The Disease of Being Busy

Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 5:56am

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



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.

Dear Professor,

Thanks for striking all the right chords. I'm beyond apologizing for my laziness/idleness to all my overbusy friends. I will not be a slave of my iphone and calendar, at least not ALL the time. Thank you for shared wisdom.

Yes, so many of us seem to be in a Be, Do, Have mode. We might try practicing saying no once in a while. If so many people are so scheduled all of the time then we must schedule our quite time, our free time and turn the phones off. If we do this things actually do go faster for us because our mind is clearer and everything we need to know comes to us to support us in our day. Do not text your friends all of the time. Rather, pick up the phone call them and leave a voice message if they do not pick up. If they text your back call them back. Force them to stop and talk to you and say you thought it would be nice to hear their voice. The sound of someones name is suppose to be the nicest compliment anyone can hear. Try taking a walk every morning, early, early before you jump in the car and say good morning to everyone you see. Even those who have head sets on. Over time they will say good morning first to you. Even those who initially look away. I am one of those super busy people who are always working running for the dollar to pay my bills and college tuition for my kids. I have made a commitment to myself to walk or jog every day and say good morning to everyone I see. It keeps me positive and gives me a very good morning and then a great day. It stays with me and helps me to solve all my obstacles and mysteries that the day may bring me.

I am a Member of a Quaker Meeting. Starting off not looking for religion, I found the 1 hour of quiet mediation was wonderful. Just to sit and examine, my heart, my life was wonderful. It takes a long time to settle the "to-do list" in my head during that quiet but when I can, it is glorious.

I am right there with You! I was able to do what I love after being in such an enormously stressful job, NOW I can say i'm finally able to look at someone at actually have a conversation without worrying about my next meeting.


People often hide behind the phrase "I'm so busy" to mean "I can't be bothered to make the time"

They want you to be busy. It keeps you from asking too many questions.

Life? It's about people, friendship ,communication, laughter and experiences!! and much more. But technology is taking this from us..Wished I had the answer. Live in the momentmy friends..

This is a great post - when I'm on my death bed, I don't want to be saying 'I wish I hadn't been so busy' - I think about what I'm going to say at that point in my life a lot, it changes daily, but kids that get bored and muddy and are allowed to be freely creative, are the lucky ones - not the busy scheduled ones. Thanks for sharing.

I don't have time to read this.

Thank you, thank you and thank you. I appreciate so very much that you took the time to express a truth that is so needed and that you expressed it in way by using examples that everyone understands and personally experience often. I too have attempted to sound the alarm about this to family,friends and colleagues and while most agree there is no significant change. It is like blowing in the Wind. But we must keep trying. I admit that sometimes,as with me, an occurrence(s) in your life forces you to examine and reexamine your life before real change will occur.

I kinda figured this out years ago. As my baby boomer friends were out there competing in the dog eat dog world and trying to do their neighbor before he does him, I languished into my own contemplative world and you have to be courageous to do this because as you know, your peers will look down on you and criticize you and eventually discard you because you don't have the latest BMW, iphone, or other computer gadget or you can't afford to eat with them at the latest fancy restaurant or go to the latest box office opening. But really when you get down to it, the time to be in touch with one's own inner spirit really is more important. All the other gadgets or things will pass into nothingness. Ultimately we all end up at the same place leaving our possessions behind and entering the world of spirit. I don't think that we will be judged in heaven by how many gadgets we were able to obtain (ha, ha, that's a laugh) but by perhaps our good deeds to one another. That's may opinion anyway.

Thank you Omid. Another kindred spirit who feels exactly how I do - we are all slowly falling to this robotic trap. I was too young for this but the great Lebanese artist/philosopher Ziad Rahbani once mentioned this in his radio talks during the Lebanese civil war -- it's forever been imprinted in my mind since I heard it.

Excellent article!! yes, our lifestyles now are crazy for all of us,and we do need to slow down, take a breath, and pause-when I was growing up we rode our bikes, explored and dinner time was when the family visited and shared each others day and what all we did and who we visited- we call it the GOOD old days!TV was the big thing but we watched our Sunday Night shows together- TOGETHER!

I've been thinking about this a lot lately and you put it exactly in the right words.....I crave for free moments to dedicate to people I care for, to actually pay attention to what they're saying to me instead of having my mind busy with something else (usually work-relate) and to actually show them what they mean to me.Thanks for such inspiring thoughts!

after reading this extract I am filled with gratitude that the universe has provided me with the ability to constantly examine my life, Live in a community which affords me the chance to truly connect with my neighbours who are all diverse personalities able to teach me and keep me aware. We can be empowered by the generousity of time we offer each other.
Slow food movement? Lets start a "Slow Life " movement. one full of meaningful exchanges and mutual nurturing.
More love, or better, compassion, for each other's differences and taking the time to truly connect.
Less emails and more face to face communication. Even a hand-written note has more power than a digital one.
A voice over the phone in place of a text.
Gathering ones around for simple play for adults as well as children.
there is nothing more sacred than sharing food and ideas in mutual respect and optimism.
When my heart hurts it can be assuaged by my own examination of "the Why", but also the sharing with others often helps them have as many insights making us all part of the universal solution.
thankyou for the opportunity to share, my heart is full and I am feeling blessed.

1. I have never once in my life been bored. I don't think I am capable of getting bored. I think people who always have things to do are often creative with a rich inner world and many ideas and things they wish to do and accomplish, and I find it that being constantly busy and productive is by far more fulfilling than people who need to seek entertainment so they don't get bored... How can anyone get bored in this life? So much to see and read and do... I often talk to people who say they are bored, I find it rather pathetic that they can't find a way to entertain themselves.

2. When I ask someone "How are you?" I usually do it because I am being polite, not because I care or want to hear how they feel, and so the other way around, when I am asked this question, I really don't want to burden them with how I feel and what I go through, that I usually just reply that everything's fine and if they continue to "what's new?" I will tell them of the things I am working on these days, which is pretty much, what keeps me busy.

3. Sometimes "being busy" is an excuse...

4. There is "magic solution" to this "problem" though- weed. Weed makes you happy, makes you explore your inner world, look at little things in life and enjoy simple things exactly like children do. We regain our sense of wonder and curiosity and basically lose the need to be productive in order to be happy, which is probably the main reason it's forbidden in most places, people would rather stay at home and smoke than go to work should this be easy enough to come by.

Your words speak to me. For 30 years I have juggled work, family sportsmanship friends. My children are now 23 and 22 graduating from graduate school and college and starting their own lives. I have worked and rushed from one event to another and now question ...did I teach my children what's important. A mentor of my father's once wrote on the back of his business card, "regret is the cancer of life." While I have been blessed with many things and have tried to share what I have learned with my family and peers , I am not certain that I have done enough of the things that matter.

Slowing down, allowing to feel emotions whether goid or bad, and spreading love to every person and situation I encounter.

I grew up in the late forties and fifties and understand all of that With the work I am doing now the number of people with stress in their lives and what they are dealing with is overwhelming for them. Fabulous article I will be passing it on Thank you

I found this very interesting. As studying sociology and the effects of modern life and the wellbeing of others, this sums up the 21st century and the way our well-being is affected through different ethnicities. Brings a lot in too perspective and can relate to it easily.

I am a single woman with no children. I have been very intentional in my solitary life about having time to simply sit and enjoy the miracle of breath, the spacious serenity of idle time. Thoreau went to Walden Pond. I simply stay at home and do little to nothing.

My heart found a kindred spirit in your article. It ties together what I've written in fits and starts. Thank you!

these people need to smoke some marijuana and chill out,
i tried it 50 years ago and i am going to roll one now.
is being 79 years old to old to smoke?

How is your heart

I love this article! I will now ask myself and others, "How is your heart doing?" Thank you for such a beautiful awareness to consider.

I am an Indian woman, whose sole life ambition is complete. My daughters are married and happy in their lives. The hardest thing on this planet after a lifetime of putting everyone else before myself is to find time to search for the heart that got lost with all those whom I loved. My parents have passed, my children married, my mission over and work is done. Retired and I sit alone searching for the silence for which I yearned, perhaps the activity is what gave me life and purpose, perhaps the silence is too large a burden to carry. It was the activity, the busy life that made me who I am today----caring, loving and carrying a broken heart with passing time.

Go with the flow. We can't stop this age. Yes, we can reflect. And yes, by writing you can bring it to our attention. We are still reading. Some information is sticking! I hope we can still be there for our littlest ones before they get sucked in. But we are by 'being' busy. When I talk or sing FaceTime or face to face with my 19 month old grand son Oberon I feel real! I feel joyful! It is a life that we connect with and remember that what he is doing, my children and probably myself did, and someone was joyful because I smiled or responded to them. The other day I showed him the bees inside the yellow velvet mallow flowers. Later on he came to me with a wriggling body movement and said bee. This motion made my day! It told me he observed what the bee was doing and he wanted me to go outside with him and sing the bee song. At that moment mine and his hearts were full of love and joy.--Thank you for your words and let's ask everyone we meet, how is your heart today?

Thank you for putting into words, what I have thought for the past 5 years. I am 65 years old, and can remember when friends could spend time together, not just a "coffee date", but a whole lunch and an afternoon of leisurly poking around. I hate that every photo you see of a "celebrity" they are carrying a phone in their hand. What is it that we are afraid we are going to miss? I have a cell phone in my car....that is where it stays. If I get a flat tire I call road service. I do not answer the phone now that my children are grown and gone. If someone call my cell phone, I suggest to them in my message, that if they would like to speak with me, to call my land line phone. My life is like it was back in the 80's. I don't communicate with my friends by email. I write letters or makephone calls. Hearing a human voice is so very important in life. You hear them and you can respond. Emails should only be used by businesses. Not interoffice. Get up and talk to the person you need. As for the kids, I am so grateful that we do not have Grandchildren. I would hate to see them scheduled the way so many of my friends grandkids are. Kids need to be kids and they also need down time. We have become such a competitive society, it pains me. We should have a National No Electronics Day. Use your voice, your paper and pen. Slow down and listen to your heart. We are going to a party next weekend. It will be the first one in awhile. If someone tells me they are so busy, I will tell them that maybe they should do something about that. Cooking for 40 family member at Thanksgiving for many years kept me busy for a week. This year I will only have four. I will still do everything that I always did, but it will not take the same amount of time. Mostly because there will be far les to prepare,and also because I have mastered the art of entertaining. It is no longer stressful for me. I know what to do. Good conversation, good food and drink,a nice fire and relaxing music and family sitting and talking about the day and what they are thankful for. The world will race around us, but there will be no electronics. I post a sign telling everyone to turn off their phones or leave them in their cars. It can wait, it can always wait.

Thanks for words (and feelings) worth reading( and feeling). Your ideas on slowing the world down are the kind of new ideas one hopes for in reading something like this blog(?) I admire your spirit and hope to find a way to bring it into my life. Seems strange though to be writing to a thought, a person who existed four years past...

I have had this conversation quite a few times over the past two months. Because of a recent accident and prolonged recuperation, I have more time to reflect on this very thing, in my own mind, and with some significant others, and have decided I have been too busy for too long, and have started making some changes. Meditation is too important to put off, and centering too necessary to skip. Thanks for these words.

You only make yourself as busy as you schedule yourself to be. You have control over this.

Omid Safi, if the readers of this blog decide to recast their lives, banish hand phones for at least an hour or two every day, and if employers desist from asking their employees not to be on 24/7, if schools allow their students just to learn at their own pace, you will have stoked a few ambers. Thanks

I am "old school" - so I haven´t got this "disease" - I have a very clear line between Work and private life and I am not "addicted" to mobile phones, Iphones, Ipads and the constant need of being "on-line" - I am still a great fan of personal contact - talking to people - face to face or on the phone instead of E-mail, Text-Messages or Facebook messages !

What a beautiful article. It is so true, sometimes I think we all are just competing to live the most 'interesting' life... but it turns out to live from event to event and no real time for each other, only via the social media.


this is good.

Haaleman Khalie hub hasti. Thank you for asking.
Shomah hubin? :-)

Here is a mail I wrote to my family members when one of them sent us the link to this article.,m

Interesting article. But here is a problem. As usual after writing so eloquently the author has not offered any practical solution ,has he? I am always amazed at how after writing so eloquently the teacher does not talk with his audience about creating passive income? But why should we talk we talk about passive income. Let us examine.

Krishnan sent an article about ageing. One sentence in that said the new 75 is the old 55 . Meaning, earlier, you could not play with your children, but you could play with your grandchildren. But with 75 becoming 55 one will be lucky to play with their great grand child. Why? Because one has to work now until 75 to pay for the next 15 to 25 years. What this is going to do to the career prospects of young people who are waiting for the retirement of the previous generation? I really do not know.
(As a side/sad observation for the next generation of parents you may not get THE BEST BABY-SITTERS IN THE WORLD FOR YOUR CHILDREN-grand parents.)

I agree with the author on his points though. I really understand what he means by the following because I am a prisoner of hope.

" 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 really wonder whether the professor will be willing to have a "structural conversation" whatever that means.

Just for the heck of it the following could be one model.

Go to school till 18. Become financially independent by 21. Become wealthy by 24. Get married. Travel the world.enjoy life. Have kids. Travel the world with them . Have fun. i dont mean have a drink at the end of the day and a vacation at the end of the year. really have fun. Wait for them to become 18. Teach them to become financially free by 21 and wealthy by 24 and live happily ever after. Oh. After that to get some respect in society pick up a degree in Harvard or MIT or stanford hey even Berkeley. Maybe do some charity.

Ha ha ha.

P.s. I am very confident that in bkovil network we are not willing to have a structural conversation about how to stop being "busy". I am writing this for my entertainment. J

The Heart is the Home of Love. Stay at Home...even if you are at work.

Yes, that`s true. Last year I took off my job because I was feeling I can see the light of my soul. Find out that I was depressed deeply I still am. When I stop asking any colleague of mine " How are you doing?", the answer is shocking "I`m working :(" - Really, because I didn`t notice that you are in front of your computer all grinchy and yellow face...Anyway, life is shortened.

Wonderful. So true.Definately need to share.

I loved this post. Thank you!

I just took a really deep, thoughtful, thankful, relaxing breath while peering out my Iiving room window in silence and stillness. Thank you.

I didn't. I was too busy writing back to you.

Anyone else recognize the pic? It's from the Round Tour (Rundetårn) in Copenhagen. Ironic choice because the King Christian the 4th made it a ramp instead of stairs so that his HORSE could walk up it, he was too lazy to climb!

I figured that had to be the Rundetårn - what a great old building - made me a little homesick for the Old Country of my father.

Yes. I recognised it immediately and scrolled down the comments to see if anyone else had!
Great memories of when I lived in KBH.

I love this! It's sad but at the same time a great reminder. This week I am going to focus on practicing this.

Your piece is right on. Feel this and try to communicate it to my meditation students as much as possible. Being fully human and fully alive and connecting with each other in that. Thank you for contributing to all of that so beautifully!

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” - Joseph Campbell

Beautifully said

Wow. Pearls of wisdom. Thank you for the wonderful reminder.

I've wonder the same thing for a long time. Are you a human being or a human doing? I hope you're the former!

I'm still crying reading this, because I COULDN'T have written it better myself!!! I'm also going to share this! Much love, Sue and all the animals. xxx

While I agree and routinely "take the time to reflect on my own existence", I have to ask Professor Omid: how were you able to ever accomplish director, editor, chair, author, speaker, professor (applause to my alma mater!), and even weekly columnist if not by over scheduling? I want to know your secret although you proport not to have access to a magic solution!

I struggle with this quite a bit, you see. I profoundly value keeping family and personal time protected, but it has most definitely impacted my "success" and my "productivity". If I had prioritized my life differently,I would be a published professor by now rather than struggling through my 3rd year of a doctoral program at 42, and I would have long appeared in the annals of Duke Alumni to be proud of! I would also not have committed to attending my Duke reunion in April (to reconnect physically with friends) when I should be focused on advancing my dissertation! [Sigh]It has impacted my husband's success as well. He rarely stays at work late to advance his business and career and yet, we can say that our family of four has dinner together 6 nights a week (in our dining room where there is no tv). But that won't be making any headlines or twitter feeds!

While I do not regret our focus as a family or the choices I have made, the reality is that we (as a community) cannot find a different model to organize our societies by while our societies continue to value only the success that is measured by the titles we hold, the articles we publish, and the "busy things" we do. I will continue to use my yardstick -- what will my loved ones treasure when I am gone: the things listed on my cv or the time spent making memories with them? -- and prioritize accordingly, but I also recognize that these decisions will likely make it very difficult for me to ever be your colleague!

I like Roxanne's reality check of Professor Omid's reflection done from a high-level title and financially secure position. Is professor Omid familiar with the way the corporate culture has taken over the world in demanding 50-60 hour work-weeks from people for half the salary?

The pattern is everywhere and here to stay: layoff longtime skilled workers, and hire them back in lower-paid temporary contract positions without benefits. This formula keeps Wall Street happy with high profit margins achieved by taking people's sustenance away legally through "at will" employment laws. It takes at least one year for someone to find a job back in their profession (if they're lucky), and often times it's one of those low-paid contract jobs. What does this do to leisure time?

It effectively removes most time to spend with family and zero time for leisure, when people need to work 2 jobs, just to prevent losing their house or going hungry! We're back to caveman subsistence living of about 45,000 years ago!! What kind of perverse "progress" is this?

Europe's Feudalism, the Roman Empire or any tyrannical system that requires a large class of indentured servants (modern slaves) seem to always be the socio-economic system human societies achieve in the end. It's like Deja Vue all over again! The rich have the time to leisurely examine their souls, and the poor can hardly take a moment out of their busy lives to breathe, much less examine their hearts or souls!!

You're making this way too political. We just need a simple social shift in our attitudes. We need to really learn to connect with others more like we used to before we were so busy all the time.

sorry would love to but.......... hhhh no seriously everything just keeps hurtling out of our control. But I do think things began to feel much worse with the advent of social media and being contactable 24x7 by the whole world. What happened to the old fashioned phone just a landline was a luxury....i think my life had more s p a c e

Not sure about where you live, but in Australia, the good old landline these days is always bombarded by Telemarketers. I never answer the phone, always let the machine answer. Friends & family know my mobile number. My mobile is also on Do Not Disturb from 10pm to 7am.

I don't think it's about "having" to work for most of us parents-yes, some HAVE to work but many times most parents are working to afford things our parents and grandparents didn't think of necessities but luxuries-they CHOSE to live with less and have more time with loved one, we choose THINGS over PEOPLE-things that take money, that take time away from our children and spouses-things that make us "so busy". Yes that nuclear family with one parent working outside the home DID exist-it was my entire neighborhood and my entire extended family, most making big, what we would call now "sacrifices" to put family ahead of material goods-like having one car, no or very few vacations, a small simple home with one TV and furniture that they had for 40 years. We choose more THINGS and expect a way of life that is impossible to achieve without a rat race sort of way of living. It takes dedication and persistence and focus to jump off that train because our culture is always pulling us back on-but it IS achievable and we shouldn't convince ourselves that it didn't exist or is impossible.

Well said.

I agree!

My experience is that "most" are "having" to work just to pay for basics like food, shelter, clothing, and gas, living paycheck to paycheck without luxuries at all.

I think we may have, at some point, come to misunderstand what is a luxury and what is not.

Agree 110%.

very very true and interesting heart is full...of so many wonderful things at the my life

Thank you for so precisely articulating what we all badly need to do to get our lives back to balance and health...

I think parents over-schedule their kids out of fear of them getting into trouble, an ego-centric desire to have their kids be special at something, and because doing nothing in the U.S. (being lazy, as we call it) is one of our cultural sins.

I live in Edinburgh, Scotland, and for at least the last 30 years I have been involved with the family I married into we went to the Isle of Iona for 3 weeks each summer, no phone,no computer,no TV,no internet. Just us, food, fire, boat,sea, weather,vital local people, visitors, church ( too much church for some !)birds cats dogs, bored children inventing things and plenty of time to examine one's heart ! I recommend it to all overloaded souls, but I realize it is a long way away ...

Iona is one of my favorite places on Earth! I have only been once, but I'll never forget it. I can't imagine being able to spend three weeks there every summer!

This made my heart happy to just breathe for a minute. Thank you.

Thank you for this observation, written so concisely and without having any "magical solutions". I too feel that we are losing our human connection by being so "busy" - something a dear friend says to me every.single.time I try to connect with her. A response that annoys the heck out of me at this point.
I love in the movie Avatar, the greeting is "I see you". That feels so heart-centered to me, to let someone know that they are truly seen by you, for all that you are, all that you feel, all that you've experienced. Again, thank you for this conversation.

and thank you. I see you.

wow...yes, I busy...but so happy I stopped for a few minutes and read the entire text...beautifully written...

This brings things into thought. Thanks for your wise consideration

Such an inspiring piece of writing. Thanks for helping us realize what's really important in life.

I skimmed the article, good read, but no time to read it all. Too busy.

My heart is recovering. A long process, one that is so very worth it. A process reliant on reflection. How is your heart doing? What a wonderful question! This is a beautiful writing piece, thank-you Omid! :)

When I get personal, emotional, intimate, people look at me and think I am about to steal their soul when all I want to know is how their heart feels.

yet, if I go to the door in a modest, fresh, sleep tee at noon, or later, or mention it in a note, people get all concerned, often judgmental. I'm 73 and I often read about people worried about Mother or poor Aunt Betty, who some days stays home and doesn't even get dressed. That's what I did today: some chores and laundry, wrapping and packing 3 boxes of Christmas gifts to mail, read a book by winner of Nobel Prize in Literature, a French author totally new to me, took a nap, potted some plants, and so on. So why make more work for myself, i.e., laundry, ironing, storing, and less comfort by getting dressed? I live in Florida and in sandals. Why go out every day just to calm those worried because "she never left the house today."

I'm 75, creeping up on 76 soon, and I can totally identify with your post. I have my own ways to pass the day which yield what I consider to be a meaningful and satisfying life. My mind and body are healthier than they have been in quite a few years. After 7-1/2 years living in this apartment, I have found rewarding activities in my community. I go from a book on the environment for my church's reading group to the computer to continue my project for a group with which I am a virtual volunteer ... to a healthy meal which requires no cooking ... to soaking up the warmth of my new cat ... to Facebook to chat with friends from many periods of my life. They include my "young" cousin whom I had not seen in nearly 50 years and one of my first grade students whom I taught 40 years ago and now lives in Africa! Nearly all of these activities nurture my growing love and concern for our planet. I can embrace the world beyond me. I am content.

I couldn't agree more with this article. I decided a few years ago I would take an entire year off from work. I am a teacher and I work long hours. I decided to just stop for one year to reflect, learn, breathe. I wanted to not be so busy. It feels wonderful. You are welcome to read about it on my blog I would encourage anyone thinking about getting off the merry go round to DO IT!

Thanks for posting the link for your blog! I just found it and am looking forward to reading it.

At my Bible study this morning we talked about how everyone in our town responds to "How are you?" With I'm soo busy we prayed on our practicing to slow down. We need to come up with a phrase that asks, how is your heart I do have certain enlightened friends that get it, the rest of them are too busy to tell me how they really are. Thank you so much.

I think this happens because we parents think too much , worry too much. Let the child be disciplined but let him/her have his own ways to spend time. Over a period he/she will know what he/she wants. Too much running behind money, fame etc has it's prise to be paid. It may not be everbody's cup of tea.Life is beautiful and not the money or gadgets. They only help you if handled with proper sghold learn this at an earliest.

Beautifully written whichmakes beautiful reading. Thanks !

Wow! Powerful article and so true! I have been retired for one month now and still feel like I have to actively be doing something every second until I hit the pillow or else feel guilty and unaccomplished. I'm slowly getting better but it will take some time after being a nurse for 38 years and on the go every second. I'll have to show this article to my husband and kids.

Let us also remember that many of the items on our "to-do" lists bring us gratification and enrich our lives.

A busy life isn't the problem, rather it is the failure to care for oneself by forgetting how to be mindful and how to truly connect with others.


Yes. Yes, yes so true.At least at our church we do some heartful reflection type interactions... Sunday for anhour is at least something but not enough!

Yes. We all are but our hearts must be calm. I hear and see the sparrows, black-birds, tuis and starling around our house. They're always extremely busy while it's light. Yet I know how to detain them for a happy visit which I must be hidden to see. They love a very clean bird bath. I scrub and fill two of them with water daily and one sometimes twice daily. They teach me that we can attract a busy person and enjoy a beautiful brief meeting or visit by being clean and refreshing. Working at a four square life of mental, religious, social and physical dares, in balance, is to be on top of busy-ness for valuable encounters.

I could cry reading this. So true. How did we get here? How do we get back? For me, for my children, for my family and loved ones, we need to not put so much value on busyness. We need to value leisure, which is these days the space and time to breathe.

I remember when my children were in school ,as a teacher I did not have time---busy bee.When they become 18years, I spent my time on my own way---e.g writing,discussion etc.What I feel as a mother, we are in doubt that how my child will do in future. That is why we are putting them in every course.But spirituality says that the child carries everything with it whether parents actively doing for them or not.I think ,our heart will be happy if we guide our next generation, a proper path of spirituality not religion.The remedy of all distress is Spirituality.

The article is a real eye opener. We need to make time for family and friends. I'm thankful for a principal that says family comes first. I use the 5:00 o'clock rule at work. If it can't be done by 5, it can wait for the next day. I also don't check email, phone messages, or do school work while my boys are awake. I usually check email once at night before I go to bed.

W.B. Yeats had it all figured out - maybe we are so busy to avoid having to look into those darker corners and drag the stuff thats hidden there out into the light. Maybe we are scared to see who we really are and to share it with those who are close to us because we are afraid they might turn away. Thats why we become mingles, incapable of leading meaningful, deep relationships - because we're lost in the bright, blinding lights of busy-ness which won't allow us to look deeper. Its the feeling of being on a stage with all the spotlights in your face so you can't see the audience. Maybe just kill the lights from time to time so we can see again who is out there. And then even have the guts to go off stage, sit in the free seat next to one who is close to you and ask how their hearts are doing.

Wonderfully articulated, Sarah

Whenever you need to take a break to refresh your spirit and your day or need inspiration for any endeavor, view our living healing art live and in motion at You can freely show it this way to loved ones and others in need in hospitals, nursing homes, rehab, waiting rooms help wash their troubles away. One act of perfect love in total contemplation is better than all the action in the world.
See also for a healing in blue, the healing prayer and the second touch prayer.

Last year I was at a business meeting and I had a cup of tea. After the first sip I paused for a moment and just thought about how good the tea was. One of the other members of the meeting asked me if I was praying. It was almost embarrassing. I didn't know it was noticeable. I said no I was just thinking about how good the tea was. Anyway, even thoughI was in a busy place while I was thinking about Tea I did not feel busy. I felt calm. My heart was in a good place. Sometimes we are trapped by our schedule and our obligations but maybe there are ways that we don't have to feel trapped.

It reminded me of when Dr. Gurner said in her Medium article on Why the Rich will Live Unplugged - that "Falling asleep with your hand on the phone instead of wrapped around a loved one, seems just not the way we’re meant to live."

Life has gotten too busy, and we have to learn to refocus on the things that matter. Put the tech away.

If we are at rest and not involved in some task , it is a special time. Just as we should do a "zero budget" stance for our $ we should do the same for our time. Consider regularly what we are spending our time doing. I suspect that at least some of the items we can certainly do without. If you want to know who is in charge of "overscheduling" your time...... Find a mirror an have a chat with the person you see there.

Reading your article makes my heart feel content.

When talking to my friends, I often get asked why our kids aren't in any extracurricular activities other than music. Sometimes I feel "left out" because everyone talks about how busy their lives are and that there just isn't enough time in the day for them to do everything and I don't share that same struggle.

I am just grateful that our kids are happy with just one activity and that they spend most of their free time playing outside or read.

After read,I have some feel ,we may know we are so busy, we may know we should change our life, we may so busy for work in long time,if give us some rest,may be we do not how to enjoy this time.I am student ,everyday i am busy on homework,so many times i think homework is too much,so many times i told myself tomorrow i will do homework, at the end, homework is too much to finish,we are very busy ,the mean reason is we cannot overcome own bad habits.we do not have a plan ,if we have plan,whether we have confindence to finish it.we also need pay more attention to ourselves,decrease the time about we complain.busy is not all of our life,we need it ,but the most important is enjoy the short time.

I am so happy that I was not that much busy to miss this.

very thought provoking article. It is so very true that we're so busy there is no time to enjoy life. I practice yoga and meditation which is very helpful. Still it is so easy to get swept into the hectic pace that's everywhere.

sometimes we deliberately try to get busy so as not to feel ignored by people who are busy being busy.

More than thirty years ago, I had a dear elderly friend who told me that "busy" is the most violent four-letter word in the English language. I have thought about what she said a lot over the years and have lived my life intending not to be busy and recognizing how people often assert that they are busy as a way of projecting self worth. "Time is money" in late stage capitalism where people live to make more and more money in a system that tells us that we are never and can never have enough. At the pinnacle of a high powered career, I chose to step off the treadmill and do something less prestigious. I wanted to see how that affected my relationships and my sense of self. Later, I took six years away from my career in order to slow way down and care for an elderly, frail parent. I saw how often people would accuse me of now working, even though it is the most difficult and demanding work that I have ever done. If I were caring for a child who is in school half the day, I would have value, but caring for a parent is rarely seen as productive. It is a slow, agonizing task that cannot be rushed. It is about decline not growth, not about success. The sad reality is that even my parent turned out not to value this work because of the shame of not being independent and of keeping your children from the busy lives that they should have, according to cultural norms. For me, there could have been nothing more precious than paying exquisite attention to a person I loved, not being too busy to notice her needs. Having long conversations over a lovingly prepared dinner felt like a sacrament, and I would often ask myself how many octogenarians received that kind of attention from their children or grandchildren.

I admire and respect your choices. Your mother was a very fortunate, blessed woman.

So beautiful to hear about your act of caring for your aging parent was felt as a sacrament. I'm touched deeply by this. Thank you form sharing.

So true--chasing the dollar, holding a grudge, too plugged in to technology to take a walk or time to be grateful.....none are good excuses for being too busy.

It's one thing to say it doesn’t have to be this way, and another thing entirely to implement that change and actually be less busy - without hurting someone’s feelings, saying “No," or without missing out, without not seeing friends or family, declining a meeting or cutting back. It's easier said than done to be less busy.

Quit whining and look at what is important in life.You make your own decisions. Small towns are out and CITY life is in. You have what u go for...

no one has Time
no one has enough Time
yet Everyone of can be a Time Maker
learning how best to
make time for family
make time for friends
make time for neighbors
make time for co-workers
make time for the lonely
make time for our selves
and also
to make time for Romance

Thank you so much for this article and the thoughts herein. I am newly retired and have a lot of free time which I would love to spend with my grandchildren who are sadly overbooked and I am standing in line….

What you are preaching is about being in the present. Being in the presence of the other person. A wonderful Buddhist Monk, Ajahn Brahm, once said; "the most important time is now. the most important feeling is love/compassion the most important person is the person who is with you at this moment." Give that person your full attention. Don't let your mind wonder while he/she talks. Fully listen. Be fully present.

Thanks Omid for very insightful article. " I'm busy" has almost become my mantra. I have endless to do lists, many responsibilities and I feel like I'm running through my days, loosing control of my life, working very long hours, sacrificing my relationship with my family and friends and yet I don't feel fulfilled. I don't feel happy. I feel like I'm trapped. Once, I was a person who used to see simple little beauties in life.Not anymore. No time for those. 20 emails waiting to be answered in the next hour or so. Every time I rush into a coffee shop to get my caffeine boost and I see a person sitting there, care free, sipping on his coffee and reading a book, I get envious. So to make it short my friend : Haalam aslan khoob nist!

After reading this piece i'm reacting in the same way i have to anyone who tells me the importance of being "selfish", beacause I and most western cultures as a whole are not---I sigh and say "if only i'd been warned sooner to find me time". I'm 18 and suffer from anorexia. Since I was old enough to walk I have always placed my self-value on how much i'm working, and it eventually manifested in an eating disorder. All i can say is that self-care is the first thing kids should learn. Because after living mindlessly on full-force for so many years, it just becomes too hard to stop. ~God bless.

Orthodox Jews have Shabbat which may have been intended for this. I know many Orthodox high achievers who unplug and relax on that day.Looking at them from the outside, it may be that they are busy with walking to synagogue, cleaning for the day, cooking, eating and praying which also might not leave time for reflection.

Parents trying to live through their children, regardless of how much pressure they pile on those same children. Stand back, allow them to grow at their pace, and just gently guide, not fiercely push!

As I see things, and after reading carefully your valuable analysis, here is what I think: the so called 'Modern Technology' have rendered us all (Adults and minors) idle adicts or zombies if you wish, always running short of breath chasing phantoms; but mutating into disoriented "Wage Slaves" has been the worse virus that made us such chronic cases of that disease..

Reminded me of Jacob Needleman's little book 'Time and the Soul'. I think the subtitle is 'where has all the meaningful time gone from our lives?'

It is so true that invites a good reflection. But people are usually looking for ways to avoid talking with himself. There are many ways to avoid talking with yourself. One is to be busy or even desperate with work.

We need more articles like this. I have to ask, why are we working so hard? Such long hours as if we are in some crisis. Most of us working day in and day out as if it is urgent. We are destroying our beautiful planet, or cultures and families doing it. Its past time to say no.

So many of us exaggerate how busy we are just so people will respect our need for downtime, social time, our hobbies; our personal time. We are hiding because we are exhausted and other desperate people will fill in your time with their needs if you don't. Worse in a society trained to only respect people with no time, you also avoid needless ignorant disrespect.

Both my sister and I are in college and my mom was feeling that with all of our busy schedules we needed a new way to spend time together over vacations and share moments from our lives. She developed this game that blends the concept of a traditional board game with everyone's constant use of smartphone photography. It doesn't solve the disease of being busy, but it provides us with opportunities to spend time together and share small insights into our busy lives.

Love, love, love. My heart is healing and feeling happy today, thank you very much for asking. Many of the things that were making me feel stressed and sad are resolving, leaving me more time for self-reflection without guilt, that I'm taking the time to do so. A funny realization occurred to me last night as I was waiting for my mind to unwind enough to fall asleep. All of the worrying that I've been doing about things that are out of my control has been really self-defeating. No, I'm not going to beat myself up about the fact that I tend to be a worrier and that I lost sleep over those worries. I'm going to forgive myself, and leave it behind today as I think about the great conversation I had with my husband last night, and about seeing my grandchildren's lovely faces tomorrow. I hope your heart is well, kind sir.

It's nice to see that lots of others are in agreement with this. I sometimes think I'm the only one that doesn't feel I have to justify my existence by how busy I am. The question is, how can we change this dynamic? I can't just decide not to answer work related emails when I'm at home without there being consequences. Unfortunately, drawing the line between work and life doesn't seem to be a choice.

It took being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer for me to take a step back and examine my life. After that I found myself repeating these patterns of being busy a couple times before I realized what I was doing and why I was doing it. Yes, there will be things in life that we don't want to do and have to do in order to put food on the table, pay the bills, etc. but I always ask myself is what I'm doing coming from a place of desire or from a place of obligation. It helps me really quickly determine what I should say no to. Awareness without judgement is the first step. I hope one day that people can free themselves from the busy-chains by just shifting their perspective. This is a great article- thank you for speaking the truth.

Thank you!, I deeply appreciate this article.

I grew up between Argentina and Germany. I would like to share a short story here, that my grandmother used to tell me, about two different worldviews or stories (Please excuse the stereotyped characters)...

An American tourist happens to walk around on an sunny afternoon in "La Pampa", a huge extension of flat lands in Argentina. In the distance he sees a single tree and decides to search for shade, since it is very hot...
When he arrives, he sees a seemingly young man having a nap under the tree. After a few secxonds he decides to wake him up and he asks him:

American Tourist:" Excuse me young man: Are you from around here?"
The man slowly wakes up, lifts his hat and looks up, rather grumpy...
Young Man:"Yes!, why are you asking?"
AT: "Ou, I was just wandering if you where the owner of these lands that surround us?"
YM: "Why are you asking?"
AT: "Mmmmm. I was wondering why these big extensions of land are not being developed?... I see no crops or farm animals here!"
YM: "Why would you want that?"
AT: "Well... I see a big potential of starting a businesses (busy-ness) here!"
YM: "What for?"
AM (surprised): "Well well! You could make a good income and start buying your neighbours lands too! AND you could get access to a mortgage and start building a luxurious house!"
YM (still grumpy and a bit louder than before): "Yes, but what for?"
AT (getting slightly impatient): "Well, young man, you could then find a fine woman in town, marry here and have many kids who I would eventually help you in your family business!"
YM (slightly irritated now): "Yes!, but what for!"
AT :"Your family business would grow and you could start to sell your products on the international market! And make millions!!!"
YM (now irritated): "What for???"
AT (almost choking): "Well, you could start to enjoy your life, without any worries!"
YM: "Well, THAT is exactly what I am doing!!!"

Thanks for this through my busy daughter on Facebook. Busyness is also part of ego with this martyred competition about how busy we are. I use full to describe my life and I love the question of how is your heart.

I have no touched my heart. I feel like we are twins of the mind.i actually wanted to start a documentary or you tube show where in I get to follow people for a day to see what makes them soooo busy as I am not...

Hi Omid,

Thank you for sharing and your insights. One begins to believes and see this is by design and not some force of a runaway society that has lost its connection with its true essence and origins. Limited time means no room for "examining" our true being as you so eloquently describe. When you drill down to it modern day society is only serving such a minority of the population, it is not serving all four counterparts of our soul as individuals. The four counterparts being our Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual selves.
Your call to action is so needed but one I see so bandied about with little action from our brothers & sisters to actually effect REAL change. I hope your article inspires people to say no to corrupt governments, fraudulent banking systems and really take heed of the message and collectively stand to say no more.

Blessings be to you

I like it how different cultures have different ways of asking how you are.

Overall though if someone is busy and not happy, at the end of the day, as they say in Czech "that's his problem."

In English-speaking cultures there's this need to change others, to be a good 'liberal' but ultimately we should let people be. And to reveal what they want with time..

So, so true. I, too, have been on the hunt for a more "effortless" life. I'm tired of being tired. I'm slowly pulling away from the technology and finding my life is suddenly getting less busy. You hit so many truths in your post, and many of them are truths I've been wrestling with of late. My own blog (Sarah's Quest for Effortless) is about my own search for unbusyness. Uncomplicated. It's shocking how hard it is to NOT be busy. Thank you so much for your thoughts. As I read it I honestly thought, "Here is someone I'd love to chat about haal with." :)

I think this is all baloney. For instance, you only get hundreds of emails because you have let your email address be known. The person whose child is constantly doing things with little opportunity to meet others has, presumably, chosen to do that. My daughters have always done lots of activities, and some periods have been hectic, others less so, but that is a lesson for life: you cannot choose when events happen. Life can be tough for those who have very small incomes, but have these people cut their coat according to their cloth?: expectations are what is wrong with the world, with no realism or sense of responsibility, so that people have more children than they can afford (and in that case it may possibly mean none), and people expect more out of life than they can put in. How is my heart today? It is fed up with the whinging of unintelligent people who have no rationality. If you want time, take it, but you may have to give up something else - what do you expect?

An excellent and very timely reflection.....many thanks to you!

For a short time I owned a Blackberry, primarily for job-related correspondences. I later gave the device to my son. Since that time, I have never owned an iPhone, tablet, pager or other hand held electronic device; somehow, the appeal of them never became a necessity in my life, and I give thanks for that!
I am deeply troubled by the sight of a small child holding a cell phone or a tablet and already moving in the direction of this electronic addiction!

Now, I am retired and living in Costa Rica,the land of "Pura vida", although it is far from the tropical paradise that many foreigners envision. However, I have found my great joy and passion: volunteering in English language classes for young adult "Ticos"! For in these classes we talk, we share, we open up, we put down the cell phones and communicate face to face! Also, in the small community where I live (99.9% Costa Ricans!), few people (local high school students being the exception) walk around or stand in the middle of the sidewalk holding one of these devices. Most of these people are of modest income, simple country people, who prefer to make eye contact and greet me with "todo bien?", "que Dios acompane" or most assuredly......"Pura vida" (pure life!)

I am happy to report that I have found peace and happiness in a small world that does not live by the demands of a hand held electronic device! I pray that it will remain this way!

Saludos de Costa Rica!


Perfectly put. We all need to spend a little more time or maybe a lot more time finding out who we are and enjoying real life rather than being busy. Love this

I admire your wonderful idea to revert to our comfortable living in the past. And to supplement your thoughts, I would add the following transcript from the movie, "The gods must be crazy":

Deep in the deserts of Africa, there are tribes who live very comfortably in an environment where no "man” could live. They must be the most contended people in the world.
Far from this natural habitat, there is the "civilized" man who refuses to adapt himself to his environment. Instead he adapts his environment to suit him. But somehow he didn't know when to stop. The more he improved his surroundings to make his life easier, the more complicated he made it.
So now his children are sentenced to 10 to 15 years of school just to learn how to survive in this complex and hazardous habitat they were born into. And the civilized man who refused to adapt himself to his natural surroundings now finds that he has to adapt and re-adapt himself everyday and every hour of the day to his self-created environment...

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

William Henry Davies (1871–1940)

When people consider themselves "happy"? It is not necessary their answer is they need money. Rather they are in pursuit of perfection, especially in industrialized countries. One of the common answers is "When my performance and professional realization is beyond average I feel satisfied and happy". The evolution of human average performance is amazing.The level of perfection becomes higher and higher every year if not month.
How many hours you spent studying hard to become Director of Duke University's Islamic Studies Center? Otherwise would you have the chance to tell your no doubt spiritually enlightened opinion? It is very easy to say STOP when you have already arrived at the destination.
The very basis of the Japanese educational philosophy is "You exist because the other exits". When we collectively start to appreciate other people as equally important , as part and parcel of own selves - your dream for enjoying the state of heart will become true. And what is more- the heart will be in full blossom of humanity.

The condition you are describing was a big motivation for us to develop Repose, a simple yet effective relaxation technique that we have been testing at the University of Arizona for the past year. Our research has shown that just seven minutes of lying in Repose reduces stress and enhances happiness, optimism, resilience and a number of other indicators of physical and psychological health. Sleep researcher Rubin Naiman wrote about Repose, “'Life is lived in the pauses, not the events,' wrote Hugh Prather. This powerful teaching quickly comes to life in Repose, which guides us into a simple and accessible experience of the sweet peaceful undercurrent of life. Repose is a grand gift, a revolutionary technique that at once effectively promotes our physical, psychological and spiritual well-being." Our book, "Repose: The Potent Pause," is now an Amazon Best Seller, confirming the growing need and demand for a soothing pause from our hectic lives.

I wonder if the need to be busy is a 'product' of capitalist society, left over from 'slave' mentality, we need to keep busy to feel good/productive/useful/good enough.... we are enslaved. My heart is heavy & I dream of living in a different way :/

I was just thinking along these lines this morning. I was watching a lizard poised on the branch of a plant. The intricacies of the lizard's patterned skin, the delicate thread-like toes of its feet, and the seemingly haphazard, jerky head movements fascinated me. Whenever I take time to lose myself in observations of plants, animals, and people, I find the reward of a refreshed soul.

I retired in May after 38 years of teaching--a profession that is all-encompassing and affords no days off. I was "too busy", but I am deeply appreciating my freedom to BE now.

Thank you for calling my attention to my own good fortune. Recognized, I think I will be able to appreciate it even more.

Thanks for the touching article. It's true nowadays,more and more busy-ness makes human less lively.

You've really nailed down what's wrong with our society, yet made me grateful for the time I spent with my kids, getting dirty, talking, walking a mile or two to dinner and back so we could just be together. It doesn't happen much now, but I still talk to one of my daughters on the phone every day, as she's moved to another town. And best of all, I left the rat race to follow my heart about a year ago. I have less "stuff" but more time, and a lot of the stress indicators have disappeared from my life. When people say "I wish I could do that", my response is always "then do it." The hardest step is the first one. After that, you find ways to make it work for you.

Your reflection comes at just the right time. Many of us are about to get even busier because the "holidays" are upon us. It took a cancer diagnosis to make me stop and "examine" my behavior. I now take time to reflect and relax. That's not to say I don't over book myself at times but I am much better. For me time is most important. I don't want to waste a minute doing anything I really do not like. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Beautiful, delicate.
There are human souls navigating in the same ocean...
My heart is lighter now.
Thanks to you!


Beautiful piece and I'd love to share a few more insights on the word "busy" and why we should stop using it:

My reflection continued...
Much of my busy-ness stems from my worrying about being on other people's minds and how they are awaiting some sort of action from me. This is my own misconception that others are actually thinking of me, when I know that no one thinks about me more than me. I propose that many out there suffer from this same problem of thought. I call it "shoulding on myself". And it takes up time! My own personal time!
Thank you for your article. Today I will start by cutting something out of my schedule, and do something for myself. Or perhaps do nothing in place of it.

Your article, Omid Safi, is really one to ponder and should help lead others to some lifestyle changes. Hopefully me, for starters. I and most everyone around me is afflicted with the dis-ease of busy-ness. I don't know how to cure myself, but I think about it daily. The existence of technology in our lives is certainly a contributing factor. How can we not be more busy when essentially the entire world can access/contact us at any moment through technology and require something from us, or at least take some of our time without us even realizing it.
My reflection continued...
Much of my busy-ness stems from my worrying about being on other people's minds and how they are awaiting some sort of action from me. This is my own misconception that others are actually thinking of me, when I know that no one thinks about me more than me. I propose that many out there suffer from this same problem of thought. I call it "shoulding on myself". And it takes up time! My own personal time!
Thank you for your article. Today I will start by cutting something out of my schedule, and do something for myself. Or perhaps do nothing in place of it.

my heart feels joyous today. Because even though I have health issues,am now considered elderly,Have an exciting bucket list to complete.:-)

I fill my life by surrounding myself with people who give and get pleasure from me, but my heart cannot retrieve the joy and pleasures of life with my husband, who passed away 22 years ago.

As a former resident of Denmark I was amazed to see the opening photo. It is taken inside a very famous Danish landmark: The Round Tower. The tower was built by one of the kings in a smooth spiral so he could ride his horse to the top! Just thought people might like to know......

How is your heart? I commit to making that my intent when I connect with those I
love and care about. What a beautiful reminder to connect on a deeper level to truly live a mindful conscious life.

"We do, doodily do, doodily do
What we must, muddily must, muddily must:
Muddily do, muddily do, muddily do,
Until we bust, bodily bust, bodily bust."

Coming home to myself. Thanks for the lovely thoughts. Esp loved -"How is your heart doing? "

Than-you for a moving account of an unfortunate everyday reality. I spend my workdays as a psychologist and much of this doing marriage counseling. The common image for me is of couples who finally get their young children to sleep at night, then each cozy up ... to their phones, tablets and laptops in different parts of the house! They are each eager to go through their work email "so tomorrow won't be as overwhelming" (but of course tomorrow is no different). Given the vicissitudes of the economy and the omnipresent fears of layoffs, they often express the sentiment that being always connected to work gives them more job security (But then, when they layoffs happen, so typically they are hurt that the decisions were made in ways that they don't understand and often by people far away who don't know them). Yes, it seems that the struggle to keep an illusion of control in our lives so often undermines that very sense of control!

My 23 year old son has been off on a grand, one-year-plus experience of disconnecting. It's a performance art and photography project and has involved a year of silence. He now is re-connecting and his observations of fascinating. I see him being pulled back in so quickly, though, that it seems like a palpable demonstration of how a "middle ground" and "setting boundaries" on technology are such a struggle.

My son's journey can be followed in a Facebook Group, ironically, a group I set up to cope with his being disconnected! I joke that his being disconnected has made me a Facebook addict, and that I'll need to go into rehab when he gets home!! It has it's place and has brought us comfort, but not lasting comfort. Isn't that the nature of "addiction"?

The Facebook Group for my son can be found here, and all are welcome:

I left my private-sector job on the east coast and returned home to Cincinnati this summer, am living with my parents and working in retail for the time being. It was really hard to make the decision to do this - I experienced so much shame but I couldn't tolerate the unending stress in every aspect of my life. I am fortunate to work for a company now that, even though it doesn't pay well, pays much better than other retail jobs and offers very generous break policy, advance scheduling, insurance, paid time off, etc. Most important, managers are trained and expected to show understanding and humanity toward their employees with regard to accommodating personal lives. I think that other companies need to follow this example; that is the only way that a more forgiving pace can come to our society.

Now in my 50's, thrown off that busy wheel through poor mental health, do I realise the truth in these words. I didn't afford mself the time to just be human.

I am guilty of trying to fit too much into my day...however, thanks be to God, we have a large dog that enjoys 3 daily walks. So, nearly every morning, I take him for a 45 min walk, close to home, in fields nearby, and it gives me that chance to start my day in serenity, admiring the beautiful skies and nature,changing with the seasons...and thus I have time to pray and be grateful for the many blessings in my life.


I have often felt a sense of guilt not have my children in numerous activities and sports. I count my low income as a blessing. I can't afford to have them in everything. But this is secretly something I cherish. I want them to be in my home wandering about and bumping into me and into each other. I want enough time with them on the couch that they begin to tell me how they feel. In our small duplex we don't have a lot of space that isn't shared. I love this too. We can't hide from each other. I love this article because it confirms my heart truth. That it is ok to be a little bored, to be intentional and to just be.

So beautiful, so well written.

I totally agree with you Omid. We, in general, are so wrapped up with doing we've lost the art of just being.

Around this time last year I handed in my resignation, to leave at Christmas. The main reason was to have more time with my husband, who us severely disabled, to be there for him and help him have a normal quality of life without having to struggle all the time. Hubby is a keen photographer and going out on his own would be very difficult for him. With me around he's free to go wherever he wants whenever he wants. At least that was the plan. My boss wasn't over keen and asked if I'd consider part time. After discussing with hubby, we agreed but I'd work from home, not the office. All went quiet until the week before I was due to leave when my boss said it was all agreed! Two days before my finish date I was given a laptop and instructions how to log in. It suddenly dawned the plans hubby and I had may have to change!

Well we're a year on. Hubby's had good and bad days. On the good days he's gone out and I've accompanied him. He's taken his pictures and I've carried any additional equipment. We've had some brilliant, quality time together. When we get home, hubby processes his pictures and we discuss and view together on the big screen. I log what we've done, where we've been and any wildlife we've seen. As for my work, I do this around hubby. In many cases it works well. Occasionally there are deadlines or additional work to get done. In those cases I adjust the hours to suit.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is, when I started working part time I thought it would really screw up the plans we'd made but in actual fact it's all worked out brilliantly. I'm accessible for my husband as and when he needs me and we get to spend quality time together. In many ways my wanting hubby to have a quality of life has enabled me to have one too.

And as for emails. Work emails were a given and I have rules in place to deal with them. My work phone is connected to my laptop, so only rings when I'm logged on. Private/personal emails I've cut down by unsubscribing to those I really don't have time for or don't find interesting/relevant anymore. I've removed the notifications off of those I still want but I'll read them on my terms not theirs. My tablet and mobile are always on silent unless I am waiting/expecting something in particular.

To finish I'd like to say "Mine and my husband's hearts are doing well and we are both in good spirits. How are you and your heart this fine day?"

A deeply insightful article that resonates strongly with "my heart"! Where is this wonderful building featured at the top of the article?

What a great article, I love the enquiry and I like the questioning nature of this article allowing me to question it for myself.

This happy just being place is where I used to be and I miss the connections before stupid phones. You do have to allow yourself time to not be so busy in order to understand and be fully human - thanks for reminding me. It's almost like you need to tell yourself it because it's so easy to forget in this iphonetastic world.

I would like to know where Tom took that photograph. What a beautiful place!

I have a lovely book called"Life is Not Work, Work is Not Life" by RK Johnston and J Walker Smith. I "refound" it today.
I met Walker on a Grand Canyon dory trip about 10-12 years ago.The BEST place to get away from everything....

Every week, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, I don't watch TV, drive, use the internet, write, do chores, cook, spend money, or try to get anything done. I walk everywhere I go. I play with my daughter, visit friends, go to synagogue, pray, study, sing, eat, nap, read, hang out. I have no distractions from being fully present. It's great. It doesn't cost anything nor does it require more than a few hours of preparation time. It does require that you carve out a hole in your schedule and work on a big shift in thinking. But after a few weeks, people realize that you won't get back to them and you stop planning to get anything done during that time. It's true that I get less done than some of my friends, but I also get a 24 hour vacation every week. I encourage everyone to give it a try and see how it feels.

Great article. The art of 'being' rather than 'doing'is so important for our ultimate health and happiness but most people have completely lost touch with what this means. If we cannot take care of, and listen to, our heart it is impossible to love ourselves, and others....

well said.....!!!!!!! was out from reality for a long pause....!!

I think all this is because as we get smarter as a society , we are expecting more of each other. As More and more are expected of us, we run out of time in getting everything done. Because time does not grow with the tasks expected of us. Time is fixed. I don't have a solution but one should keep as good a work life balance as possible and prioritize optimally. You can't do everything on the list. Just choose the ones that are important to people closer to you.

You must have moved to Cary. I had a very similar situation happen to me when I lived there. Hints: Good school system, scheduling the child for 2 1/2 weeks from now. It happens a lot.

I need to make sure I take time for myself, as well. I have two jobs. One is emotionally taxing (teaching) and the other one is physically draining (retail). And then I go to the gym at 10 at night, after having worked for 14 hours straight.

There is a really easy and traditional solution. Go to church on Sunday morning, and devote the whole morning to it. You'll get exactly what you seek.

Thank you for this post. I just got back from a two week vacation visiting my family that lives in El Salvador. I had little access to the Internet, and spent most of my time either reading or with family just being. The night i was planning on coming back to the States i started thinking of all i had to do. The emails i had to check/respond, the commitments i had to take care of. I could feel the stress coming back in a sense. The trip reminded me that life is not just about working, going to school, or filling up our time with mindless activities but spending it with our loved ones, enjoying the life that we've been given and being present in the moment. Wherever that may be. I am making a commitment to de-clutter my life and live simply, in order to simply live.

A timely article. I agree with other reflections that the progression of (communicative) technology and the advent of social media have led to a regression in our practice of 'time out'; being 'switched on' 24/7 has become the latest flaw of the human condition. However unless a majority adopt and adhere to methods, (challenging as they are) to reverse this trend surely the social disparity between 'the eternally busy' and 'the more considered' will become ever greater?

Great article. I've shared with several friends and family who are caught up in living this way..

Btw, I am a Palestinian Muslim and I never knew the translation of "haal"; I loved that- something I will likely never forget.

Put away the smartphone/computer, video games-all the electronics, go outdoors and take a walk or bicycle ride. If you can eat and go to the bathroom, you can also make short time to have some recreation way from the stresses of life.

Thank you. I needed to read this.

I retired at fifty. That makes a lot of people around me very uncomfortable because I am not busy. I delete most of my email or mark it as spam. I spend a lot of time listening to music and visiting with friends. I do not own a TV. I have many many reminders of how weird I am in this culture.

El Sistema nos tiene prisioneros. Un sistema que, cuando damos un paso hacia adelante, nos obliga a detenernos o a dar dos pasos hacia atras. El que no "avanza" al ritmo del Sistema, porque quiere ser diferente, es castigado malamente. Queremos vivir como fuimos creados para experimentar la Vid pero, si lo hacemos asi, somos condenados como pecadores. Hay que armarse de Valor para VIVIR cuandoel Sistema te obliga a lo contrario!

I am the mother of 6, grandmother of 8, and teacher. I can tell by having children in my classes for 45 minutes which children are allowed the freedom to play, and which children are scheduled every moment of the day. Imagination is lost when children don't have time to look up at the sky and figure out what the clouds look like. Every child deserves a childhood. Activists worked so hard for this at the beginning of the 20th century. What happened?

I keep reading this over and over. Beautiful. Thank you.

This is gorgeous. Thank you. I'm saving this, sharing it and will hOld it in my heart. Thank you

Thoroughly enjoyed this. Highly insightful and timely. Thank you.

I am part of a generation whose parents encouraged us to engage in unscheduled play. I spent much of my childhood just "hanging out" on an island off the coast of Canada with no TV, just observing the natural world around me—a world so sublime that my first career goals as a 10 year old were to be a priest or a marine biologist. Being a natural contemplative is good training for life as both a child of God and a child of Science.

As I grew older, I was never tempted to be part of the constant busyness that enslaves so many. My natural pattern of living alternates between long periods of contemplation and briefer, but extraordinarily productive(not busy!), bursts of creative activity. I can be no other way, and make choices that allow me to live life the way that I was created to live it. Each of us is entrusted with the task of “finding our own groove,” our own concentric patterns of creation, preservation, and destruction—we are not just human beings, we are human becomings.

I want my kid to come play with yours!! :) I have been going through a year of experiences that are expanding me, breast cancer, financial challenges and the now the death of my father. I have pulled away from everything recently to "just be". I still have the responsibility of my seven year old and homeschooling her but I have a small window of opportunity to not fill my schedule and hers up with busy. Staying in the moment more and more has been a huge factor in my life and dealing with what has come my way. I practice daily gratitude reciting (sometimes five to six times a day). It's a reminder that helps me cope. I have wanted several times to just get off the world for a month or two to reflect and turn inward. But finding small snippets of time, especially in those wee hours of the morning when sleep evades me, provides me a safe
Place to go to just breathe and trust. Thank you for your insights.

The state of my heart is sad and angry. I keep reflecting on the past and can't move forward. I am trying to work through my issues with a counselor amd a case manager. I am also praying a lot. God is good and is bigger than my problems and will see me to the victory!

I enjoyed your article. I don't know what to add except, I have so much to do of mundane chores that I feel guilty if I go off with friends or do anything not on my mental to-do list. I think it was good in the old days, even before my days, when people did such things as barn building. I think accomplishing a task with others is most rewarding and the conversation flows much easier. I roped my grandson into helping me in the garden, he didn't want to, but we did have conversation I otherwise don't see him to have. I was sorry when he pulled out his teenage attitude and said he wasn't helping me anymore. That is all I have to say about the issue, but your article is definitely food for thought.

I am so touched and moved by your words here. Thank you for sharing them. Though no easy solution exists yet, if we begin each activity with the question, "how is my heart doing", we just might slow down enough to listen. Keep writing.

such a beautiful coincidence: just read an hour ago a text of Noraini Mohd Noor explaining in the World Book of Happiness, how important it is that we do not neglect our souls- being too much focussed on the body, material and spirit in the secular Western world. She refers to how the islam on the contrary while spreading over the globe made a good connection with religion and the local traditions and customs concerning happiness.

We live life moment by moment whether we pay attention to that reality or not. We all choose how we attend to each moment. It is possible to see beauty as one drives children to school, or takes out the trash or when talking to someone. It is also easy to rush through a list without seeing anything along the way. It is sad if the attention to the list is more important than noticing the moments that make up this day that is our gift from God.

This is wonderfully well written and deeply meaningful. As you point out, it's especially sad that we're passing this disease onto the next generation(s), unless we insist otherwise.

Thank you.

What can be done about any of this? Work isn't magically going to go away. The only way to live comfortably is to work hard. The only other option is to buy a ton of lottery tickets.

I was always puzzled how "developed", "Westernized" societal norms tolerate and encourage enslaving working patterns. These patterns today do not seem to decrease inequality and make us prosper economically, while they take their toll in our personal and family relationships. In my opinion, as long as global economic life is dominated by neo-liberal, Anglo-American capitalist values the situation will only worsen. The simplifying assumption that the ultimate goal of economic activity is maximisation of profits is destroying our ecosystems and us. This "winner-takes-all" mentality is instilling the subculture of consumerism on us and our children and leads us to sacrifice our time and relationships in order buy more, consume more. It makes us less human in the end. A different future however is not unimaginable. Moving the epicentre of economic activity onto Humans is a goal worth trying. We may not be able to fully accomplish this in our lifetimes, but our children might do. Hopefully some of us will find the courage to "fail" the established order and pursue our true self. We help ourselves in achieving that by reading articles such as the present. The prevailing cultural paradigm of the West is not absolute truth. Alternative cultural paradigms, such as the Islamic, can help us redefine our focus. Personally, I would love my children to be multifaceted, informed citizens and internalize the following words:

"[…] They do not yet understand that the machine is the saviour of humanity, the god who shall redeem man from the sordidae artes and from working for hire, the god who shall give him leisure and liberty."

Paul Lafargue, The right to be lazy.

This is perfection.
Thank you. Let's bring back the human in humanity.

good for most really good for some.

This sums up what most of us feel--especially parents as we watch our children fall into the "quick sand" of busi-ness. Not so long ago, families would share "porch" time; sitting to shell peas or darn socks or just to cool off after a long, hot day. The memories of listening to my great-grandmother recount her childhood at the turn of the 1900s resonate as sage wisdom now. I try to incorporate that ethos in how we live our lives, but the digital vacuum is strong and I fear that the addiction to screens will replace our examination of our souls and the human condition. So--I commit to one night a week of digital free "porch time" with my family (even if it has to be indoors!).

I love this article. It's very in line with my work. I smiled at your last paragraph. It reminded me of Oscar Wilde used to bemoan the fact that everyone used to ask him 'What are you doing these days?' He thought that was a rubbish question. He thought a much better question is 'What are you thinking these days?' or, as you say, 'What are you feeling?'

Wonderful piece, Mr. Safi. I guess that, like so many things we feel powerless to affect, we must start with ourselves, hoping that our example and our encouragement will help others learn to more often just be.

Seems that all this "busy"ness may just be a cover for a sort of spiritual laziness.

My heart is restless, overwhelmed, and doubtful. A wonderful friend sent me this article and it gave me an excuse over lunch to put my phone down and pause to consider. Filling every block on my calendar so I can use my time productively and prove it to my superiors has motivated me to act in this manner. Growing up and observing peers that I viewed as sloths, slackers, or at the very least just content propelled me to actively push forward with my ambition. To set myself apart, I'd schedule every hour of my day whether for school, work, or leisure. Working to be efficient, I'd miss the mark at times in considering efficacy.

I agree that it takes a brave person to actively disengage from the rat race that is careerism, yet I'm doubtful that given the current state of the economy and education, that many of our institutions will consider stepping on the brakes. The anxiety that is well ingrained into these institutions can been seen in the college-bound student and the twenty-something working for that promotion.

As I read this, I found myself nodding in agreement-several times- with each achingly familiar point. I also noticed that as I read, my breathing slowed, and I began to relax in reaction to your words urging me to just...slow...down. I'm making it my intention to take your advice to be more present, and to look into the hearts of others when I ask them how they are. My hope is that I can somehow teach my three toddlers the value of technological moderation, self-examination, and kindness. This hope will inspire me to teach them not only with my words, but with my actions.

Wonderful article!!! My thoughts exactly!! I am 76 yrs. old and remember how it "used to be." People looking into your eyes and talking, not texting!! I long for those days again! How is my heart? A little discouraged but hopeful for better days....

Bring backour lifstyles of the 60's&70"s
travel this Planet EARTH as our fore fathers DID !!!!!
then you too shall LIVE

how ironic that i am finally getting around to reading this amazing piece after it has been on my to-do list for almost 2 weeks. better late than never. :-) inspiring in the fact that i want to be a human being again- not a doing.

In my opinion most of the time people are not busy but like to think that they are busy. It is just bad time management or wrong priorities which stops you from enjoying life. At the end of the day if people sit back and think about what they were busy with and what they have accomplished they will realise that they have not been productive enough. With all the technology life has become so simple that everybody should be having plenty of time to do what they enjoy.

I love this essay. I keep thinking about it, and know so much of it to be true. The email, the never-ending-ness of our tasks. Ugh. To what end? And yet, I also wonder....what exactly are we are calling "overscheduling" and "busyness" for our kids. Look at the young musicians on the home page of the On Being site. Do we think they are living unstructured, free-range lives? Or the writers who offer us so much nourishment,not to mention our spiritual heroes? I have never been busier than when I was living in a Zen Monastery. In one way. And yet, as I try to tell my 8 year old, who plays violin, which requires a lot of discipline and time—there are different ways of being busy. And our distractedness comes from our mind, and the way we fight what we have to do, our resistance, often, is the thing that exhausts, not the thing we have to do—like practice, or the dishes. Though clearly the tasks need to end, at some point. Anyway. Thank you on being for this lovely piece, and for keeping this conversation alive.

I think if we listen to what people say . Really listen , before we respond , then we are halfway to a meaningful exchange which puts in touch with each other.

The sad thing is I am NOT "busy" but people call me lazy. My creativity and ability to write and meditate come from the state of being still that comes from the eventual breaths that my so called Aspergers ADD riddled brain take between wakings

Wow! You said what I've been feeling for many years. About a year and a half ago I lost full-time work. Little did I know it was a blessing, although it didn't feel like one. I'm finally beginning to understand the marvelous gift of time I've been given. I'm now working again, but only 1 to 3 nights per week. I'm slowly learning to savor the times when I have little, if anything specific, planned. It's brought me closer to God and I'm learning a peace in the solitude that makes up my current situation. Our world needs to learn to sometimes say NO to all the things that entice us away from solitude

Busy is a symptom of the disease. If idle hands are the devil's tools, what is an idle mind? "How exactly are we supposed to examine the dark corners of our soul when we are so busy?" B-I-N-G-O. Fear is the disease. We are afraid of judgment. I definitely think "I'm busier than you, therefore more important than you" should be included in the games people play. The motivation for that game is shielding yourself from judgment from others and to constantly keep the mind distracted on external things is to protect the self from self-judgment. This sheds new light on that phrase "Idle hands are the devil's tools". The embedded thought there is that, in a state of inertia the human soul is demonic. We are consciously aware that we have our demons, but to give into fear is never to face them. THAT is what gives them their power. Because if we never face them, we never fight them, we never improve, and we never heal.. By being idle minds with active hands we end up unconsciously being the devil's tools.

Besides, busy is a really lousy yardstick. It's like the labour theory of value, isn't it? But that's really our operating system, isn't it? It's inherent in the words "occupation and "business" - from busyness, from the old English bisignis, denoting a state of anxiety! Wages are paid per-hour instead of being a share of the profit. So the incentive for most workers is to give their TIME and not their enterprise.

A love letter from Papa.

Your analysis of the world we live in today is phenomenal. More people with this mindset will make our world a better place.

The Swiss writer Max Frisch wrote these words, probably in the seventies, long before the Internet, apps and GPS: Technology is the knack for arranging life in such a way that you do not experience.

As a 74 year old woman it is difficult for me to accept this concept, of "being too busy", from my children. I have always been of the belief that we prioritize and some are better planners than others. We can compare it to getting our homework done on time. Some of us would rather put it off and cram at the last minute. Now when it is due, we just say there was "too much" so now I'm "too busy"! I do believe that our children have been raised in a world where so much is available to them that their priority is not their family it is their social life or what interests them first and foremost. I guess, to put it in a nutshell, many people these days tend to be self-serving with regards to their own needs and interests often showing disregard for those of others, even their family.

I think every human being would say that he/she believes in these words and really believes in the real human interaction. But what have we been doing to ourselves, changing the really small magic moments for a screen of a cellphone with people that are not with us at that exact moment? I had the luck of growing with many cousins and my brother, with a lot of dirt, mess and even boredom sometimes. From time to time I need to look back and think if I am the kind of person I would like to be when I was a kid. Do we still the same? Do we still have the same freedom and confidence?

What a beautiful essay. There have been parts of my life where I did not want to slow down because that would force me to examine my own life, which can be painful sometimes. However, I think it's important. Thanks for sharing.

I wonder what could happen if we disconnected from our Ipads, phones, books and TV and spent time with the people we live with. Have we lost the art of conversation and "being" rather than "doing"? What could happen if we looked at each other (in the eyes) and stopped, made space and just talked? What could happen if we touched each other more? Physically, mentally and emotionally. I wonder.

I completely agree with you, I feel parents want to make their kids better than what they did and forget that their childhood was much better and they were more being than doing,

I enjoyed the piece. I find it well considered. Sensual stimulation or more specifically over stimulation is a powerful force, for children and adults. We can hide from awareness and indeed escape from considering the scarier darker corners for a time. What are these shadow areas? I'm left wondering. Perhaps these never ending activities are merely a coaping tool to avoid feeling alone, separate from the whole, to avoid considering - what shall we call it, how about the void.

Whew. Took my breath away as I sit in the anxiety of my to do list in my head that includes if I don't do then something is wrong with me. In my heart I know this to be true, that I want to step back, want to turn off, want to get messy and bored, even though I'm not a child any longer. Perhaps I need to go back to that, childhood in adulthood perspective. Take a new approach, with small steps, instead of my inclination to get messy and bored NOW at this very moment, which then becomes a part of my to do list. Take a breath. And practice being quiet for a few moments. And let that build and expand gently over moments of time in my life, my day, my experience. I don't have a television. Long story but I didn't want to pay for what I consider an exorbitant cable bill when I only want to watch a few channels. I don't even watch programs on my laptop. Partially because I'm so busy; partially because I have a hard time just sitting and feeling like I'm not getting something done. But sitting and watching something inspirational on PBS might be a part of turning off from the smartphone, the one that is often in my hand, and the one that is always in my head.

i stumbled across your article on Facebook. Thank you for writing it and challenging everyone of us to be less busy and more present in the here and now. I loved it so much that i read it for our staff devotions at the end of the schoolyewr when we are so busy. How is your heart? What a great question. I am now an avid reader of this online journal.

Omid Safi has expressed - so eloquently - what I have been thinking for many, many years. I believe we need to return to a simpler more natural and creative way of living - closer to Mother Earth. We seem to be losing sight what it means to be truly human. No wonder the fabric of society is not just being torn, it is being deconstructed.

I am a high school teacher and enjoyed and related to this article. It has humanity and soul. I also wrote on this topic from the perspective of the classroom: The Silent Classroom in the anthology A Curriculum of Peace published by the National Council of Teachers of English and and also English Journal. Having taught thousands over the years, I have seen the need of students for time that serves their humanity and individuality,not the other way around. Maybe there are others doing the same thing. Let's talk!

I really love this. It is so important to take those days to just pause everything and be. We have to momentarily freeze our fast paced lives and give our soul time to recharge. Thank you for these honest and powerful words.

Honestly, I had to read this 3 times, cause I kept getting distracted by text messages and email and the dog. Finally, I read it in its entirety and I get it. Thank you for making me sit still for 5 minutes today.

This calls to mind the books "TheSense of Wonder" byRachel Carson & "The Little
Prince" by Antoine de Saint Exupery. Tthis is an excellent article!

Omid Safi, you're speaking out of my heart! It is a petty not more people thing and act like that. Some cultures and indigenous cultures however still now "how to be"- what a tremendous gift nowadays. - Oh by the way: I am feeling comforted since I have red your column; and believe me, I am trying my best not to swim together with the overdoers, but walking along with the beings! Thank you and enjoy!

Thank you for this lovely call to not-so-much-action. Worth reading every word and to get to this: ' "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 glad to see that there has been a great response. This needs to be read. Thank you again.

I love this writing. I am in a dark place these days and I must examine the dark corners of my soul. It is not all personal. I too agree that we have become disengaged. I believe it is to avoid darkness at times and then it is also overwhelming. I agree with Patrick below. I agree with you about the desire to live a truly human existence. I appreciate the beauty you have presented with this article. Thank you.

The enquiry how is your heart doing in this moment in the arab greeting is a reflection of how i frame my work with clients as a psychotherapist/shaman. Life itself is in this moment, and it takes commitment to oneself to take the time to feel into the moment, and then the challenge of sharing that reflection - challenge because everyone is so busy, it seems nobody has time to listen to each other or themselves. So what quality of being experienced can we anticipate even if we were to speak truly of ourselves? Making time is vitally important. Remembering that work doesn't have to be 'in order to live like millionaires' or seem to, but simply can be a means to an end. I visited the high Andes in Peru recently and people in my party stated as they met the local farming people 'they are so poor'... My reflection on this statement was ' in fact, I see them being SO rich'.. they have everything in life that is valuable, and smiles and hearts to match!

Amen.... I want to get back to this more open can I get there from here?...working on it.... love....

i could relate very well with being busy, and i wish there were ways wherein this busy-ness could be stopped...sometimes i believe its a way of forgetting some missing points in life that we immerse ourselves into busy-nessor trying to make ends meet, coping up with financial difficulties and excuses for some "things" that we wish were not there... forgetting ourselves and others

Excellent article...I always ask myself, "a hundred years from now, is it really going to matter?". Sometimes you just have to rethink things and get a perspective on what's really important. Someday we will look back and realize, it's not the "big things" that really mattered, it was the "small things". Take time to enjoy your life, your family, and those you love! Live your life with NO REGRETS!! Life is too short.....

Just as I started to read this article, the phone rang and a refugee I am mentoring asking if he could visit me on this holiday weekend full of family buzzing about in many directions. I fought the urge to say "Sorry, I'm busy." My heart is doing well today and I hope yours is too.

So beautifully written - full of Presence. Thank you. :)

Years ago, people worked more in side-by-side, face-to-face situations. They got a lot done (my mother was always doing "something" while sitting down--knitting, sewing, mending something) and still attend to the other people in the room. She was a single parent, but she was present for me when she was home--while cooking, sewing, gardening. Those long conversations were so important to me as a child--and I heard her and her friends have them as well. Farmers would pause at the end of a field, or on the road into town, to chat a few minutes. The technology we have now forces attention on a screen--the interface to other people somewhere--and away from the people who are actually present. When television came to the town I grew up in, the adults no longer sat on porches talking in the evenings; kids and parents sat silently watching something--not supposed to interrupt the show except at commercials. Then families began having more than one TV, separating into adult and child groups, or male/female groups, to watch different shows. And we felt the "need" for this entertainment, where before conversation and home-grown music easily filled the time between supper and bed. We began to feel the "need" for what the commercials wanted to sell us, too. And feel guilty if we didn't have it, if we weren't constantly busy, like the busy characters in the shows we watched.

You don't see people modeled on TV or in the media generally as sitting in a chair quietly reading for an hour without being interrupted. Or having those long, slow, meaningful conversations with friends, in which there are no one-liners, nothing to quote at work next day, just...friends, caring for each other. That's not entertainment, or instruction, or advertising, so it's not shown. I enjoy performances a lot, but they're like towering desserts--something for special occasions. The nourishing of the human soul requires mindful interaction with real people, with real things, with real space.

Thank you for your insight. I very much agree. How is my heart? Full of hope because of articles like this.

Hi Omid,

This really resonated with me. Especially because it was sent to me by my girlfriend. After many years of tolerating me, she still sees merit in something I told her on our first date: "I'm the proudest lazy person on the planet."

I'm never too busy, never too tired. But my solution makes me an outcast: I refuse to create Facebook or Twitter accounts. And when I get a text message or e-mail, I don't write back. I call back. And I hate the telephone, but it's second-best to meeting face-to-face.

Calling also sends a message to those who are important to me: "I am willing to spend time and money when you are free!" Not just when it suits me, like replying to e-mail.

I like to think that Iam above-average in maintaining relationships. If I'm correct, it's because of the human-touch you so eloquently described.

I'd love to hear more.



Very well said and so true! We have used this to start the discussion with our family. Thank you

The points of this article hold great value these days. It's up to each one of us to take the time and determine the ways to honor one another and ourselves. To date, there are almost 800 reflections. If you've taken the time to read this article, I strongly encourage you to take more time to read the reflections, at least some of them as they may encourage you to further be in touch. I believe that within the "busy-ness" we can truly see and be there. This happens by making a conscious decision to not get caught up. It's most important to pass this to the next generation. We can start by not keeping our children so busy.

What a good reminder! Thanks.

Anyone who has had a brush with mortality realises that the cult of being busy is over-rated.In order to make changes and stop the busyness creep we have to constantly work on living in the moment, building awareness and asking ourselves is this how I want my life to be. Oh yes and switch off the screens, turn down the voices, light the candles and enjoy the peace - even if its just for 5 minutes a day.

I had a 6 year old tell me the other day that "when you say you're bored, you're not. You're just lazy..." Having now read this article I think I need to tell him that actually, you're not lazy, your not using your imagination... Great article, thank you!

SImple, thoughtful and powerful piece. Yep, we indeed to take time out and look within!

I am not busy at all this time of year. From April-October, I am too busy. Come November, letting go of busy is often difficult, leaving me empty, and alone.

I must work on becoming one with these feelings. As empty and alone are fertile ground for true enlightenment.

Busyness is addicting for me. When working (as a palliative care doctor) I don't feel the aches and pains in my body, I don't feel anxious, I feel confident, purposeful, focused. And like any addiction when I am not working - and not doing any of many other ways of being busy - I crave my 'drug,' feel out of sorts. And, now retired, I am searching to learn how to be, unbusy. Thank you for your article.

Wow, just beautiful. I'm in college, and despite filling my schedule with tons of activities, my heart still feels empty. Thank you for so eloquently putting into words the way that I feel. Overextending myself has always been a point of pride of me, so it will be difficult letting it go. However, I know that to become fully myself I will need to make decisions about what will get me where I want to go. Thank you for giving me the courage to make these crucial tough decisions.

WOW! Hit home with were I was 2 years ago, glad I am where I am now, not where I projected myself to be if I did not do something about it. My heart, its happy now.


So to be honest, s true thoughts what should be considered for each of us...where we are going? "developing"...but unfortunately also the World is changing and with globalization, with this speed up life style sometimes not even easy to slow down, just look around us and see what is happening. Is it really about my feelings, my thoughts about the World about everyday life, about always being busy with work? OR Basically nothing changed with us in this short time of period, just we are not able to handle the change of circumstances, we are always want more, everything immediately, we are striving to be the BEST and punishing our self if we didn't reach the expectations or we tend to be confused because we haven't achieved our planes..our goals, because we are not able to value the small things...We should stop...look at us, and give thanks who we are, celebrate the small achievements, give smile, give kind words. :)

I really appreciate this light shined on the dis-ease of being busy. It can feel so right to be all booked up and have the kids scheduled to the max. However, if we don't give the Lord Jesus the first place in our life and in our day, things just won't work out for the good, the way we were designed to have it. He knows what things are the truly important things and with our small cooperation is able
to keep us on the path of life and peace. Just go to Him early by saying "Lord
Jesus, I need you and love you. Schedule my life and my day according to your
desires for me." When you say "Lord Jesus" you actually get the person of that
name within you forever. Speak it to Him one hundred times a day. You will see what a relaxed person with a meaningful life is.

I like to remind myself 'i have plenty of time in my life to fill it with the things I care about the most'

I have worked very hard to slow life down for my family, some times more successfully than others. What I find most difficult with this is my own view of the value of productivity which I grew up with, and my culture's. I often feel devalued because I'm not always "producing", or meeting goals. It's difficult to break away from the expected "busy-ness" of life, but from my experience of raising two kids to adulthood with my husband, in an unhurried, relationship oriented manner, it's well worth it!

Although the idea is cool but it is base on a wrong translation. Haal in arabic does not mean heart nor we say how is your heart on daily bases. Haal means your status or condition. So very similar to How are you?

This has inspired me to stop and smell the roses every so often. I love this essay! All of us need to slow down. I love the question "How is the state of your heart today?". I ask that to myself at least once a day. Very inspiring! Thanks for sharing.

Beautiful article and words. I couldn't agree more. That truly is what you hear most. " I am so busy" But these are choices and people are forgetting that they have a choice. Another thing I hear a lot is "I HAVE to do this or that" No one HAS to do anything really. We choose. How did this get so confused I am not certain? By the way, today, right now, my heart is content, relaxed, and hopeful. I am enjoying myself at this moment. And after this I am making a coffee and going out in the sun to take some nutrients in. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, feelings, ides on this subject. Things like this are great things to think on, act on (or not : ). How's your heart today?

I've been in that tower in the picture! It's in Copenhagen!!!

Its just sad that the society tends to glorify those who are busy in obnoxious phrases such as 'oh he's so busy running around like a chicken without a head'

Slowing down, balancing work, play, relationships, etc. is important, as you pointed out, and is somewhat of a choice. However, a lot of things that drive this busyness you speak of, we have absolutely no control over. The economic times we are in demand hard work for many families just to put food on the table and clothing on their growing kids. Public school's demand on our children's and parent's time is unreal and if your child wants to play a sport or be in the choir, the demands on their time and the family as a whole is utterly ridiculous! I didn't choose this rat race, but on so many levels I cannot escape it. I do what I can, but unfortunately, I do not see a return to simpler times.

In my view, busy is a four-letter word. It is not just a state of action, but also a state of mind. I have witnessed, over the years, an immense increase in my American friends' stress levels. They are overbooked, overworked and under-joyed. It makes me sad to think the world praises fast as some kind of moral imperative. Human connection takes time, something we all have; yet many of us live as though we don't. Thank you for your take on our world gone fast. There is indeed power in slow.

Gosh, this article really hit the spot. My reality is very similar to most of the people that contributed to this article. I am also guilty of that dreadful response, "I'm SO busy." I feel like I truly am though; I have six children, ranging from 12 years to 10 months old. Active military service member, finishing my college degree (15 credits this semester) and I'm also the head of household. Although my wife is really a trooper and I would definitely be lost with out her support, I'm always in charge of planning activities, school issues, personal issues etc.

This article really emphasizes that I need to slow it down. I really want to find that different type of societal model for myself and family. One were we can slow down, enjoy ourselves and our surroundings and most importantly not having this feeling of obligation to a timeline, always!

Every day I find myself a slave to business without ever feeling like I have accomplished everything I expect. My office is within three feet of my bedroom, and another three feet from the front door of my house. My cell phone, which is never turned off, stays next to my bed at night in case an "important" call comes in. (Who is going to need to call the director of a ministry when all the Ministry Partners are on other continents is beside me, but I feel the need). Down time at a doctor's office is spent texting, calling, or checking email on my phone. Amazingly, and this was a shock, my wife and I actually survived and thrived on vacation in the Redwood forest for 10 days with none of this one year, and it was the most memorable, romantic vacation of our lives!

What a wonderful article.

Great piece. I think the emphasis on yourself, and your own observations, makes it effective. That said, you point out that it's tied to decisions we, as a society, have made, or allowed to be made for us. I'm trying to convince myself that we're waking up to our own complicity in these trends, and that an increasing number of people are choosing to make time for being, rather than always doing. But it's not easy. Oddly, I find myself thinking of Guy Debord. Some of your observations (about the choices we've made with what is to be done with efficiency, technology, etc) strike me as decisions we think we're making as individuals, but which forces outside of ourselves work very hard to influence.

Two thoughts on reading this:
a. Space matters. There is a Persian cafe in Brookline, MA, where the mere energy of the place leads you to inquire after the other person's heart. While people are often working there, the spirit is not "busy", it is a spirit of creation and love. With all of the talk around Placemaking in cities, hardly anyone talks about the importance of creating this kind of island of empathy. Seek out these places, feel their effect, and recreate them. We can make this kind of an oasis in public places, in our home, and in our office.
b. There is a wonderful young adult book, Momo, by Michael Ende. Read it with your children, and feel its power to slow you down and to remind you of what a treasure you hold in the time you are given.

This was beautiful. Thank you for writing this. "Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence." Every day I stride for this. Every day I feel peace because of it. Every day I feel more human, more joyful than ever of the beauty and spirit that allows surrounds us.

Thanks for sharing a beautiful and truthful article. The recession was a real blessing for me. A time of reflection on what is important in life. Stillness, liberation. relaxation.

So many people tell me how "busy" they are. These are people who do not have jobs and are no longer raising children. They constantly run around convincing themselves they are truly busy so that they do not have to spend time thinking about what is really important in life, or perhaps so that they do not have to look back on their own lives and evaluate how they have lived.

Merci pour ce si bel article...tout le monde devrait le lire et prendre le temps d'y réfléchir..Cette maladie est malheureusement universelle...

While you're reflecting... you're kids are fine. It's you who has the "I'm too busy" mindset. And it manifests itself in the relationships you create with other "I'm too busy" types. Stop it in your world and it will stop in others and most importantly won't rub off on your kids.

Excellent article

In the end is to have the courage to live your life with your values, holding tight in meeting them in your every day actions. The courage to be yourself, developing yourself and be grateful of doing the bset you can in at all times. Thank you for sharing the grretings in Arabic asking about ones heart at thus breath. Thus really hit home for me. It must be over 10 years now that I am working on knowing what does my heart wants. The answer was so remote then but now, i am much more connected, although not to the point I am aiming for, however, I'm able to listen and act upon it much better now than then. This is each our journey. May you find the courage to live your life in line with your heart and values, day in, day out!

I was raised to believe that if your weren't busy, you weren't productive. So, I filled my schedule for years, slam-packed my days, living "every moment" as if it were the last. Then, I hit a wall. I didn't want to live like a robot anymore. In fact, I wanted to DO NOTHING. And when I really started yoga and meditation, it all made sense--I could we way more productive when I was actually taking time to relax and refresh and enjoy doing nothing. I am a completely different person now, and I actually have blocks of time, daily, in my calendar that say, Do Nothing. And I do!

I so agree with this article. I am retired now and can enjoy some spaces in my life and am purposely living close to my children and grandchildren so I can transport now and then and do little things to allow them some space in their lives.

How true!

Yesterday someone pointed out that I had one day off work in ten days. I honor that having a job is a privilege. I honor that having a day off is a privilege. I also honor myself, and the way I felt having my second day off on the eleventh day: depleted. Spent. Unable to create in the written, visual, musical ways that are integral to my spiritual practice. Needing to sleep and sleep and sleep some more, not only to catch up on hours but to process the mini-traumas that had occurred during my days being completely “on”–those days that hadn’t allowed time for processing.

When I am in the midst of the business, it feels good. It feels like a high. It feels addictive.

But when I climb out of it, and have time to slow down, be still, be silent, sleep, and process, I feel the lack of sustainability. The need to be in nature. The need for more solitude. The need for more time to be in my creative mind.

I hold the awareness of the national and global suffering that is occurring at this moment. Sometimes getting myself to work and through the work-day, given my current health problems, is all I can do. It is my “showing up.” It is my way of being present in the way that I can.

Mr. Safi writes, “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?”

I think this conversation is integral to activism. Reflection and community are integral to productive social movements, in addition to being crucial for mental health.

Free time is a complex issue, very linked to class. We must think of unemployment when we glorify free time: unwanted free time for lack of job options or availability. There is a difference between those who choose to work extreme hours because they love or are addicted to or are stuck in their jobs, and those who have no choice but to work extreme hours, simply in an effort to support themselves and their families.

I am not suggesting a simple examination of free time. I am suggesting a complex one. Let us complicate the disease of being busy, but let us also acknowledge that it exists. What are we hiding from when we intentionally fill our days to the maximum. What don’t we want to see inside of ourselves that might come creeping out if it only had the time?

Thank you Mr. Safi, for this post!

I've often envisioned a time in humanity when we are living in the present and letting our feelings, not plans, guide our actions and daily life. Then I realized that this was my childhood, unencumbered by technological distractions, where my imagination ruled. When I was a child, my imagination was necessary to learning how to enjoy and endure life without instant gratification for myself or family. If there is any point to suffering on through one's journey, maybe it's in discovering I let go of habitual misery and chose to reflect, imagine, and wonder again. All I had to do is stop trying to live like everyone else and embrace, appreciate, and rejoice in the spirit of who I am, instead of living out only the roles I play to others. This was a good article !

The type of article that open your eyes about NOW ! This word has becoming greedy and humans are become competitive robots seeking for success and more and more materialistic things ! Simplicity sounds too old fashion, but it is the key to realize that we are all connected and responsible for our destiny and in some point we have to slow down, breath easy and reflect what is our real reason to be in this planet, what we have to learn as a human race !

well said. As the poet William Henry Davies says

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare

I did like your article. And I would like to know how the heart is conneted to the question kayf haal ik. I was trying to find out on internet but find only that "haal" means heath or condition.() or here(. Be well!

Nice and true for you dear Omi, but are you sure your feelings are universal? you write "we" think,"we" say, "we" feel, as if you were speaking for the whole human gender. But there are different cultures, different personalities, some are task oriented, others relationship oriented. Some people are "doers", others are "thinkers" etc... in other words what you say is fine but should not be considered as universal; I know people who are happy to receive 100 emails a day, who love being buried in action, meetings, schedules... and that is great! we are all different, and that is the wealth of humanity.

How is my heart doing? My heart is heart is looking forward to Christmas and post-christmas. I can't wait for the new year to start! :-)

I suspect many of us remain busy so that we DON'T have time to explore the dark corners of our soul, for fear that we won't like what we find. Busy-ness keeps us distracted from achieving authentic personal growth, which is often painful and fraught with additional challenges.

What a wonderful article…. it touched my heart! I am a life coach, and so frequently this busyness is a factor in my clients unhappiness or the loss of their mojo! Its as if the busyness has a voice so loud in their heads they can't hear their heart or their soul which may whisper softly in the beginning that it needs some timeout and some face to face time or human connection to reignite it… but that whisper gets louder and morphs into symptoms of (dis)stress (this is of course just my opinion), sleep is hard to come by, headaches may become a frequent visitor and blood pressure may start rising. Even with these symptoms individuals are still unwilling to accept that there might be a link between the activities they are doing day in and day out and how they feel…. I don't have a global solution, but as a parent I do ensure that my children have nothing time… time they have to fill themselves as well as time to just be. Thank you for a delightful article - I have never felt the inclination to add my comments before, so thank you for taking me on a new path today.

What a wonderful & very thought-provoking article! Thank you :)
My New Year's resolution, which will actually begin now, is to practise being present. And, I love the idea of asking "how is your heart doing"....I will do this.

This is just SO true! My take was to keep the kids out of trouble, keep them busy!! :-)
It DOES take alot to sit and examine your life - truthfully and closely! Takes alot of courage to do it - so that is why ... maybe ... we over-schedule.... it's too hard!
I, personally, feel guilty if I am sitting doing "nothing"! Yeah - a product of our times... My heart today.... happy, joyful and grateful.... it's Christmas afterall!!!

Thank you for sharing this. This topic is poignant for my family right now. We have been reflecting on this concept quite recently. The feeling of scrambling everywhere, all the time. But we are working on cutting off the distractions and just being with each other. And slowly I see it changing how we interact. It feels better. And my heart is still tired today. Tired of the squabbles and aloof interactions this pace creates. But I am working on it, one deep breath at a time. Dreaming of more time without schedules and deadlines and rules. Just existing without agenda, seeing where the day takes us. Learning to humbly let go and let life be. I am tired, but I am hopeful. And that leaves me with a glimpse of peace.

So true!


As I am now older , I actually morn for our lost past & innocent way of life .

I have for many years practiced a spiritual program which long ago tapped into the importance of balance in all your affairs. I smile when I think of so many people being busy getting nowhere, and when hey get their, their worn out, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Being centered is a spiritual principal. I have learned to look into the dark corners of my mind those which are influence by my world, job, social status, need to be seen….. oh, how much of my life was waisted. I was one of the lucky people who as a child was able to run out of school into the woods and at dark run home for supper. No play dated, no endless classes because that's what our parents friends were doing. Your article was refreshing. I guess the secret was I was born in 1941.

I, too, have struggled "against" busy-ness for more time than I'd like to admit. I'd like to report some success of late, and add some thoughts to the conversation. I was struck years ago when I learned the Japanese kanji (pictograph) for the word busy: it literally means--and shows--a dead heart. This concept fits right into the conversation about "How's your heart today?" (thank you for that btw--I am going to venture forth with that greeting instead of "how are you?") Through my Buddhist eyes, I've really come to see busy-ness above the poverty line as thinly disguised greed: a longing for fitting in more of this and that. It's a tragic habit for many reasons, not the least of which is that what's right in front is never enough, the horizon of our arrival, finally, in our lives is never reached. Maybe it's because I'm getting to old to keep running after that horizon, but I'm finding a lot of exquisite joy and astonishment in just meeting up with now.

This message is so appropriate for me. Today and yesterday, I began going thru e-mails and unsubscribing myself from so many of them. Today and yesterday I unsubscribed from 59. "Too busy" you say! When all I can do is "think" about what I need to do,where to go,who to call,what to send, I know I am too busy. This is my start, then I will create a new e-address and delete the old.

Thank you for your thoughts!


I agree with each sentence if your article. We are productively engaged in destroying ourselves. By the way , I wanted to give you the name of the person who said, 'An unexamined life is not worth living'. It was the Greek philosopher Socrates.

Leo Buscgalia, "The Art of Being Fully Human"