Why Busyness Is Actually Modern Laziness

Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter

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Awakin FeatureAction addiction is an advanced sort of laziness. It keeps us busily occupied with tasks. The busier we keep ourselves, the more we avoid being confronted with questions of life and death. As we keep ourselves occupied with tasks, important or not, we avoid facing life. We keep a safe and comfortable distance to the issues that are sometimes hard to look at. Have we chosen the right career? Are we present enough with our children? Is our life purposeful?

With all our activity we believe we get closer to something bigger. We might not know what it is, but we keep working at it. It´s like climbing a ladder as fast as we can, hoping to get to the top. And someday we get there. We reach the top in the form of a job promotion or a newly acquired house. But what’s the point of reaching the top of the ladder only to realize it’s leaning against the wrong wall?

One time, the Dalai Lama was coming to town. More than 10,000 people were coming together to see him. Over 500 volunteers, dozens of security people, and masses of journalists had to be coordinated. The man behind it all, Lakha, was a little man in his late 70s and an old friend and study mate of the Dalai Lama. When I asked him, “Hi, Lakha, are you busy?” he turned, looked at me calmly and said, “There is lots of activity, but I am not busy.” His presence spoke louder than his words. Lakha was overseeing a massive project with numerous deadlines and details to manage. There was lots going on, but it did not get to him. He was not busy.

On that day I realized clearly that busyness is a choice. We may have deadlines, projects, and activities, but we have the freedom to choose whether we become action addicts and busy-lazy, or just observe the experience of many activities. It’s a choice. And the ability to make that choice comes from developing a clear mind, free of action addiction.

Nowadays we tend to all be busy, overburdened, and perhaps stressed. It is part of our identity. If we are busy we are important. If we are stressed, it’s because we are committed and working hard. It´s in the DNA of our modern societies. If we are not busy and stressed, we are not trying hard enough. Something is wrong with us. But Lakha showed a clear alternative; having many activities and being highly effective and productive, but maintaining mental clarity and calm -- not giving in to action addiction. Not being existentially lazy.

Rasmus Hougaard is the founder of the Potential Project, Jacqueline Carter is the author of One Second Ahead. Excerpt above is from an article in Mindful magazine.
 

Seed questions for reflection: What does being existentially lazy mean to you? Can you share a personal experience of a time you became acutely aware of this laziness? What helps you be in activity without being "busy"?

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8 Previous Reflections:

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    On Mar 22, 2019 Rajul Shah wrote:
    Being existentially lazy to me means not being aware of the core values of one's life, of being like on a treadmill, running but not reaching anywhere. I was made to acutely aware of this laziness when my life and my family' life were shaken up by illness and death in family. It was a 'wake up' call. Daily introspection at the end of the day asking oneself what am i doing? why am i doing? did it affect any of my core values? helps me personally with this awareness. Being in activity without being 'busy' to me , means being aware of what is the purpose of one's life? Also, keeping Death in awareness, realizing the limited life span one has, helps me to be in awareness and thus in activity without being 'busy'.

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    On Mar 20, 2019 Quacinda wrote:
    Seed questions for reflection: 1.) What does being existentially lazy mean to you? To me it means that: • I have beenunaware of my own domestication - how I was trained to be and to behave. •It means I am caught up in dysfunctional drama. • it means I am living by lies instead of truth. 2.)Can you share a personal experience of a time you became acutely aware of this laziness? Long story short.. when I realized I put-up with crap because I was raised to accept others being dominate and powerful over me. I was taught to give-in, to 'turn the other cheek' accepting and even going beyond acceptance by offering the abuser 'to do it again', all in the name of God [and in this way making a sacrificeof sorts - becoming a martyr, suffering for others and believing God has a reward for me in the endfor God. I didn't realize I could say no to abuse and walk away from it. And I didn't have to stay in an abusiverelationship in order to live right. Ibecam... [View Full Comment] Seed questions for reflection:
    1.) What does being existentially lazy mean to you?

    To me it means that:
    • I have beenunaware of my own domestication - how I was trained to be and to behave.
    •It means I am caught up in dysfunctional drama.
    • it means I am living by lies instead of truth.

    2.)Can you share a personal experience of a time you became acutely aware of this laziness?

    Long story short.. when I realized I put-up with crap because I was raised to accept others being dominate and powerful over me. I was taught to give-in, to 'turn the other cheek' accepting and even going beyond acceptance by offering the abuser 'to do it again', all in the name of God [and in this way making a sacrificeof sorts - becoming a martyr, suffering for others and believing God has a reward for me in the endfor God.
    I didn't realize I could say no to abuse and walk away from it. And I didn't have to stay in an abusiverelationship in order to live right.

    Ibecame aware of the real issues and what to do about it when I was30 years old. I sought support from pastors, fromcounselors, and support groups. Then I askedfor a divorce, and walked away. It was painful and life became harder financially. But I talked openly with my four children (they were half grown) and showed son and daughters they didn't need to put up with abuse. Ten years later I can say we are definitely happier.

    3.)What helps you be in activity without being "busy"?
    For me, to be aware. To think positive, to take steps even if I don't get exactly what I want right away.[Hide Full Comment]

    1 reply: AJ | Post Your Reply
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    On Mar 19, 2019 David Doane wrote:
    Existentially lazy means avoiding the most important questions in life, for example: Who am I? What am I doing with my life? What contribution am I making to life? How is my relatedness with others? I became acutely aware of this laziness when I became aware that doing and busyness can be ways to avoid being, and it is being that is most important. Hougaard and Carter's line from Joseph Campbell about climbing the ladder of success only to find out the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall is a way of saying that our striving in busyness may be taking us away from being rather than toward being. When I am in activity without being busy, what helps me is having a sense of being in the world of busyness while not being of it, abiding in awareness of the ocean of eternal Being that we are all part of while I am simultaneously busy with some surface flotations that come and go. When I am in activity being without being busy, I enjoy what Buddhism refers to as equanimity.

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    On Mar 19, 2019 Office.com/setup | www.office.com/setup - office setup wrote:
    Listed on office setup are the steps in the installation of this software and other things that need to be done by going to office.com/setup and follow the on-screen instructions:

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    On Mar 17, 2019 Xiaoshan wrote:
    Wise words, "Keeping ourselves busy so we do not have to face life." Keeping myself busy is easy. Facing life is not only hard but scary. So if I choose busyness, which I do often, is because it is easy. It kicks the can down the street so I do not have to do hard work and confront my fear, until perhaps when I am too old to stay busy or I am so ill and have to face my death. Not sure what could be done or thought of at that moment, except regrets and prayers for another chance of life.

    The world around me is doing everything it can, to push me staying busy and 'engaged'. Competition of all sorts, job security, peer pressure, 140 TV channels, Clash Of Clans, deteriorating backyard, emails, FaceBook,and Twitter, are only a few among the countless distractions. I am in such a rush to go somewhere, or nowhere. This is, what being existentially lazy means to me.

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    On Mar 15, 2019 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:
    Thank you for this timely reminder! Being existentially lazy to me means giving oneself the time to reflect, the quiet to contemplate and the space to simply be. What helps me be in activity without being "busy" is to be in it mindfully and to focus on one task at a time. This is something I honestly work on weekly because I have had the tendency (especially when I lived in Washington DC) to get really caught up in busy. Now that I am in a more quiet space (literally) I find that it is easier to focus in on one thing at a time, to actually take weekends off and NOT fill the time with tasks or mindless activities.

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    On Mar 15, 2019 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    To me being existentially lazy means being mindfully aware of the actions I do in my everyday life. This kind of awarenesshelps me to make wise choices."The ability to make that choice comes from my developing a clear mind, free of action addiction.", as the authors RasmusHouggardand Jacqueline Carter state in this article. I became clearly awareof this laziness on one nice day when was walking barefooted and fell down and got hurt. This experience made me realize how much my mind was busy, driven by action addiction. I learned a lesson of being existentially lazy, of being mindfullyawareof the choices I make in my everydaylife. I am appreciating the valueof a a couple of a few wise sayings. Easy does it...Hasten slowly... Know when non-doing is better than doing... A wise person knows what to do and not do, when to do and when not to do. As I am growing up I have been learning many lessons mostly from me. One has been like a mantra. Take 5 deep, slow and gentle breaths bef... [View Full Comment] To me being existentially lazy means being mindfully aware of the actions I do in my everyday life. This kind of awarenesshelps me to make wise choices."The ability to make that choice comes from my developing a clear mind, free of action addiction.", as the authors RasmusHouggardand Jacqueline Carter state in this article.

    I became clearly awareof this laziness on one nice day when was walking barefooted and fell down and got hurt. This experience made me realize how much my mind was busy, driven by action addiction. I learned a lesson of being existentially lazy, of being mindfullyawareof the choices I make in my everydaylife. I am appreciating the valueof a a couple of a few wise sayings. Easy does it...Hasten slowly... Know when non-doing is better than doing... A wise person knows what to do and not do, when to do and when not to do.
    As I am growing up I have been learning many lessons mostly from me. One has been like a mantra. Take 5 deep, slow and gentle breaths before jumping into an action. This breath pause button helps me not to react but to respond, to be existentially busy. My actions come from myquiet and clear mind set and not from a cloudy and cluttered mind set.
    May we all learn to be existentially busy!
    Namaste.
    JagdishP Dave

    [Hide Full Comment]

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