Being Over-Busy

Do you know people who make themselves over-busy? They have a busy job, with lots of responsibility, kids that seem to always have activities going and then they volunteer for every project, committee, and fundraiser? Are you one of those people? If you are, you’ve probably been in the middle of rushing somewhere in the car, or have just walked away from a frustrating conversation with someone who isn’t moving at a thousand miles a minute like you. You wondered why you’re always so busy, why you always have to be the one to do things. You may have even resolved to “simplify your life.” How many times has “slowing down” been your New Year’s resolution? If you’re like most people, you may have found it mystifyingly difficult to stop all the activity.

Yoga is extremely interested in all questions about action. For instance, “Why do we do the things we do?” Or more dramatically, “OMG WHYYYY did I just do THAT!!!???” Of course, not to be confused with “What was I thinking?!?!?” The point is that Yoga has deeply reflected on questions related to the intentions behind our actions and it has wonderful tools for understanding and influencing them.

The Story of A Man and His Wife

A man retires. He and his wife are notorious for always being late for everything. He hates being late, but there are always so many last-minute things to do before she can leave the house, that they never seem to be able to leave on time. He tries a strategy. Early in the day, he asks his wife what she needs to have accomplished before they can leave in the afternoon for an important function. He says, “Give me the top five things from your to-do list and I’ll take care of them.” Thinking he’s got this problem figured out, and that for once they’re going to leave on time, he proudly returns to her with those five things finished. Except that with those five things done, his wife has moved five more things up her list that need to be done before they can leave. He tries it again, and again, but it doesn’t work. The fact is, her list is inexhaustible. 

Now you may be shaking your head and agreeing that, in today’s modern living, there is no end to the number of things that need to be done and everyone is just stuck over-doing. But actually, that’s not true.

The man’s wife keeps filling her life with more and more to do because it feeds her in some way. Being overbusy is functional. On some level, it answers a need for her. She could hire six people to do all the things on her list, but she will always find something more that needs to be done because it is not about the actual tasks she’s doing. The tasks are a tool, a means for her to feel a certain way; that she matters, or that she’s helping others, or being a good mother or some other “fill in the blank,” as it will be different for different people. The point is that the doing of the tasks is satisfying something inside her. Until that need, which is indeed being satisfied somehow through the busy-ness, is met in some other way, she is never going to be less busy. Truly, the only way for that busy-ness to stop is to find another way to answer the underlying need.

How Yoga Can Help Transform Our Lives

And Yoga can do that. Through practice, especially meditation, we can answer that need. The steps are fairly straightforward, though the practical implementation is more difficult and requires the help of a skilled practitioner to guide you. Essentially, the steps are to figure out specifically what the need is, then devise an experience, i.e. a meditation, that functionally answers that need. The ideal result will be that nearly every time the meditation is practiced, the person has an experience that provides them with the feeling that they need. As this is repeated through practice, slowly that feeling becomes more established in the person.

Returning to the example above, if the function of the wife’s busy-ness is to let her feel like “it’s ok to be on the planet” and the meditation practice is properly devised, then each day she will have some bit of the feeling that it’s ok for her to be on the planet. And, assuming that she practices regularly, that feeling will grow over time.

As she starts to feel that it’s okay for her to be here, she’ll naturally have more space in her day. Why? Because the whole function of packing every minute of the day is for her to feel like “It’s okay for her to be here”. If she already feels like it’s okay for her to be here, then all of the things that she’s making herself busy with will slowly fall away of their own accord. And it will feel more or less like it is happening to her, instead of her pushing to make it happen.

This is the transformational magic of Yoga.