I promised a post on “busy-ness” last Friday, but then I, um, got busy… Oh, Physician Rubi, heal thyself!

What are we up to when we are busy? Sometimes, of course, we are doing things that are necessary for our well-being — working, exercising, cooking, and so on — but it’s often more helpful to view those activities through the lens of “activity” than “busy-ness.” Being “busy” is really a state of mind.

Tied in with it are our ideas of being productive with our time, or being wasteful of it. We want to have a tangible result for our busy-ness — some thing that we can show to others so they will see that we are good stewards of our time and resources. We want to be seen as using it well, to be valued for having invested our time wisely. Notice something here? I’m talking about time as if it were a form of currency.

But long-lived truisms aside, time is not money. There’s a limitless supply of it, and it’s available to all of us. You can’t buy it or sell it. What’s more, you can’t bank it — and there’s no business that manufactures and distributes time. When we start to understand that, we can also start to understand how this view leads us to value busy-ness over other qualities.

What if we saw busy as it really is? If we noticed that it is actually the opposite of engagement and presence? That being busy means that we can’t be mindful? That it causes so much of the stress that we complain about?

These are questions that we all need to find our own answers to. For some of us, it will mean taking on less, or shedding things that we’re currently doing. But that’s not always an option. We may not be able to stop doing something we’ve committed to, or we may genuinely enjoy an activity. In those cases, perhaps the answer is not what we are doing, but how we are doing it. Can we be active, engaged and present, without being busy?

It’s something I aim to find out.

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