Returning to the Self: How to Overcome the Busy-ness of Modern Life.

Via on May 24, 2012

 

Busy-ness is Imprisonment.

Between every heart beat is a gap of infinite silence. From this silence emerges the indestructible expressiveness of our true life. Our true self is like a blue-print or a seed that unfolds when nourished by an open and direct relationship with the is-ness of right here-right now.

Written on each and every heart is a mandate to experience the Self fully through sadness, joy, fellowship, silence, sex and loneliness.

This ontological imperative expresses itself, through the body, as a yearning for a raw, unmediated relationship with whatever arises—sleeping when tired, crying when sad, eating when we are hungry, and making love when inspired by intimacy. Consenting to this movement is awakening.

Unfortunately, our relationship with the present moment is seldom characterized by an attitude of consent. Often times, we get lost in our interpretation of this silence. We personalize the openness, making it appear to be a void. As a result, we feel broken or incomplete—“I am not good enough,” “Strong enough,” “Thin enough” or “Smart enough.” We adopt a mentality of poverty.

This poverty mentality transforms life into a process of becoming. Rather than taking participation in the expansion of our human life cycle as the point, we insert a fictitious conclusion that the process is working towards.

“I” is under construction.

Life becomes a hunt for that magical missing ingredient—the square peg for the square shaped hole in our soul, so to speak. We begin looking down the road, awaiting the grand finale—graduation, financial success, marriage, divorce, the birth of our first child and the independence of our last. All the while, we are overlooking the point of life, which is to live. So, we feel lifeless, which just reinforces the belief that we are broken or missing something. Therefore, we try harder. This is imprisonment.

Imprisonment is busy-ness. We get addicted to the process of becoming human. Life is seen as nothing more than a means to an end. The direct experience of being is replaced by a vague and elusive self-image.

We neglectfully ignore our innate responsibility to be our Self, and take up the project of creating our selves. In the back of our minds, we think, “Sure, my true self is basically good or whatever, but people love and accept you based on success and accomplishment, not what you are underneath.” So, we try to figure out what they want us to be: our parents, friends, sadly, our enemies, our employer, and significant other.

Then, we set about bringing this image to fruition. The desire for a warm bath is suppressed by our obsession with finishing that last stack of paper work; the need for a long, silent walk is pushed aside in order to make that last phone call; morning meditation is indefinitely postponed, but only until things settle down, so we can get a head start on the busy day before us. Rather than taking a break to read or journal, we prostitute our Self for the affections and approval of our friends and family.

This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you…

To make matters worse, this is all done with the best of intentions. We intend to come back to ourselves, just as soon as everything calms down. In fact, most of us are running ourselves to death, in order to create time and space for sanity and relaxation later on down the road.

Our busy lifestyles are like a 401k. As soon as our finances are in order, our work is complete and the husband or wife is happy we plan on breaking in those new running shoes we got for Christmas. Unfortunately, things never settle down. July 4th rolls around, and we still haven’t taken them out of the box.

The busy-ness doesn’t just go away. We can take a vacation or go on retreat, but if we do not genuinely relax into who we are, we will find all the stress and anxiety of “project becoming” awaiting our return. Our lives appears hectic, only because we transformed it into an endless series of tasks to be accomplished.

Every phone call leads only to another stack of paper work to be completed. The next stack of paperwork drives our husbands or wives even further away, which creates another problem that takes up space in our head. So, we put off the bath and the evening walk, yet again. Before long our life is overwhelmed by repressed energy.

Returning home.

Busy-ness is precipitated by the belief that we must earn the right to be. It isn’t that we do not want to be our Self—more than anything in the world we want to be our Self. Rather, we believe that we have to get our shit together, first. Then, we can sit with our Self. Sadly, our shit never comes together. So, we never earn the right to be with our Self. Instead, we run our Self into the ground trying to create and maintain our selves. Then, we keep going until we fall into groundlessness.

This groundlessness or complete despair is humanity’s saving grace. It is the gateway to that basic state of wakefulness our hearts crave. The busy-ness—all the paranoia, insecurity, people pleasing behavior, having to defend the previous success and earn the next one—is unsustainable. It brings us to a breaking point. This breaking point is rock bottom—there is no plan B or exit strategy. We are certain that we cannot continue living this way.

We are exhausted, afraid, stressed out, frustrated, sad, and there is no where to run. We have followed the path of becoming through to it’s conclusion. We see that, much like herding cats, it is an endless task. In the midst of our despair, we see our insanity for what it is. This is the moment of clarity. The restoration of sanity begins with the recognition of insanity—crazy people do not know they are crazy!

Despair forces us to start where we are. Our suffering brings us back to the here-and-now, a place many of us have not been for some time. Despair is the recognition of defeat. We see that “our way” is futile, which enables us to surrender to the blue-print that is our humanity.

We hop in the shower, get a bite to eat, and take a nap. We grab the dog and take that walk we’ve been putting off for a few days. The basic quality of wakefulness re-emerges as an invitation to sit with the simplicity of our breath for a few minutes. Throughout the day, we return to the immediacy of the present moment by reconnecting with the breath.

Interestingly enough, we do all of this in the face of busy-ness. Like I said, busy-ness doesn’t just go away. It is there the whole time, tugging at the belief in our own insufficiency.

The paperwork, the unpainted fence, the sink full of dirty dishes—they all seem to be voices animated by our insecurity, calling us back to “project becoming” by reminding us that we must earn, not only love and acceptance, but the right to be. It takes courage to relate to despair. We pause and come back to our Self with a deep breath.

Innate Amnesty.

Suffering is an invitation to let the Self breathe. The movement of our true life cares nothing about “our” projects, plans, fears, and/or ambitions.

It is like a tree root breaking through the concrete of our ego-centric lifestyle. Our heart cares only about the process of unfolding that is the human journey. It is our job to defend the space that facilitates this expressiveness—to cut through stress, anxiety, aggression, and depression. In the beginning, our sword is the breath.

The human journey does not begin with love and compassion for our fellow man. Before we can be loving and compassionate to those around us, we have to cultivate an attitude of loving-kindness towards our Self.

We have to be available to our own life before we can begin to be available to our friends, family, or enemies. We have to fiercely defend the silence from which our true life emerges. Obviously, this includes a daily practice that revitalizes our connection with basic sanity. But we must also be willing to drop whatever we are doing and take a nap when we are tired, grab a bite to eat when we are hungry or get up and go pee, rather than frantically typing the last paragraph of that email.

A life of busy-ness is a life of hoarding vouchers that we hope to cash in at a later date for the right to be our Self. That right is embedded in the human condition. Life cannot be earned or accomplished. It is a gift. Our diplomas, degrees, accomplished projects, and paychecks do not make us worthy of this gift.

The human journey is not about earning our humanity, but embracing it. It is a crash course in unconditional love. If we are grateful for something, we will take care of it. So, the journey begins with taking care of our Self. This is how we accept the gift of life, and in turn, gift our Self to the world we live in.

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~

Editor: Kate Bartolotta

About Benjamin Riggs

Ben Riggs is the director of the Refuge Meditation Group in Shreveport, LA. Ben writes extensively about Buddhist & Christian spirituality and politics for The Good Men Project, Elephant Journal, The Web of Enlightenment, and is the editor & chief for Henry Harbor--an online magazine concerned with art, culture, spirituality, & politics in the deep South. To keep up with all of his work follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Looking for a real bio? Click here to read my story....

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15 Responses to “Returning to the Self: How to Overcome the Busy-ness of Modern Life.”

  1. Jigme says:

    What a wonderful article, loved it!

  2. Daisy says:

    Great article, thank you.

  3. Dennis says:

    Thanks Ben. Great article. Sorely needed.

  4. Lisa says:

    Your writing always cuts past the cliche' and enters as lived, wise experience – thank you for the gift of presence.

  5. cassandralanesmith says:

    Thank you, Ben. As always, the clarity of your writing is extremely impressive!

  6. ValCarruthers says:

    Terrific article, Ben. It's fascinating, if not frightening, to observe, whether in myself or others, how the onslaught of thoughts—and their attendant impact on body and psyche—can shut down our connection to the breath.To life itself. Yet the simple, nurturing act of returning to the breath, over and over again, reveals the way back to what really is: the moment and being fully alive in it. Every word you write rings true.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Team Leader
    Elephant Spirituality

    "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

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