Are You Busy?

These days, it seems like everyone is busy. On the phone, on the road, in the office. We’re encouraged to work to tight schedules, to update each other on every detail of our daily lives, to constantly tell other people what we think and feel, to commit to meetings. Even in our downtime, at weekends, there’s pressure to shop, to DIY, to network, to travel.

All this activity brings with it a furious unceasing torrent of communication, by e-mail, instant message, by phone, by text, by social media. Our phones are the first things we reach for, at the start of every day, and if we’ve run out of charge, it’s a mini-disaster. We get nervous when we’re disconnected. But is all this ‘activity’ good for us?

For eight months, I was isolated from all that, and despite the circumstances, it felt glorious.  

What happened was, I had Sepsis: for sixteen weeks, I was in an induced coma, then for the rest of that time, I was in the Rehab ward at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. My wife visited every day, but apart from that, I had very little interaction with the outside world. I had a lot of treatment in the hospital, but in the usual sense of the word, I wasn’t busy. I liked that.

Since I’d cheated death, I felt like maybe there was a different way to live.

A pure and mindful way, where every day I could celebrate my second chance and be more kind, thoughtful, appreciative, insightful, grateful, loving, giving, unhurried, sensitive, calm. I clearly remember being taken on a car ride, just to get me out of the hospital for the first time after several months of being incarcerated – seeing all the people in Cambridge going about their busy lives. And I felt like shouting out to them: ‘’Hey guys, look up, smile – life is wonderful!”        

But when I got home, I had to get busy again.

There were a thousand appointments, money was tight, relationships had to be rebuilt, disability made things complicated. I suffered profoundly with post-traumatic stress. Soon I had to go out to work. As a quadruple amputee, everything was difficult. I learned to drive again, my children were young, I needed to pay attention to their concerns. Busy was deemed to be desirable. It was a goal. The moment I slowed down, I had time to think – and my head was an alarm clock full of broken pieces. It felt like I had no choice, but to re-connect with the schedule.

I’m working hard every day now to control the way I feel and to become a master of time. 

How grand does that sound? But, why shouldn’t I be ambitious for myself? We all deserve the very best outcomes in our lives. What I mean is, I remind myself constantly that I have complete control over my own mind and I can make an active choice to populate it with good things. I persuade myself to be happy – actually, with a little practice, concentrating on all the great things I have left, that’s become easy. I’ve got a limited amount of time left alive, so why not work and get busy to make it good time, happy time, loving time, grateful time?    

A Minute of Mindfulness

I like this a lot. Comedienne Ruby Wax recommends www.frazzledcafe.orgfor those who are interested in decluttering their minds. Here’s her take on how to get less busy, fast:

”…So, the minute you focus on a physical sense, your ‘brain-fog’ starts to cool down – it doesn’t go away, your thoughts aren’t going to stop – but focusing on something physical means that the thoughts get a little quieter and less virulent.

“…Sit in your chair, come away from the back of the chair, so you’re not slouching. Make sure your spine is self-supporting and relax your head. Let your shoulders drop. Send your focus as far away from your gabbling brain as you can, i.e. to the other end of your body. So just focus on the sensation of where both feet are touching the floor.

“…So, you really feel the weight of your body in that area where your feet and the ground make contact. Now let that go, but take that focus and see if you can sense where your body is making contact with the chair – the whole outline of your body and the weight of it on the chair. Let that go.

“…Now take your focus to sound, so all you’re doing is listening. To the right, left, front, behind. Just let the sound come to you. Your mind will wander, that’s normal, just bring it back to focus on sound. Then see if you can sense how and when you are breathing. Notice the pauses and your breath going in and out.

“…Let your thoughts go, just be in the room for a minute.”