available), our ability to remain focussed on anything, including relationships, has decreased. I wonder if the siren call of choice and its cousin, individualism, has lead to a dispersement of humanity rather than a means to grow closer to one another. People's lives have become strewn along a continuum, resembling a fast moving conveyor belt designed to transport the "products" of consumerism to their ultimate destination -- used up and worn out byproducts of GDP. Yet, despite our knowing this, we fear stepping off in order to slow down enough to be humane to ourselves and others, because doing so risks being somehow left behind. Like an addict, we fear being disconnected from the very thing that's harming us, because its promise of meaning -- or at least the alleviation of meaninglessness -- seems so real to us. Thus, we seek to keep pace with and maintain the relationships we think we need with technology as well as people in order to survive, at the cost of growing those relationships we need in order to live, which requires the unhurried use of time.

Well, that's my two cents worth. Hope I didn't waste too much of your time, if you chose to read it.

Dear Patrick: Beautifully written and so very very true.

It is incredible that all I want for my birthday is actually human interaction. At 29 years old, after growing up in the dirt and woods I really truly miss a natural connection with people and the environment. I find it so horribly sad to see so many people racing through life never fully enjoying a single moment. I appreciate your take on this as it truly is an epidemic without a cure in sight. Life is simple. Life is beautiful and our hearts do not require a lot. Society has put all these images of what happiness is or what true love is (for life or for others) and yet at the end of the day, when we are laying in the dark all we want is human connection. To FEEL. My heart is happy for I have moved to the mountains away from the city to a place my soul has always dreamed of living. My heart hopes your heart is happy and free to listening to your soul too.... LOVE Katrina

You are lucky and have chosen to move to the mountains, away from the madness of the city. And to a place that your soul dreamed of living. Stay blessed, Katrina.

Extremely well put

Excellent observation, Patrick, of something we all suffer from, but we don't necessarily realise the silent damage it causes to our short lives on our precious and endangered earth! How do we rewind or unwind?...

I think you might be onto something here Patrick

Pretty much sums up my thoughts. It's a pity that even just after writing this, I have to get back to work..

My daughter grew up playing in the mud, bringing insects into the house to show me, collecting leaves and flowers, and learning to entertain herself. I have rarely heard her say "I'm bored," but I've also never seen her seek out "busy." I hope she will stay that way. We set our sights for success "lower" than society says we should. I try to find ways to put my interests to better use; but not in pursuit of money. She works for the sake of learning to have a job, not so that she can be able to fund a busy lifestyle. I'm grateful beyond measure to have had a life that is small enough to leave room for self; to have a daughter who wants to spend her 21st birthday taking a walk somewhere we haven't been before, and as a gift has asked for a gift-card to a book-store. We are very lucky.

"I'm grateful beyond measure to have had a life that is small enough to leave room for self..." THIS. IS. EVERYTHING.

Those words really openend my heart, something that does not happen often enough. I keep busy patly because it has become a way of life for me and partly because when I am busy I don't have to dwell on my insecurities.

Good to know so many of us still realize and share this feeling. I appreciate the phrase "dis-ease of being busy", because that is exactly what I feel about the state of being busy!
While there is no ready made solution, I trust that each of us in our individual ways should fine out solutions of being "at ease and not being busy".

I love how he talks about asking "How are you? How is your heart?"in Arabic and in Persian. I think the question in English has the same meaning yet we are "too" busy to wait for the answer. It's not the language that doesn't have the means to get at the heart of these questions, it's the people who ask it as more of an exclamation than a question because they are too busy or not interested in the answer. When I ask, "How are you?" I want to know about the "you," the person. "You" is not just a word - it is a pronoun to call attention to another human being, one that is worthy of our care.

Awe, I just read this and it's beautiful, thank-YOU, you wonderful human being :)

I heard it share one day over two years ago and it changed my life. BUSY....=buried under satans yoke. It is part ofthe enemy's strategy and plan...chew on that for a bit. I no longer live buried under satans yoke. Life is so much fresher!

So much truth in this article. Thank you for pointing out the folly of our busy, programmed lives. Many of us wind up feeling empty and unconnected to our fellow man. Pointing out ourbusy lifestyles may help us to stop, step back, and make some changes!

This is all very true.

this echoes deeply in my heart....been thinking about this a lot lately and am as guilty as ever...busy busy busy....for what?

Dear Professor Omid:
Thank you for today's valuable lesson. It caused me to reflect. To Breath.. To learn to ask " How is your Heart Doing?" to people I care for. I am also going to share your insights electronically with some friends and loved ones ( and yes fill their inboxes with another email) but more importantly I am going to remember to pause, to touch a colleagues arm, to gaze into their eyes and inquire about their heart and their soul. And then linger and listen for their response.

Again, thanks for this insight. Beautiful and Important!

Did you mention this to the friends who are pushing their children in this way? I've often wondered if I should, for the sake of the children. No?

When someone asks you "How are you doing?" and you reply by telling them WHAT you are doing. . . you are giving yourself a wake up call. As sad as it sounds, schedule your down time and stick to it religiously. And as an adult, don't forget how important it is to laugh and play. Find others who will bring that out in you.

absolutely beautiful.
i will treasure these words.

So true, great food for thought

At 70, I love my iPhone and computer. It gives me access to connect with many others far away from me. Even if I don't get an immediate response, I got to send my connection to them. But when I share an evening with adult children and grandchildren and there are no restrictions on use of devices, I almost want to leave. Parents allow their children to be watching a screen all the time...maybe because they do it also! Whatever happened to board games and s'mores and popcorn?

I am truly blessed with two beautiful daughters and a grandson and grandaughter. We play games together. Read together , imagine and dream together. We have joy in our hearts at the thought of spending time in each other's company, we are interested in each other and care about one another's feelings. My dear father taught us how to love because he loved so much... We treasure conversation and understanding ... We appreciate what we have and who we are and we sometimes play on our iPhones and tablets.

Yes, it makes me sad that technological 'items' possess our lives. I did teach my children how to play, get dirty, use their imaginations, read books, enjoy good food, foster friendships, cuddle on the couch to be close and enjoy heartfelt conversations with one another. But the world has engulfed them now and I see pressures upon them from every direction. I worry because some of them cannot be still without another distraction to fill the silence. In contrast, I like to be still to read, to stare out the window at the trees, to daydream and in the end, I feel guilty for not using my time productively. I am caught too, but I know the difference and can chose it consciously.

It's truly such a powerful battle we are in regarding what we are allowing human consciousness and human life to be. The pull into this frenetic state of always becoming - this kinetic state of future shaping.... - at the cost of presence, immediacy, spontaneity....and full openness to serendipity. There feels to be something so deep in here about our core relationship with we actually relate to the universe... - we seem to now assume that what defines a life and its place within society is about what we do, what we are becoming, how we direct our destiny. We have left our capacity to receive, to open, to be changed by - rather than to do the changing. We seem to find ourselves in this one way conversation with the universe - it's what we do, think, say - that is the beginning, middle and end. However - the universe we actually inhabit is also talking, doing, shaping, connecting....on the grandest of scales...and we can only ever listen, adsorb, receive and dance with this - when we leave space for it to enter us. What is in the world has triggered us to not want to this fear?

Thank you for this thought-provoking response

What beautiful and insightful ideas. They really made me think. Thank you.

I am definitely one of those students. Thanks for writing an article that reminds me that the "study hard/play hard" lifestyle isn't what I really want or need. It will take a lot of different cultural reinforcement to have a paradigm shift about being a human being rather than just a "human doing." I appreciate the helpful reminder.

i somehow have 7.000 emails and i am constantly doing the "unsubscribe". People seem to judge that i don't really want to keep up with all the email…but anything you do - they ask your email address. And i am pretty careful and don't subscribe to much… thanks for sharing your heart.

Thank you for this article. It got me thinking......
Contemplation and rest are a regular part of a balanced day.
For every effective and meaningful expression, there is equal time for reflection.

Like the moving wheel on a bicycle, if you look at one part it looks like it is moving forward, but if you look at the lower part it looks like it is moving backward. And yet, if it weren't for both parts, it wouldn't move at all! Looking at the whole experience of the moving wheel, there is continuity and progress, made up of many still moments of up, down, back and forth. A wheel whose parts only go up is no wheel at all. Neither is a life whose busyness is always up, up up.

Our lives need those moments of up, down, back and forth to continue to move us forward.. For every effective and meaningful expression, there is equal time for reflection.

It takes a conscious effort, but I need to constantly remind myself and give myself permission to be still. And most importantly, to remove the fear that if I am still, I will miss out on important moments.

It's a big fear, this fear of missing something. The best way to counter it is radical satisfaction. To be still and to realize the wonder of today. Does that sound schmaltzy? Too bad. In the mad marketing world of convincing us that we need something faster, fuller, or freer, to recognize all that we have and deeper still, to recognize the grace and the gift of our lives now is truly radical. Radical as in rootedness. We counter the hurry of pursuit to feel satisfied, grounded, and in our right place.

Taking the time to feel rooted, grateful, and still feeds the soul and strengthens us for the times we are productive and going at full steam.

Well said! I couldn't express any better.

Thank you for your reflection, and for the perfect metaphor of the wheel. As I read this article, I paused,, perhaps at the hub, to call my daughter. The evening is much more peaceful now.

"And most importantly, to remove the fear that if I am still, I will miss out on important moments."

Thank you for this. It really rings true for me. And somehow identifying what the fear is helps to weaken it.

Here's to a balanced life -- one that makes room for EVERYthing. Ensuring that we won't miss ANYthing.

We must miss things. Things came before, things will come after, and so many things happening simultaneously that it is not possible to not miss things; This is not bad, but simply a reality of things.

Be still and know thatIam God. Palm 46:10

Well said. I've always liked being busy.... doing things I'm passionate, curious or excited about. I can't seem to quench my "thirst" for everything but I don't consider that an excuse not to "live". I think it's honoring who I am to explore, discover, try and experience new things. That being said, I am learning to find balance too - so that when I do go for a walk or take time for quiet "nothingness" I no longer feel guilty about it. It always comes back to finding "balance", doesn't it?

Nicely said!!

I love the analogy of the wheel.Interesting that, a wheel connotes motion. Striving verses being. We are seeking a balance. The marketing culture thrives on our belief that we must have the newest, fastest car, phone, tablet, and strives to keep us mindlessly on the treadmill of pursuit.
When we are still, we learn that we are fullfilled in being. Gratitude, awe and loverise naturally and fill our hearts. The silver moon, is so beautiful in the sky. I don't need to chase it or buy it or possess it. It's always been there,waiting. Waiting for me to syop, and see.

This is a very beautiful sentiment. I too want to share moments with others, those I already love and those I've just met. I feel strongly that relationships are the most important thing in life.

It was on my to-do list to follow the links at least some of the links in the On Being weekly email, which led to Omid's essay. And then reading 264 responses and writing this reflection were added to the list until I thought about what I was failing to take time for if I read 264 responses, but how was I to choose? And is my reflection adding to someone else's to-do list? It is not entirely about eliminating the useless but realizing that we must choose only some of the good or we will do none of it with the attention it deserves. Today it could be the glory of fall leaves because tomorrow they may be gone and next year I may be. What is the experience in my life that cannot wait, that must rise to the top of the list? Although I must admit that doing the dishes really needs to float up a little higher even if the latest email newsletter from a worthy charity gets pitched without being read.

This made me smile :) And your reflection did indeed add to someone else's to do-list ;)
I think I'll quit now, though, and go enjoy not doing anything :)

Kathy I found your response amusing. I think one answer to our problem is not to frame life in "to-do" lists. Just stop. Life is not about getting things done. It definitely doesn't lead to sustainable happiness, if anything, a momentary relieving of stress. Life is full of opportunity, and opportunity by its very nature is non contractual; there is NOTHING lost if the opportunity is not taken. Thus, for instance, each response to this article is an opportunity and an invitation, but one becomes a slave to them if one frames them in the mind of "to-do." Instead of creating "to-do" I would recommend just listening to one's feelings more. For instance, after I write this last sentence, I will leave this website, as I feel full with this experience - I miss out on nothing if I don't read every word, neither do any of you.

Yes! I feel it! Thank-you for your articulation!

Love this concept, "Kayf haal-ik?" I genuinely feel challenged to stop and engage in more "human-to-human connection' =)
Thank you for this article!

Thank you Omid for this beautiful heart felt reminder. Your writing always touches the heart. Like you, I also feel that I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life.But I also feel that the answer is in the heart and asking the right questions, loke the one you ask here. Thank you from the heart.

These are poignant words that reflect how I feel every day. On the other hand, the impressive cv represented in your biography (distinguished teaching awards, book editorships, frequent media commentary) do not come without working really, really hard. Some of what you rail against could be solved by switching to a 9-5 job that you leave behind when you punch out, with hours of the day ahead for contemplation and human contact. But it's not clearto me that's the best answer either!

Thank you Omid for this beautiful heart felt reminder. Your writing always touches the heart. Like you, I also feel that I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life.But I also feel that the answer is in the heart and asking the right questions, like the one you ask here. Thank you from the heart.

“How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” What a beautiful question!

Like you, I want my children to spend their childhoods "learning to become human," and that certainly requires lots of time and freedom to experiment. :)

Well said, I have one solution that is healing and working for me. "Mending The Soul". It's a ministry where Holy Spirit is walking me thru healing of abuse of all kinds. Freedom is the reward for doing the introspective work. Freedom is contagious. Once you have it. You want to share it.

It was early morning of my 72 birthday when I notice a car pull up to the side door, up the walkway is a dear friend carrying a gift; the outside door clicks open, I wait then I hear it close. I hurry to open the door only to see my friend rushing back to her car apologizing for not calling beforehand. She was so busy with not a minute to chat. All that day I worried for her and now wonder how I can schedule time to ask about her heart. God hear our prayer.

So true. I'm guilty of busy-ness, but am in the fortunate position to be able to stop now and again, when I realise it. I've been thinking about God's command to keep the Sabbath. We all need a quiet day each week, whatever that day may be, and not fill our "day off" with other forms of busy-ness!

The problem is our children can't play outdoors without an adult around as we used to do...the problem is that in this society if you are not one of the brightest kids in class, you won't get a job... if you are not one of the hardest workers in your job... You won't keep your job...So yes, let's step back and look at ourselves...but not only as individuals. Do we really want a society based on the survival of the fittest?

That's a good question. Sadly, I think the answer must be 'yes', since we've been rushing further and faster down this stream for a long time now. It's interesting, though, that there are those who have gotten out of this rushing torrent and changed their lives. Many of these live very different lives than our society seems to think proper or desirable. We really don't seem to to value those who have gotten off the grid, or are mostly self-sufficient in their food production, or live in small, eco-friendly houses,and rarely, if ever, make trips to WalMart or the mall. In the movie, "In the Heat of the Night," there is a scene in which Sidney Poitier's character, Virgil Tibbs, confronts the character Mama Caleba, played by Beah Richards. Mama is the local backroom abortionist, a discovery that leads to Tibbs' solving the central crime in the story. When he asks her why she does this, Mama answers, "I got used to better." That answer has stuck with me for more than forty years. It is easy to get used to better, but better often comes with long strings attached. I hope, as our numbers vastly increase globally, that the longest of these strings isn't the total loss of our humanity.

My heart is vulnerable. I am a new mom of an 11mos old. A music therapist. A Woman. A wife. This article speaks to the exact "suspension from a workaholic lifestyle" that I have consciously embarked on. I have always been busy, I am only 33. I want a better world, one where we do connect from our heart,the challenge is practicing this...that is what I am intending in my life now. It has taken more courage for me to step away from the familiar...Teaching, supervising, running a private practice, performing..paying bills! and just....breathe. My daughter needs to see that living is about being present. With oneself, with one another. Om mani padme hum. Love to all on your path.

Beautiful! So real and brave.

Kimberly, I have walked in your shoes, and I think you will be very content with your decision if you can withstand the pressure of everyone else's expectations. I left a high paying successful career 13 years ago to raise my 2 babies. I enjoyed the luxury of being able to BREATH without having to run to the next task. I have a wonderful relationship with my now young teenagers. I jumped back onto the work treadmill part-time for some years and got sucked back into the "just do what you have to do" because there was never time for the "want to do". I walked away again and am so much happier, but people constantly badger me about "when are you going back to work". Don't live your life by others' expectations - just find a pleasant way to respond because most of 'them' won't understand.

Yes, busy for what? I only know that this is our own only 'opportunity to exist' we won't have another, just enjoy what you have, every second of it.

Thank you for starting the conversation. I don't have any children and lead my life as a yoga teacher. Yet I often feel spread too thin. After decades of meditation practice I am lucky if I spend even 5 minutes in meditation. I am not sure if technology is the problem or if technology offers endless distraction and the ability to be connected without connecting. The question I have is how do you make the opportunity to connect with others and self more interesting that disconnecting?

Thank you for this. Omid. I plan to assign it to my students (at duke) next week, and though it will "put us behind" in our syllabus, I think it will help us make better choices as we approach the end of the semester.

Bravo. Thank you. Thank you for this amazing moment. Thank you for reminding me of these elements in life.

Go walking to the shop and back, that gives silence in the soul and time for thinking about what is really important

Yes it seems we live in the new world of socialite reasoning , whereby in the western world predominantly , throughout the course of history we have already long since established the skills, knowledge and technologies of which we can sustain ourselves .... We no longer require the demand for a simple life where one has one simple function to complete thereby In turn giving rise to more time and less distraction from other sources to relax and regain our efforts and breath and acknowledge what we are thankful for and what we have achieved . We now have to create ourselves and our reason to be in a world where the basics are already met , we have food and water and energy and comfort and safety at our beckoning call. We as a race are racing to reinvent our individual skills and dominate as a socialite order , and so our children are force fed every alternative hobbie / skill/ talent in order to survive the modern world . The worlds population is the main factor here , and so the demand to survive becomes more and more important . But not in a way by which we must return to our natural instincts , but by reinventing ourselves to earn money to function .

Obviously the most optimum outcome for us would be to return to natural instincts and slow down and breath and appreciate the food and water and shelter we have worked hard to create.... But now as these things are there already we must race to be something new. Therefore being too busy and sadly diseased :(

So So True....we forget to live a life with loved ones...made me reflect on my own life andneed to make changes...never too late to start

I agree totally. The result of everyone else being 'so busy', is that it leaves those who are not 'so busy' feeling that they not doing enough, or are wasting busy peoples time, The result is relationships are superficial and in danger of becoming competitive.

Lorraine, this is exactly what I thought when I was reading this article. I often feel guilty if I sit down in a quiet moment and jump up to pretend that I was busy if my husband or daughter walk into the room. I'm not entirely sure why, but your comment about competitiveness resonated with me. Time to change, embrace and be proud of our quiet moments of reflection.

Perhaps less time should be spent commenting in anonymous spaces where there is a strong chance no one will read your thoughts. Have a conversation with a real person about this article instead...

I read your thoughts Alice :)

Me too

So did I. Enjoyed it too! This can help if you feel you haven't that many people to connect with on a deep level. Im enjoying reading these comments.

Oh, you are speaking a truth that I understand deeply. Thank you for sharing how your heart is doing. Mine's about the same. I'm not sure of the answer either, but my heart tells me that it starts with me, making small steps that move me in the direction of that dream. Let's walk together...

My heart is full, peaceful, curious and excited. I am grateful every day, even on my busy days, to know that I am the author of my experience and my highest hope is that my three children will inherit that awareness from me much earlier than I found it.

Grow those thoughts. Beautiful and powerful. Thank you.

Thank you for writing and sharing this reality and disease of our culture. I pray that more and more people see this truth and be "human beings and not human doers". How is my heart today? heavy thanks for asking

This is beautiful and thank you. I have had this same experience for many years now with many folks being busy. Thanks for giving voice to something that none of us really want to look deeply at .

The message of this blog is delicious! Something to take to "heart". It's time to tap in, feel a pulse, get into rhythm of life and love that will give pause to a way of something different. Yum!

I stumbled upon this exactly when I needed to. Thank you for writing this and for asking me so directly how my heart is. It aches today, because lately I have rarely paused to ask these very questions.

I really think it's because the busiest people are rewarded by society. Hence, a lot of people try. I agree that we all must strive for balance. I just think that if the majority of people think it's true, then society must reflect it.

100% agree with you Omid. One of the issues we face is that being overly busy is so revered that taking the time to figure out how to live an examined life is somewhat looked down upon. That makes it even harder to deliberately take the time to "examine the dark corners of your own soul". Two initiatives that friends have created which are part of the solution are:
- Camp Grounded: summer camp for adults. Taking the time to meet people in nature, with no tech, just fun, pure genuine relationships:
- Deceler8: an invitation to slow down in Bali, tailored to entrepreneurs who've had led a crazy life.

It seems to me like we not only need more initiatives like that, but we need a new cultural paradigm for "taking the time to examine" - it needs to become as "cool" as being overly busy

modernity--technology--progress. that's what's killing us. The ancients had something right. they could enjoy the earth and the soil, sit down after the harvest and find satisfaction in God and family, even while working longer more gruelling hours.

Nietsche strikes again...

our world is dominated by the science of progress, of dominating nature. machiavelli: rape nature. Pre-moderns respected her. she was a reflection of Being. now all we are concerned with is quantifying, explaining, objectifying. everything is objectified. maybe we need to return to faith in the Good, and stop trying to live to provide ourselves and our families with success and with needs, but with virtue, joy, security, faith, and connection.

like this article

I always found that something was wrong with those who do not time to a small talk in a nice café! Nowadays people have to have a full schedule to fell important to society. It is a really disease that one have to pay attention.

I love this. It's so important. I am a mother who knows of this most urgent need to simplify, and to protect early childhood. I also am...busy. But I am committed to holding back the oceans of societally-endorsed mass consumerism, commercialism, and busyism. We walk - a lot - as transportation. I talk to my 7-year-old, while we are walking, about what we get to do walking vs. driving (see thing go by slowly, get to know the houses in the neighborhood, TOUCH more - great stuff!). We must be willing to be different - radical - to fight off the monster that wants to consume our hearts and souls by keeping us busy. My heart is open. My daughter told me tonight that I'm a "mom-and-pop" mama - not a chain mama! I am doing something right! Thank you!

This is so wonderful, it awakened my heart. Thank you for bringing this up.

Thank you so much for this. You really opened my eyes and my heart. I can see how, in the name of having an obligation to my clients, I am destroying myself in the process. I will make more time for me and those I love. Daily.

Truly this strikes a chord. Today and everyday. In the early 1990's - we didn't have TV, while my two boys were very young. They never owned video games and got their first cell phones at age 16. I was always fighting against the cultural current, but it was worth it to me. I felt like I was jealously guarding their childhood, which is so magical, so fleeting. Today, I am one of those busy adults you describe - fortunate in so many ways, but also suppressing a rather persistent and nagging sense that I'm losing connection in some very essential way. How is my heart? It craves silence and I have never been more introverted. I suppose this comes with age a bit -- but also, I think it's because I am so chronically over-stimulated by the pace, intensity and relentless of work and life in this 21st century ecosystem. I also don't have answers but what you are describing is familiar to me. To you, I urge you to let your children play unstructured, get dirty and even bored, it is a gift that will yield rewards for them throughout their life. Thanks for your thoughts and for creating a forum. Peace.

O e of the main readons that we claim to be busy is the inherent fear in all of us to face ourselves. We are afraid to see our true selves . We do not like ourselves. Hence we are simply running away avoiding a confrontation with ourselves. The one good way to start today is to face ourselves and start to like us. We will see a chanfe.

Thank you for sharing! I've been feeling this too lately...that I need to step back...dial it back...take back me...sigh...if not there might not be a me left...just a busy busy doppleganger living my life...

Thank you for expressing so many of my thoughts!
I remember the luxury of being unreachable by phone...
Having no "electric leash" or wristwatch allowed me hours of uninterrupted music practice at college. I would have no musical skills if computers & cell phones had existed. My ADD nature is pushed to the limit by my iPhone, iPad, & iPod. Ready to go back to a phone only...want my life back:(

It took two Dr.'s 2 hours each,in one weeks time to tell me you are too stressed out because of your husbands stress and pain and non quality of life from a bad hip that should've been Replaced 20 years ago. And he is addicted to sugar,additives,and just bad diet. I on the other hand have been cooking wonderful organic meals for him he doesn't eat because of the addictions and not making good decisions because he won't get his sleep apnea taken care of. Stressed Out and tired of it. I am talking to him differently now. The new approach will work. And, less stress more quality Life!!!

This made me grateful to living in we still have not lost the human connection and people do ask and listen to how your "7al" is. We might be seen as behind in many ways but I guess this confirms that we are not behind in matters of the 7al.

When I was in my teens we often read about robots. Mechanical beings doing all the functions that human beings could do. But without a heart and soul. Today I see my own family and friends becoming just that robots empty of heart and soul. I may add they are all good people but helpless .

How is the state of your heart today?

My heart is filled with love and pride. I have 2 small utterly delightful energetic children and I have never felt more alive or happy. I am proud of both myself and my partner for our wonderful family. Thank you for making me reflect and realise how incredibly lucky I am. xx

My heart is touched by reading your words, by knowing you too can see we are human beings, not human doings. My heart is singing because so many people have connected to your words and know that connecting with others is what give us joy and purpose to our being. My heart is warm with love for my fellow human beings as we live our lives together- all around the world - knowing the heart is where true life and connection comes from.

I was forgetting about my, I remember. Thank you.

Thank you. Much of what you have said her is reflected in life around me. I especially like the aspect of the Question" How is your Heart, right now in this moment in this breath" I will meditate on this and cultivate this d idea and share tin others so we can learn to slow down and have slow conversations again. I am trying to teach this to my children and some success is coming through putting electronic devices away and being together so we talk and interrelate. Thanks to for this article.

You echo my thoughts.There is joy in getting bored. Sometimes. And where are we running? When everyone is on the run, someone has to enjoy the leisurely walk.To hell with those who call me indolent or laid back. I am good, thank you.

My haal is overworked...but I will make an effort to do something about it...u live only once.

You'll see so many comments agree with you because you reflect what's in their minds and hearts, but I can tell you, no one will change, they'll remain busy :)

First off, I really loved your use of the Persian phrase. Your perspective is not a new one but I recently read the following article from the New Yorker which I think is indicative of why we are not cutting ourselves a break:
We are in a world that seeks excellence and has become hypercompetitive. There is a fear that if you slow down, you will not only be left behind but that you won't be able to compete at all.

What are your thoughts?

acknowledge fear, but don't let it make the decision. Care of one's heart requires willingness to go against the grain, e.g. to carve out "down time" despite perceived pressures to do more. good luck, Anne PS There exists the choice not to compete, perhaps not even to play the "game." As has been said, we can be the change.

I am a teacher in the UK, and have just last week (during my 1 week half-term break when I was trying to recover from the total exhaustion of running around, 12 hours days of non-stop intensity and lack of sleep), that time is like water (not sand) - impossible to hold onto or slow down and every minute seems too costly to waste. My soul is rebelling against this bussiness and dis-ease!!

Seems to me it's more about the disease of "thinking" busy than BEING busy. It is the societal exception of "BEING" busy. Busy is the worst 4 letter word ever. It takes away the joy of "DOING" life. The expectation that people will "BE" busy is so huge that I'm certain people feel pressured to "BE" busy (a badge of honour) or at least say they are. The questioner (You muist be busy.) expects a litany of activities in the reply, most of which involve driving others to sports. You can't imagine how many times a week people tell me "You must BE busy." NO I reply firmly. I have lots to do in my 16 hr days but saying I must BE busy makes you think I have no time for you and makes me feel miserable about everything I "DO". Trying not to "BE" busy (thinking busy) also makes me miserable. I'd rather simply go about the day "DOING" life instead of focusing on whether or not it constitutes "BEING" busy.

"Hi, How are you doing", gets a quick "good and you", knee jerk response. There is no contemplation for the question it actually is asking. It's just become an extended version of "Hi". Or, the response I get from it is "staying busy". As though, our goal as productive working adults is "staying busy" and I've succeeded in reaching it. I'm busy therefore I am!?

This is an awesome blog! I've reposted and shared with FB friends with whom it seems to be resonating. As I mentioned there, I feel seen by this post. Through the challenge and then acceptance of being misunderstood, I left my home-city of 11 years to provide space for my heart to heal and be in peace and joy more consistently. That one step brought me closer to reclaiming happiness as my success and free others to sing their own story as well.

Long literary narratives help. Touch is major. Unplugged is major.

This article makes me hopeful and yet incredibly sad at the same time. I guess you can say that I'm in the millenial generation - young enough to have been on a functioning personal computer at five years old. Bombarded with media, and thrown into activities to "put on my college resume" since I was 10. Had to get the best academic scores or else, make money for the family or else, stay current with technology or else... how do I undo that type of thinking? I'm 22 now and have three jobs - so yes - I'm definitely "busy." But even in the fifteen minutes a day where I could have the joyous free thought and boredom that should be a quiet time to think - I get overwhelmed. Anxiety sets in because I'm not busy - I'm not "doing something." How does one that was raised in such a rat race get rid of that mentality? I look forward to the day I can enjoy a feeling like that. This article gave me somethingnto think about. Thank you.

I see this same struggle with younger friends and family members. It is really going to involve "working at" changing that kind of thinking and surrounding yourself with like-minded people. Then when you start to embrace it more, practice it, live it, you can be a positive influence in the lives of those around you. I have found this to be true with any kind of lifestyle, whether it is healthier eating practices, exercise practices, community volunteer practices. I have found those who share those same values and we support each other in making these changes and keeping life balance. Unfortunately, it is not as easy to do at work. But here is how I have done it...... I don't keep my phone/computer on during meetings, I don't answer telephone pages when I am engaged in another task,etc. All of these are simply major distractions in the work of life. People think I may be a bit "odd"because I am not "sucked into" (my words, not theirs) the mainstream of rat race life and thinking. But this thinking will destroy us, our lives and relationships. And isn't a healthy, balanced life what we really desire? We have to chart our own course, even if it is sometimes painful getting there. I have learned that surrounding myself with like-minded people is critical to my sanity. Also, not worrying about what others think about my life balance is also critical. I think deep down inside, some of them envy me and wish they could do it too. I try to radiate peace and love for others and the world around me.....but I have to start with my own world first. Everyday is a challenge!

Alexa, I wonder if this program might appeal to you? Maybe not, but I do believe the answers you seek will come to you in the right time and in the right way. Blessings.

This article is spot on and beautifully written. I hosted a women's retreat last weekend and the theme was pausing to exhale. We discussed the four-letter word, "busy" and how much we dislike it and what it symbolizes. We made the commitment to stop using it and start to remove things from our lives that weren't serving us anymore. I especially adore the "how's your heart doing" message.

Your response to start your day with gratitude is beautiful. Today, I start my day with gratitude: For sharing in my 9 year-old daughter’s excitement after scoring her first soccer goal in yesterday’s game; for our impromptu shopping excursion after the game to pick out a gift together to celebrate our neighbor and friends son’s first birthday; for the conversation with my 15 year-old son about a technology article that lead to him helping me download his favorite reading source app (Alien Blue) on my phone; for the leftover lunch my husband left me and my daughter; for the phone message from my brother thanking us for the family birthday message we left him. I got more then I thought done yesterday and found so many moments to be grateful for. Now today’s to do list doesn’t seem as pressing or overwhelming. With gratitude I remember to feel my breath, to fill my heart with joyful moments to help embrace my sadness and loss. I am thankful that this article helped me start my day with a little exploration of my soul. I start my day today with gratitude.

My heart feels happy and hopeful when I read this, like there are others who thinks like me

We really do need to say "No" to many of the distractions in our lives. That is all they are..... distractions.... away from the things that make life truly meaningful. It doesn't make us popular, but will help to keep us more sane.

my sanctuary is yoga..

Thank you for the voice of sanity. One small exercise helps me in the search for balance: learning to distinguish between the truly important and that which appears to be urgent. Most things are not urgent, but the demands suck us in, causing us to miss out on the truly important. Keep reminding us, Omid. Many of us are listening.

Great article. I have a hard time with people who wear their business on their sleeves like a badge of honor.

This is a wondrous piece. We must ponder, wonder, wander, and "just be" more. That is the essence of this human existence. Our inner voice, and the voice of those supreme beings that we believe in (if we do)cannot speak to us when there is so much competing physical or psychic noise. Blessings.

I penned an acoustic song called "Gift in this Present" years ago. I believed it was for adults, but last year a fourth grade urban classroom full of kids outside Detroit insisted on singing it for their little graduation. Kids, tweens, teens are always telling me that song is one of their all time favorites of ours. So.. in a nutshell ... they DO KNOW. They get it. Their souls sense it. Now all we have to do is discuss it more and pull back the reigns. Thank you for this. It is beautiful and spot on.

Proust probably got it right when pondering in huge detail the pleasures of small things, and the enormity of tiny moments. Get off the rollercoaster and take time to taste and appreciate a little madeleine cake.
Thank you for your article. It made me stop for a moment, and that is a very good thing!

Thank- you!.....Thoroughly enjoyed the article!..........W. B.Yeats' remark: "It takes more courage to examine the corners of your own Soul than it takes for a soldier to fight on a battlefield"- really gave me something to think about!

I want to send this article on to someone, I'm just hoping sh's not too busy to read it.

The Inbox Zero technique is a great way to strive for a clear, non-distracting inbox. There are apps to help out, too.

I use to track my Inbox Zero goal for each day and help form the habit of keeping an empty inbox. There's also apps like Mailbox () to create an inbox environment focused around Inbox Zero.

Hope these tools can help you overcome your daily challenge with your inbox.

Best article I've read in ages, thank you! I am a mindset and lifestyle coach, helping people make their lives easier( and I wish I could have written this myself! You've expressed what I teach my clients (and I endeavour to practice myself) so brilliantly, yet so emotionally too. Like the others have said, it brings tears to your eyes. Such a wonderful piece of writing :o)

I'm pretty pleased to say that I'm doing everything I can to preserve and nurture my children's imagination and humanity. And by that, I don't mean enrolling them in lots of lessons. I mean, they have lots of unstructured time and very few toys. They do have toys, but these are more of an after thought. I'd rather they explore and create with packing materials, the recycling, sticks and bed sheets, and truthfully, so would that. When I do steer their thoughts and their day, I want it to in consideration of others, and in appreciation for how fortunate they are. Sure, they still beg for the latest gadget if they happen to see a commercial geared towards their young minds, but I'm happy to say that for the most part, they are able to entertain themselves and they haven't lost their natural gift of curiosity.

thank you

John, I feel this exact way and grew up in rural PA mountains where Community ruled and outside exploration was everyday, I have made a choice to stay home so that I can balance the busy for my children, nothing more important than being human together. The kids activities can also be a very lonely job for mom's, just dropping, picking up, doing homework and feeding and then onto the next day. I have learned to force vacations and down time, despite the expectations! I love your article. Thank you.

I too have been in the habit of being too busy, however recently have been making a constructive effort to design a new, slower kind of life. This was after I spent a wonderful month in Bali (teaching yoga and sleeping a lot in the afternoons) where my whole life slowed down to a snails pace and I experienced great joy. Also great satisfaction. I had fewer people in my life, but they too also had time so we actually shared a lot. Coming back to the city it has been my consistent effort to recreate some of that satisfying lifestyle. Well so far I have managed to slow my own life down, however since I am no longer keeping pace with others its harder to find company. I wonder what will happen next? Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this most relevant topic.

I totally agree with your message on Busyness. It takes more effort not to be busy than it does to be. I felt very balanced with regard to work, home, family, community and self. Then I got Cancer three years ago and my world shook. I did very little other than go to hospital and doctor appointments. My family stepped back from me. It was a very hurtful time for me. I got more Cancer a year later and another operation and series of Chemo treatments and Radiation. I have been Cancer free for over a year now but still taking Herceptin Treatments at this time. Over the last 6 months I have been feeling healthy with some tiredness so have taken on more and more. Because my family was too busy for me in the last three years, I busied myself with volunteer jobs and enjoying friends. Unfortunately, I got too busy and took on one too many jobs which I was not able to handle. Recently I pulled back, realizing that I was now the one too busy for everyone else. I put a stop to one of the volunteer jobs which was turning into a full time job. I have taken time to rest and reflect as you suggested and am now re-building my time and life putting God first, family second and others last. Thank you again for this important reminder.

Thank you for your article. Of late, I have fallen victim to this dis-ease of busyness....and my creative and personal life is suffering. I get great satisfaction from helping others but there must be time and space for me to reflect, contemplate, meditate, imagine what might be....I was reminded of a question I was asked in a personal development course many years ago. "If you were a soldier wounded on the field of battle, would you bandage your own injuries before helping others or simply dive into working on the first injured soldier near you?" THINK ABOUT THAT! If I help others, I continue to bleed and possibly die. If I care for myself first I can assist many more wounded... I had forgotten this principle. Your article brought it back to mind. Thank you.

"My heart is longing" this is the answer I got from my 17 year old daughter today when I asked her, "how is your heart?" It took her a minute to understand the question, but then I got the most intimate answer from her that I've ever gotten when I've asked her how she is doing. Thank you so much for this article. It has changed my life and I will never again ask "how are you?". It's become a greeting, not a real question. I work hard to keep our lives slower than most. I don't sign our kids up for more than one activity at a time. That seems to help a lot. And we try to take Sunday's as a real day off. Thanks again.

I only read about half of it & scrolled through the rest because I am just to busy to take the time to read it all but it reminded me that God said in 1Timothy2:2 that we are to pray for leaders to lead us in such a way that we can lead tranquil & quite lives in all godliness & dignity & I do pray that but even though I intend to keep my life quite it never seems to end up that way, but it is the only thing in the country that is not the govern
ment's fault it is my own :)

Tears in my eyes by the end of this article. Twice I stopped to copy/paste part to my facebook because it touched me so. Take a breath. Look inside. Connect, really connect. It's what my soul has been screaming for. I long to do something, anything TOGETHER with my children; fun, work, projects, it wouldn't matter. I want a partner that will sit and talk and look into my eyes, into my soul. We, as a society, are too busy. We are missing the mark.

Eclectically written in an engaging relative synopsis. When you become homeless and have a background in social services, time will tell you why people would rather go back to living outside sometimes. Sitting on the banks of the water eases the devastation busy-ness does to people. It is debilitating to experience. Trying to integrate back into busy-ness becomes extremely anxiety-producing! This article helps in the research compilations.
Gabriella Duncan

A beatifully. Written. Article. The periods prompted me to stop and carefully consider each word with my heart as well as my intellect. I have thought often, recently that we are not built for this world - fight-or-flight are not valid options and people are succumbing to despair. My heart, and hope, have been renewed by the fact of your article.

One day, at the after-school program where I taught, there was a little girl sitting crouched and alone on the hillside. As teachers we were always told to make sure no one was "bored." I knew this little girl pretty well and was torn about what, if anything, to say to her. Luckily, my hesitation allowed a fellow student–who must have read my mind–to chime in and say, "just because she's alone doesn't mean she's not happy." Out of the mouths of babes. Busy-ness doesn't always mean happiness.

My Haal and I are good. My family and I are NOT too busy and that is by design. We say 'No Thank You' a lot. My husband, the kids (11 & 13)and I play Monopoly and do great battles over Boardwalk and Parkplace. (Frankly, I'd rather have the RRs and Greens) We may not fit in to Orange County CA... but its better than being too busy. I want to have dinner together, at our dinner table, at night. That is my choice. :) Jen

what a wonderful reminder of just how precious our human lives are. Let's begin asking how is your heart to everyone we meet.

Exquisite. Thank you for a beautifully conveyed piece, one I will "gift" to treasured family, friends and patients.

I really appreciated your article. Thanks you for sharing.

We would do well to acknowledge the deep freedom we have to occupy ourselves with the projects and goals of our own choosing. Feeling busy may simply be indicative that we've forgotten (or perhaps never known) what it's like to be forced to work towards the projects of others. Instead of bemoaning a life full of our choices, we should instead just redirect ourselves and souls towards ends which truly suit our desires.

It is not like that for us all The middle classes, the ones who schedule all their children s time with extra tuition, music and dance lessons,elocution etc etc. These parents allow no time for their children just "to be" are robbing them of their childhood!

Long ago I was so busy I only got 2-4 hours of sleep a night. I finally couldn't take anymore. So, with hard work, I finally came to the conclusion that I must live my life with this: I choose to work to live, NOT live to work; I must eat to live, NOT live to eat; and most of all, I must live to LOVE, (not lust)! I may not be rich with money, (the necessities are more then taken care of), but I am a multi-billionaire in LOVE!!!

Thank you for the haal question: "how is your heart doing at this very moment, at this very breath?"I would like that to be the question on my heart when I encounter another person.

I want to tell you something. Being busy is generally good. It keeps one occupied. Productive. Constructing a life. Until it's tipped over into The Frantic, and The All Knowing Behemoth known as The Schedule threatens to quash our very breath. In the face of this--which is far greater than either me or you, it is all too imperative to breath. When people ask me, now, how I'm doing. I tell them "busy as hell", and then I take a breath and, dropping my voice an octave, "never too busy for a friend". And that, makes all the difference.

A true testament to the life we lead by choice, we have 2 young kids and have created and continue to strive to create a life, where we all go outside everyday, the kids play and run, they do not watch TV and only watch on the weekend, it is a simple life revolving around the things that matter….the simple things, that somehow in this generation have been swept under the rug in exchange for bigger, better and faster, but what we are losing is much greater than what we gain, so we continue to strive to find joy in the small things, as in the end they are the big things.

I live the exact opposite of this essay. My husband works and I quit to stay at home and raise our two kids. We factor in lots of down time, family dinners, vacations for just the four of us etc. We have also been able to build relationships with loads of other people in our community and even volunteer - we do set limits because we do not want to always be "busy". I love it (not always easy giving up a great career)because rarely does any one feel overwhelmed - our house is a calm,peaceful, and welcoming place. The kids enjoy bonfires, neighborhood wide games of hide-and-seek, lazy afternoons at the library, and they love to play in summer rain showers. We did this on purpose and by making a lot of sacrifices - my kids wear thrift store clothing and I cut their hair etc.

Dad taught me how to simply be and be there. He'd sit at that hour of daybreak- no lights, no sounds with just an occasional morning bird song. When I asked him if he was thinking, meditating, planning his day or connecting he'd say, "No, nothing-I just drift into a larger plane universal consciousness where there is no concept of time. And for the rest of the day he was fruitfully occupied and not busy. So, I am really busy thrice a week with back to back professional and personal life and chores that need to be done and the rest of the days .The rest of the days I play it by the ear and the heart.

Thanks! I needed this perspective!

Great concept but I think the author is missing the underlying point, as many people do when they tackle what they think is 'the problem' which is in fact just a symptom. I don't think people 'desperately crave community' or 'want to be truly human'. I think community and meaningful human contact have great benefits and we should all strive for them but culturally we are way down Maslow's hierarchy at the moment to pursue such lofty social goals. I think the underlying issue driving our busy-ness, our attachment to technology, our addiction to social media, reality shows, shopping, . . . . . is the great big hole that has grown where our identify, sense of self, and sense of purpose used to be. I think dual income households (and subsequent change in male/ female stressors), job loss, and new constant awareness of what other people are doing/ accomplishing/ enjoying has left everyone flailing to figure out what is important to them, what makes them valuable, what they should be doing with their time. And for now, the knee jerk reaction is to try and do everything because we have not yet reconstructed our value systems around the new world/ household order to know what is necessary, or important, or fulfilling to us as individuals. So we do what we think others think we should do and try to receive fulfillment through the number of likes our most recent post received

Thank you Mr. Safi for putting into words what I feel so deeply. Although I am not currently working I have a constant stream of doctors appointments and pill regimens and friends and family I feel the need to care for daily despite my ailments. My heart is confused and tired right now. I wish it was joyous all the time but that is becoming increasingly difficult. May we all find a way to live peacefully with this dis-ease.

A beautiful that I needed to read maybe every day! My heart is exhausted!

As a retiree I found it very difficult to just sit and enjoy doing nothing. But, after three years into retirement, I'm finally getting the hang of it.

About a year ago, after much searching, I decided to stop doing and start being. It has been a struggle to unlearn the habits that forty years of living in this society engrained on me. I especially cringed when people would inevitably ask me "so what are you doing these days?". Lacking my typical list of volunteer jobs, classes or other interesting things I have struggled to find an appropriate response. Living? Studying Life? Being? ….. While I felt like my life was so much fuller … "Nothing" often was my stock response.
I now hove a more appropriate response … your article. Thank you!

Such fantastic advice. And a reminder to invite our children to enjoy life as well rather than just get through it. We have so much to live for! Thanks for writing this!

My heart is deLighted to read something of meaning. Namaste!

This article was wonderful, and reminded me that instead of sitting here reading (great) stuff like this on the internet, I was planning to seed two pomegranates before bedtime. Guess I'll do that now

we never bought into the busy, over-scheduled life. My kids climb trees, catch frogs, and are happy at home.friends stop by at the drop of a hat. And yes, they even have to empty the dishwasher. Its a great life.


i have a good heart full of love care. Also sad as I look at my husband and watch the Parkinson.s take over and lead our mind eyes and hearts to real thoughts of disheartening reality.

such a wonderfully insightful and thought provoking message. I'm going to make an extra effort to ask how my friends' and family members' hearts are feeling and to share the same when asked 'how are you doing?'. I think people, including myself sometimes, have started to measure their success and importance based on the level of busyness. As a mother of a young child, I am continuously working on 'turning off' my work world and be present regardless of the other things 'I need to do'. Nothing else is that important. Before I know it, he'll be in college, and I'll have lost that daily opportunity to be present and share a deeper connection..thank you for reminding me to slow down and jump off the 'I'm so busy' roller coaster, so I can live a life of true meaning and deeper connection..

How is the state of your heart today? love it.

Thanks for this nice article... It really needs more courage to examine my state of heart, right now.... It is different in sub-conscious level, but often busy term overwhelms by the conscious mind. But this article, gives some comfort feeling to heart and right now i am feeling happy... :-)

To quote you, Mr. Safi, "We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time." How very true! Recently friends were visiting from out of state and we all went out for a special evening at a Chinese restaurant, four adults and three teens; everyone seemed to really be looking forward to the time together. While waiting for our orders to arrive one of these friends nudged me, guiding me with his eyes to look around the table. Four out of the seven were on their cell phones (only two of the teens), one checking her bank account and the other three playing game apps. It was like, "Yes, I noticed. What happened to sharing our hearts, and laughter. We haven't been together for almost a year." We teased them light-heartedly, but inside, my heart was saddened. What is happening? I missed them!

Quote in this article by Mr. Safi, "When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know." How are you? Its a phrase used as a greeting, and we reply, "Oh, I'm fine." "Doing pretty good." And return the greeting. They respond, "Hanging in there." And that's about as committal as we get. We would expect this from casual acquaintances, but sadly its how we interact with friends, and even family. In a sense, this is understandable, but I reflect to a time when I wished that at least some would be a little more sensitive and perceptive that my heart was breaking inside, and full of sorrow. My heart longed to touch someone else, someone who had an ear to hear my heart cry and ask, "How are you? That is what I really want to know!"

This is beautiful: '"Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal...? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?”'


We just spent a week staying with my son in the cave where he lives. No electricity, no Internet... visiting with neighbours and having long chats, making music (flamenco and Andean), enjoying the beautiful view, picking and cooking garden vegetables, working on cave improvements, walking around, tasting what the neighbours are cooking... candlelight and fireside chats in the evenings... cats and dogs come to visit... we loved it. I used to worry about my son but now I wonder...

I grew up in Europe where life is not as "busy" as here. The biggest difference, and the one thing glaringly missing from my life as a single woman in her 50s, is that I have no one. No one to call (my parents are both gone, I am no longer married, my kids are striking out on their own). They are all too "busy". Adding demands on ourselves, like meditation classes and yoga, to counteract the busy, is crazy. What the human heart really needs is to find other human hearts to sit with, to laugh with, to have glorious (or not so glorious) time with.

I have never over scheduled (or really scheduled at any one time more than one) activities for my kids.

I miss the focus on social/family/friends that exists in European cultures. My heart is painfully excruciatingly lonely.

Terrific observations and reflections, but would love to know why we are all now in this state of "busy-ness?" Understanding the reasons why we are over scheduled, over-emailed, overwhelmed and how we got here might help us change to a more examined life.

Wendell Berry has a great analysis of this in his essays on "the unsettling of america". That in capitalism and competition we are straying from community. In growth the cost of our lives are sacrifice. Zero growth economy is key to coming to a place where we have time and that means sacrifixing extravegancies. I moved away from the city and my chareer in order to find this presence. I dont look back.

As a 75 year old retiree I feel exactly the same pressures. I am trying to get off"committees" and trying to learn how to refuse volunteer work that comes my way without feeling guilty. I am starting to think that the busy-ness is truly an addiction because often when i do get free time, I go ahead & schedule something myself!! I need to re-focus and love that downtime and being calm for a change...

I grew up in the country, no indoor plumbing, no tv, just a radio. I had dogs for best friends, cows and goats for second best friend, my mom sitting me on a stool in the kitchen while she cooked and I practiced my reading. I tried to give a little of that to my children but the reality was that they had to live in a different world ... they didn't have all the lessons, all the activities, and they have grown into wonderful adults. But my grandchildren want to constantly be on the electronics ... my daughter will declare a 1 hour electronics free time ... should be the other way: 1 hour today can be filled with electronics!

We live in an addicting society and stimulation (in any way, shape, or form) is the drug of choice. Meditation is hard work, so much so, that the overwhelming majority of people who try it have to fake it until they either give up or get it.

Wonderful piece, Thank you. I especially like the question of how is my heart doing. This does not take that much time. We all get the same 24 precious hours each day--how are we using them? I am working hard to mindfully beat back whatever messages of shame, guilt, and pressures that keep me on the fast track. I don't always succeed and that phone or email pulls on me...but it is a worthwhile striving! Breathing and asking!

Life is to short. So stop and smell the roses. Schedule some unplugged time to just be in the moment.

Thank you for these beautiful words. I am going to be more conscious about asking people "How are you?" and then truly being present for their answer. Your ability to put into words what I feel so deeply is moving. Thank you again.

I'm really happy that I get to go cycling every day to keep myself in shape and reflect on how the day went. I must say though my wife and I do not have children which probably makes a lot easier than those who do. As a teacher, I can't imagine having my own children and then dealing with 26 others during the day. Everyone needs down time, it's a matter of whether it's important to you or not.

This is an article worth reading, and then again; thank you. We are so busy, even I am too busy and I promote healthy practice that dictates rest time, silent time, un-activities like staring out the window, watching ants move colonies, or just observing the ingenious wanderings of a 18 month old grandchild. Yet I am too busy, and I feel the consequences of that in various ailments that plague me each week. Gratefully I look back on the experience of my un-busy childhood which led me to 25 years of my adult life teaching in a Waldorf school, a place where the hours were filled with rich silences, long recesses in the woods, deeply resonant periods of writing and illustrating student books interspersed with raucous erruptions of social activity. Now those days were full; and each day felt like an epic journey, but I never felt as "busy" as I do now in retirement. I know the difference. I know it instinctively, intuitively, and explicitly because if being apart of Waldorf school community taught me anything, it was that no matter the amount of activity, it was Intention & Sense of Purpose & Import that gave my busy life grounding. The simple fact is that when one can separate the Essential from the Chaff, then one is less likely to have the feeling of being 'constantly nipped at in a shark tank' by all that's out there to demand your attention. Yes, slow down, it helps. But first we have to perceive the Essential in our lives in order to dispense with the non-essential flotsam that entangles us. Thank you for this reminder. mm

Wow! If all that time, all those waking moments, all that activity,
was used helping others....what a different world this would be.

very deep , it's said that majority of deaths in the future will be caused by depression caused by being overworked not spending time with family and friends

Busy is a word too common now. We can say we are full. Being awake we can then make time for the gifts in life that count: soulful conversations and being in the present with another. Isn't this truly what fills our hearts.

this is an excellent piece and so important especially for parents of young children!

100% mindfulness. I play a bit when greeting some friends. when I ask them how are you? and they respond, fine or great, thank you, I immediately follow up with the question: how come? You can imagine their facial expression! what do you mean? I said fine! Well, I have realized by this that the majority of people doe not know why they are fine or do not care to know why they are fine as if it is our natural state of mind, of or body. But when they are sick or not well, everybody knows why! We appreciate as due to us t be fine but not to be otherwise. Why? Too busy to think. Introspections is hard. Being slave of the urgent is easy for the doer surrounded with too many toys!

Thank you so much for writing this for me to share. I've worked in hospice for several years and deeply enjoy the quality time I have been able to spend with the patients. Had their families and friends not been too busy for meaningful visits, I would not have had the honor of listening to their stories. However, it is sad that we are often too busy meeting expectations of those that don't matter to listen to the hearts of those that do. My heart is feeling very warm and thankful today. Thank you for asking.

Nothing wrong with staying busy! As long as you make a plan and organize your life in timely manner. Staying busy actually is more healthier than doing nothing and leaning toward laziness !
I wonder what writer's point is? Does he offer any alternatives?

so very true


I have often wondered why people offered their schedule, itinerary, and calender, when replying to " How are You and when can we get together?" I am so blessed to live a slow life admiring the beauty and reflections of Grace I see in every dew drop and dancing leaf! All day every day I am present with the knowledge that this illusion of business, achievement, stuff gathering and bank account balancing will bring us no closer to our true nature, which is Bliss. We are perfect, and have forgotten. We are dancing children who have lost our way! Everything we need is ALWAYS at hand, and yet it is the very things we crave, that we ignore; quiet, tenderness, stillness, happiness ( not based on a thing ) and an acceptance of ourselves and others. We rush hither and to to GET something we already have. Only when you really stop; striving, doing, having, getting, do you even get close to just being. Thank you for sparking this desperately needed conversation.

"Business" is a choice. Not necessary an easy or fast change, but change is possible. One must train others, and most importantly, oneself, in appropriate and respectful standards of behavior and expectations. Most things are not emergencies, are not even "urgent". Most things can wait. Focus on the important.

Is someone asks "How are you doing?", then answer them honestly. Don't give the false-positive version of forced-happy worker-drones.

If they didn't want an honest answer, they should not ask. Be courteous, be generous, be civil, be polite, and still be real.

I am a retired person who, being free from the constraints of working, threw myself into my church. Before I knew it, I was an officer in Daughters of the King, an EfM mentor, and serving my Stephen Ministry at a cancer center 1 day a week.
I wrote this prayer for myself as I realized how near to over-commitment I was:
"Lord make me slow, deliberate and present as I serve you. May I never complain, self-aggrandize,or brag about my small service to you. Lord, deliver me from the prideful act of doing too much and complaining because I did. Give me the humility to ask for discernment before I volunteer, and never let me forget that the time that I give in service of you, is time which you graciously have given to me already. Above all never let me forget that the service I do is service of you, and may my efforts always be pleasing to you. Amen
Maybe that me helpful to some over-busy folk. Sometimes the sense of being over-busy is attitudinal rather than actual.

I love your question. How is the state of your heart today? This article is spot on. I live in a state where everyone is trying to keep up and do more than the next person. We are so busy we forget to breathe in fear we might fall behind.

Thank you so very much for this reflection. It is uncanny how many people I speak with who tell me they are "just so busy". I say it too, and I am actually one of the less busy people I know. It is so easy to disconnect - I contend that social media, smartphones, etc. help us do just that - disconnect from real engagement with one another. Makes me sad.

I love this but in this crazy world you get looked down upon for taking time for yourself.I wish people could see that they need to treat themselves better!

This article arrived in a timely manner as I had just pondered on this very topic this morning. I am in my mid 60's and I am saddened by the lack of conversation. Sadly, conversation is a dying art! Unless it is on social media, no one shares their lives face to face. Grandchildren are enrolled in so many activities that there is no time for talking to grandparents and/or other family members. Precious wisdom that could be imparted to our grandchildren is never shared. In previous generations, this was the norm, not the exception.

A great article that made me reflect Its so sad that we live our lives at such a hectic pace that we forget what is really important we forget that we need to live in the NOW and appreciate all that we have

too busy to reflect....

When I was alone before I met my second husband I knew to value that time for it was temporary. I spent many a weekend alone...talking to the squirrels and proud of it. What may have seemed crazy was truly introspective, and I did not allow society dictate that I had to "connect" all the time. I allowed myself the freedom to connect with myself and what was around me. My child was grown and married, he had his life, I had my work...and had my down time. Kept my circle of friends small and sometimes distant. Felt no need to always direct my fate or the universe, just to let it flow as the wind and the streams. It proved to be a worthwhile venture, found peace and value in the everyday, and in accomplishments... when to turn on and when to turn off. And most of all the love of my life; with whom I still need to be away from every now and then.

I realised after my 4th very bad episode of depression that I was too "busy" I never had time to stop or slow down everything was out of control. I now say no to seemingly good things so I can have better things, like peace of mind, time with my family for being and loving. I have made time to have a veggie garden to teach my children too cook and to be at peace. I have simplified occasions and I do not live up to others expectations of me. I have made my life my own. I prioritise my own spirit. I am happier healthier and the biggest upside to it all I haven't had any depression for 7 years.

I really enjoyed this article; it was just what I needed today.

I love the line, "I am always a prisoner of hope" that you used, Omid, because Omid means "hope." So you saying "I am always the prisoner of hope" is like you saying "I am always the prisoner of myself" and that is so very applicable when it comes to busyness!

This is so familiar... But I'm trying to find my ways out of it. I don't have a smartphone. Also, after having many busy days I just cancel everything on my to-do list and spend some time with myself or my friends.

Please don't take the time to respond..... Rather, just allow me to say 'Thank You' for a thought-provoking article.

I did the same thing as Rob, tried to skim through the article quickly then realised what I was doing and started again, very poignant, very true and very well received. I will re read this again, thank you for reminding us all. I used write poetry but stopped due to time and lifestyle choices..maybe its time to teach the children to read and write their own the picture.

I think this is where a constant attitude of prayer can overcome all meditative barriers in the prison of time

Thank you for this, I am a person that enjoys reflection and the dark corners. I worry for the direction we are heading as a society and this is a necessary conversation to be had.

Regarding the perennial question which has been raised so eloquently again by Professor Safi in this piece - that of the complementarity of being and doing in human life - let us also be reminded of the manifest remedy for the above-mentioned excesses afflicting modern-day man on the level of the individual (for the moment leaving out the two other necessary dimensions of human existence, that of the community and of the institutions of society), namely meditation. This is surely the "means" by which the desired "end" may be achieved - a restoration of the essential balance between these two modes (being and doing), and of which we are duty bound to avail ourselves. As elucidated by 'Abdu'l-Bahá (referred to as "the Master") in a talk given in London in January 1913:

"[T]here is a sign (from God) in every phenomenon: the sign of the intellect is contemplation and the sign of contemplation is silence, because it is impossible for a man to do two things at one time—he cannot both speak and meditate. It is an axiomatic fact that while you meditate you are speaking with your own spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit and the spirit answers: the light breaks forth and the reality is revealed....
"The spirit of man is itself informed and strengthened during meditation; through it affairs of which man knew nothing are unfolded before his view. Through it he receives Divine inspiration, through it he receives heavenly food.
"Meditation is the key for opening the doors of mysteries. In that state man abstracts himself: in that state man withdraws himself from all outside objects; in that subjective mood he is immersed in the ocean of spiritual life and can unfold the secrets of things-in-themselves. To illustrate this, think of man as endowed with two kinds of sight; when the power of insight is being used the outward power of vision does not see.
"This faculty of meditation frees man from the animal nature, discerns the reality of things, puts man in touch with God.
"This faculty brings forth from the invisible plane the sciences and arts. Through the meditative faculty inventions are made possible, colossal undertakings are carried out; through it governments can run smoothly....
"The meditative faculty is akin to the mirror; if you put it before earthly objects it will reflect them. Therefore if the spirit of man is contemplating earthly subjects he will be informed of these.
But if you turn the mirror of your spirits heavenwards, the heavenly constellations...will be reflected in your hearts...
"Therefore let us keep this faculty rightly directed—turning it to the heavenly Sun and not to earthly objects."

All the divine religions affirm the existence of a spiritual world accessible to the spirit of man by means of meditation (which has no set forms, nor is dependent on another's instructions) and prayer.

We and the Universe are one. There is an illusion of separateness. All life can be meditation, even activity. When one sees that, one strives to be in a continual state of meditation. Perhaps the current word for this is Mindfulness. One must be careful in thinking, "I can squeeze 20 minutes of meditation between soccer practice and Call of Duty on my smartphone." Meditation, then, becomes just another thing to do. Every instant can be one of meditation if one learns to me mindful of the things around him, the small things. The changing shape of a cloud. The quiet paddling of a swan on the river. The noisy ducks there. A small flower in a flower box. A blade of grass peeking out of a crack in the sidewalk. The face of a stranger approaching. All these are not to be avoided in meditation. They each are part of our reality.

We are alive and thus have the power, and necessity, of choice. I can choose my schedule. I do not have to give reasons for my choices. My smartphone is a tool. It does not dictate my life. Like the beauty of a cathedral, my smartphone asks nothing of me. If I feel ensnared by it, then I can choose to become free.

My heart is full of love. My heart wants more foregiveness, more trust, more passion for life.

Much of the pressure comes from employers who are not satisfied with 40 or 50 hours a week-they want your soul, 24/7. And its hard to fight back if you need your job.

So true. In recent weeks I've realised the importance of putting a day aside for reflection. I set aside every Friday and take only my diary and reading materials. I have to get out of the house, or jobs crowd my mind. A couple of weeks ago, I found myself spiralling down into depression - a place I hadn't been for several years. For the next week, I couldn't get myself to do anything. I cried, I prayed, I read. But at the end of it, I realised, the job list had hardly changed. There were a few urgent things I needed to force myself to do in that time, but everything else waited patiently for me. And so it is with my Fridays. The jobs don't go away, but most of them can wait. And so it gets easier each week to leave them all at home and spend a day in rest.

Thank you, we are working on this in our family. We are a homeschooling family and stay home with the boys and it is so easy to become overwhelming busy, even for us. We schedule at home/whitespace on purpose time. Today we were gardening together all day. Just us. So my heart today is full and happy for the first time in a little while.

You wrote what I have in my heart, all of this is absolutely true, but what's more scaryis the fact that we are way too far ahead in this society, to change anything..
my heart right now feels sorry for humanity, great love for this beautiful world .Humans are on a destructive path but I have great faith and love for my God right now..

Thanks you so very much. I am a teacher and a coach on how to become "unbusy" may a share this post on my website?

Beautiful piece.

The reality is there are people spending billions of dollars in research to make us trans-humans; super-humans, part-man, part-machine. It would completely change what it means to be a human-being and those of us who would like to live like traditional human beings will be seen as threats to the system and eventually exterminated.

If you think this is far-fetched, just look up Google and their hiring of Ray Kurzweil.

We all need time to sit down, have some quiet time, reflect, watch the world go by, enjoy natures serenity. But unfortunately we are well on the way to becoming robots, we cannot get off technology and we are destroying our collective health, our spiritual beings and the entire globe with the path we've chosen as a race.

my heart is a little weary today.

So very true and sad. I have stopped after a double death I know that being still is much more important than running. One is forced to examine everything.
Thanks for posting this.

I agree I feel like many families feel they have to keep their kids involved in every kind of after school activity possible. it seems excessive and militant. what kind of future are we creating when kids can get used to stillness or be bored for a few minutes

This shouldn't say Muslim, this should say middle eastern! This is Arabic.Not all Arabs are Muslims... "In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?"

I think the connection here it is the Muslim part of these cultures, even if there are many non-Muslim peoples in the middle east, that in Farsi and in Urdu(kia haal he) that the word "Haal"-"State" is used to ask how someone is. Of course non-Muslims in these parts of the world use the same terminology and they shouldn't be discounted at all, though we should realise it was Arabic, through the spread of Islam, that meant that the same word is used in multiple languages.

This really connects with how I'm feeling. I still feel like I have to much to do though, then I stress out and get nothing done. I think it'll make me consider my actions. When I plan a busy day, I can plan it to be not busy.

I read this. Though I'm busy. Also taking more time to spend with friends outside of work. And family. God I'm thankful at 38 to have been allowed to see both sides of this digital age. Yeah, got "bored" a lot growing up. Thankful for all of it.

Thank you for sharing. Good food for the soul.

Beautiful! In Hindi too we ask "Kya haal hai"? What is the state of your inner being?
Beautifully written and makes one reflect. I loved the phrase "I am always a prisoner of hope, but I wonder..."

Trent Gilliss's picture

Arati, thank you for sharing this. It's lovely connecting cultures and meaning in such ways.

I am blessed - I have the time for reflection, for sitting and watching the birds and squirrels, for writing, for reading, for meeting a friend for lunch. But I remember well the hectic time of pursuing a never-ending job of coaching and college teaching, parenting three children, keeping a home stocked with food and clean clothes, summer school for advanced degrees in the summer, short nights and long days, falling asleep wherever I sat down. I feel worst about short-changing my children of my time and patience and modeling "hurry up!" But I know I shared my heart with others - students, children, especially my spouse. I slept less and moved faster, and now I appreciate more time to notice life. Thank God for what you have and take time every day to look people, especially your family, in the eye and tell them how much you love them.

I had the "luxury" of leaving town for the weekend and spending it in a cabin in the woods, out of cell phone range, with 8 other people, all band mates in a musical group. Our purpose was to retreat, appreciate each other, and grow as a band and as human beings. And we did just that, in amazing fashion.

Afterward on the drive home, my cell phone "exploded" with incoming texts, missed calls and voice message. Some people were supportive (and envious), while others expressed some irritation for my not being "available" for 48 hours.

In the Jewish faith we observe the sabbath free from the use of technology. We treat it as a day of rest that G-D intended. It's very freeing to not check emails/Facebook for 25 hours (not 24).

I don't usually spend a lot a time reading what I perceive as a stranger's reflections on line. Thankfully, I took the time to read this. This person is not a stranger - he/she knows what it going on in my head - I think I will sleep better tonight...

Thank you for taking the time to write this... it is just what I needed at this point in my life... and I will share it with the world... because we all need to look at how our heart is doing. Mine is doing better now after reading this article.

Great words and thoughts, it's what my family (and me) believe, it's sad to ask friends and loved ones to be replied something we didn't ask, we are loosing humanity and kids are no kids anymore. Thanks for the article.

yes excellent article, thank you.. but even though many might be losing the ability I do feel a major wave now also recognizing the different components and aspects of machine thus Remembering the path.. and inevitably gets "lost in the right direction".

I have stopped working since a motor vehicle accident six years ago. I need to rest a lot and to do things at a twentieth of the pace i once did. The down side: no renovated home. No spare cash - at all. The up side: I give all of my time to my son, husband and mother. I pay additional mindfulness to every deed I do each day. I cook with love and imagination. I pray for those who I love or care for. I ask: what can I do to ease the day for this person without contemplating such an act. It is second nature now...

It seems you have really touched a place in our hearts. I have been thinking a lot about this lately. I am so busy, but when I make time to pray and meditate, have people over, work in the garden, go to the beach and watch the sunset I'm so much happier. It's soooo easy to get sucked into the emails, facebook,(dare I mention solitaire) and not do the things that truly make me happy. At 66, I constantly struggle for balance in my life. Maybe I remember wrong, but when I was younger I spent time with my son hiking, picking apples or blackberries, watching the stars, reading... That was before computers though. I've tried many of the same things you have, but it all seems so important, signing petitions, sharing posts, etc. Maybe it is. But how important is it? I'm not sure of the answer.

It's interesting. I complain that my boys are always getting into trouble, and don't listen well. However, every person I complain to gives me the same advice. "Keep them busy, have you tried karate, have you tried sports, have them swim everyday, give them more homework, make them read more, limited their T.V./electronic devices." I've decided I need to stop complaining to people and just accept my kids the way they are. Because, pushing my kids to fill every hour of their day with a structured or organized activity sounds like too much work and my children have never had access to electronic devices, so I can't use that commonly used threat. I fully reckognize kids only have a short time as kids to just play, be loud, get in trouble and learn from that on their own. I don't helicopter their play or their homework. Homework doesn't always get turned in, however they're at the top of their class, they are funny, independent, and when mommy does hit her breaking point...they'll finally stop, apologize and hug me without anyone asking them. I don't micromanage their time or their play, I get a lot of mom's rolling their eyes at me, or not letting their kids play with my kids because they're "too rough" but the alternative doesn't seem very fun or interesting. So, I just have to cross my fingers I'm making the right decisions. At least my kids will never say, "mom, I don't remember playing when I was a kid."

Thank you for this. It really did open my mind to asking the questions. How are we supposed to live the examined life? How is the state of your heart?
I am fortunate enough to come from a culture where hanging out is part of our DNA. We call it mucking about where we just hang and chat about anything nothing important stuff frivilous stuff. Its refreshing, invigorating, relaxing, just plain fun. There is something to be said about doing nothing and just being.

very good wrie up !

This is wonderful to read. I, too had an old fashioned childhood and when I had children, did the same for them. They had time to build dens in the garden, to splash in puddles, to make things from home-made play dough, to draw & fill up scrap books.. When your children turn round & say they had a great childhood, you know you've done something right. And it was all done on a tight budget; yes, I could have gone out to work but what my children gained from having me at home is beyond price..

This afternoon I am being a daughter to my Dad, tomorrow I am being a friend to my BFF and her lovely Sister. In between I am doing a host of things that generally if I were to die now, would not change the world if they didn't get done.

Hi you write this as if there was a time it wasn't this way - I don't remember that! I wonder if this state of busyness has always been there it just looked different - and I also wonder if it is more about our relationship with us and needing to get away from our internal reality that causes us to create this in an external reality.

Busy-ness is a choice. We choose to be connected. Read "Hamlet's Black every" by William Powers. It changed the way I work and use my time bein connected.

I totally agree with this article. Everybody around me is so busy and rushing all the time. why people have to run all the time and filled their life. I Only realised recently that I should spent more time on myself , find a balance, my inner peace in order to be able to give more to others and to listen to others. It's not the numbers of things you are doing or how many friends you have . It's the quality.I wish more people will read this article and have a little thought or share with others.

touching & true
truly reflects the busy state of our lives - some natural , some forced on into our lives
there will be no time separately unless we isolate ourselves from these fast sucking busy lives

I love this discussion and have thought about it a lot. The fact is our lifestyles are busy now and this is probably not going to change in the short term although I think it is great to be aware.
I actually love being busy and have learned to slow down on the inside while I do everything I do. This may sound weird but it really works. Sometimes I imagine being in slow motion on the inside and I notice I slow down on the outside. Also if we become aware of what we are saying to ourselves and out loud a lot can change. Once I owned my business by recognising I was choosing everything I was doing it changed everything. I even stopped using the word busy (Wow, that really made a difference).
I believe eventually we will go back to a quieter time, in the meantime if you are going to choose to stay busy it doesn't have to be all bad.
Thanks for the article, it is a topic I love to explore and hear others views

I wish I had time to read this article......

Too busy to type much - struggling with job

It was so wonderful to read your article.....I had not been able to pin why I felt technology (I work in a technology from) made me feel so alienated from "humans" even though we are all working together. You have said it so simply ...we have no time to be human! I wonder what we as an organisation can do to make more time available for our people to "stop and stare" and breathe the air!

I just enjoyed reading your article. I live in Ethiopia. I am wondering if we could use this in the Magazine my sister publishes crediting you.

Let me know

I did not know it at the time but when I gave up being a solicitor 7 years ago I put it down to stress, it now dawns on me that I just wanted time to be me. Over the last 7 years I have found the time to be me and be emotionally available to others and have never been happier in my life.

"...with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?"

This. The whole article is exactly what needed to be written but this - this specific abnormality, the inability to withstand silence without awkwardness or panicked need to fill it at the cost of filling it with nonsense or bullshit - this is what continues to amaze - and sadden - me...

I can't help think this is false nostalgia. Are we more "busy" than 100 years ago? When many worked 12 hour days 7 days a week? Sunup to sundown? On a farm or in a factory? Doubtful. Very very doubtful.

The Atlantic did a good essay on this "we are so busy" myth which shows actual data. Good read.

Since reading this article, I've been asking myself throughout the day, "Dear one, how is your heart?"

This is worth ready.

Start the day with reading something spiritual, I read "Our Daily Bread",
what better way to feed the soul

While I am guilty of this, fact is this is the fast river we are swimming in. There is no good way to get out. Even the minimum of extra activities during middle/high school years results in a busy schedule. It seems like there isn't much one can do.

The only thing to do is to handle the busy life in a light-hearted/laidback way. It is a mental process to stay calm, enjoy the minutes of downtime and driving, not get upset, definitely not get worked up about results.

Very true indeed. People nowadays just think it is a problem not to be busy, despite the fact that they always complain about the tight schedule. It seems to be a norm for them to be busy. Yet, I think this is not the rich and fruitful life that we're supposed to have. A fruitful life should consist time when we learn to free ourselves from every schedules, sit down, and take a look around us.

This is such a beautiful and timely article. I recently blogged about this very subject because I am so struck by how my clients and friends are often proclaiming how busy they are, as if that is their identity. It is really important and essential to allow silence and space in our lives to connect with ourselves and each other! Thank you for sharing this on Linked In!

My heart is grateful and also very sad. Getting in touch with our true feelings, our heart, our soul is one of the hardest things to do and the one we need to do the most. Time is such a precious commodity. How we spend out time determines what we do with our one wild and precious life.Thank you for this message and for bring me back to being!

"...and my people love it that way." I don't know when it happened, but thru the 90's I kept noticing a subtle shift in attitudes as to what signified "success". I think this attitude of busy=production has doubled with intensity over each succeeding decade. These types of folk I call "vibrators", because that's really all they do. They rarely accomplished anything, but they were always busy doing SOMEthing. Vibrating.

This is interesting, this difference between busy and living a life. But how do you teach this to human beings? There are no legitimate classes "HOW To Live Life 101", as life is something that can ONLY be taught by example.

To paraphrase Solomon, God may give you all the material riches and glory you can possibly imagine, but He does not give you the ability to enjoy it.

"I don't know. I can imagine a lot." - Han Solo

Sacrifice and priorities. That is what it comes down to. In the end do you want things to be the reflection of your life or people. There is a firm, no texting rule at my parents house. When we get together cell phones go in a basket under a sign that read,' deposit phone here all your friends are already here.' I may be 40, but my parents expect us to sit and talk and laugh and make memories. Our kids play come home filthy and everybody cries when we have to leave.

There will be plenty time for contemplation when we are dead. Maybe busy is reality and we should embrace it instead of running away. And busy is the fundamental defense against entropy, life quickly dissolves into chaos when tasks are ignored. I say embrace busy, that is what GOD gave us brains for.

Excellent! We need piece like this to stop and think!

Thank you Ostaad jon for your heartfelt insight. Your words made me pause, and reflect on life, passing of the moments I'll never get back, the gorgeous, though cold, fall day outside, and to appreciate my being alive. Starting tomorrow, I'll stop repeating, parrot-like, the words, I'm so busy! I'll remember your wise suggestion to look inside my heart, like a Sufi,to search for the light, beauty,and love that could be there should we allow it. Again, thank you.

Are you kidding? I wish you would write to me and have a conversation about the cognitive dissonance of this pleas of yours. I have so many things to tell you. I agree wholeheartedly with your point. But have uo read your own resume? I am unemployed with a doctorate because I stopped to raise my kids. Why don't you share your work? I would gladly work. But no one will open the door for me.