Two years ago Tim Kreider wrote an article for the New York Times titled The ‘Busy’ Trap which talks about the issues within our modern-day culture of constantly busying ourselves–if only as a means of seeming productive, desirable and meaningful–and how it leaves us with little time to reflect, rest and live in the moment. He wrote:
“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.”
Reading this article woke me up to the fact that I was, indeed, in my own self-inflicted busy trap, and I started to step back from all the tasks I had lined up for myself and quickly felt like a more focused, peaceful human being. Of course, between moving states, buying our first home, having our second child, raising a toddler, and everything else life throws at you, it’s been easy to fall back into that busy trap.
This last week Kate Murphy wrote an article for the New York Times Sunday Review titled No Time to Think which delves deeper into Kreider’s thoughts on the negative impact of busyness by looking at some recent studies in psychology and neuroscience. By studying people’s reactions to being left alone and their response to it (i.e. shocking themselves as a means to not just sit in boredom), it was made quite clear the lengths to which people will go to avoid their own personal thoughts by busying ourselves. Not surprisingly, the more we avoid our negative thoughts, the more power we give to them and the more we need to busy ourselves to avoid them. And the less time we spend resting our mind, the less creative, empathetic, and joyful we become.
Overall Murphy’s article is a great reminder of what Buddhists have said for ages–meditation is important for our health, and not just spiritually. Especially in this day and age when our constant observation of each other affects our perception of reality and we suffer from relative deprivation and FOMO, it’s easy to get caught up in the negatives and not see the power our minds play in our happiness. I’ll end on one of my favorite quotes:
“Happiness lies in the mind, not in external circumstances”. – Geshe Kelsang Gyatso