Here in the West, life isn’t slow or calm or laid back.
We’re hurrying. We’re scrambling. We’re scurrying around in autopilot mode, running on the fumes of unconscious programming picked up in childhood.
By nightfall, we’re a blur of weary souls sprawled out in the recliner or bed, scrolling, surfing, binge-watching our preferred tech screen. We must.
Our minds just need a break, eh?
We need a break, and vegging out can be a godsend.
However, screen time isn’t slowing down the racing mind. In fact, some argue it’s causing even more anxiety and emotional weariness.
In other words, many of us may be able to slow down the body—but the mind? It continues to race, oftentimes leading to feelings of fear, disappointment, shame, and blame.
We feel lonely. Empty. And anxious. Ever so anxious.
Beware the Barrenness of a Busy Life
Years ago, I heard a saying that has stuck with me: “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”
Barrenness means the state of being unfruitful or unproductive. Think of a barren woman who can’t conceive a child or a barren land that can’t produce a harvest. It’s empty, arid, fruitless, depleted.
I don’t know about you, but I grew up believing that the busier I was, the more successful I would be.
Want more? Do more.
Want the best? Be the best.
But hold up just a sec. Is this really true?
Sure, goals matter. Action steps matter. Busting your butt to get the job done is important—whether it’s parenting, clocking in at the job, keeping the house up, and so on.
However, there’s a whole crew of people who swing to the end of that pendulum, equating “busyness” with things like worth, status, and success.
And, in time, they become so depleted, so burned out, that they are beyond miserable.
Burnout is among the most common complaints these days.
Along with loneliness.
Ask therapists what most of their clients are saying:
>> I’m tired. So effing tired.
>> I’m scared. Of everything. Failure. Being alone. Losing everything. Rejection. Screwing my kids up. Sickness. Death. Sure, I walk into the office, school, and home with a smile, but inside I’m terrified.
>> My anxiety is through the roof. I drink, smoke, pop pills to try to keep it at bay. It’s not working.
>> I’m losing my sh*t. I can’t take one more thing.
>> I feel like I have zero purpose. What the hell am I here for?
The Rat Race will have you Running Circles…Forever
The rat race is a phrase that tends to describe life for many in industrialized societies, where people compete with others for money and power. For example, let’s say Mary signs up for a job that consumes most of her time, so she can buy (or rent) an expensive home and fill it with lots of cool things in order to keep up with the Joneses. Cool, right?
Perhaps, for a while, but Mary’s over it. She’s stressed out and burned out. She thinks weekly about giving it all up and renting an RV to travel, but fear and debt hold her back. So, she figures she’ll just make even more money in an attempt to solve her problems, but it never does.
Why? Because she’s living life trapped in the rat race, operating from a scarcity mentality (“I don’t have enough”) and poor spending habits. She’s working her tail off to pay for things she thinks will make her feel peace and joy, but they never do. They give her a temporary “high,” and then she crashes, only to move on scrolling the Wish app for the next gadget or the next vacation, job, or toy that might do the trick.
The rat race will catch up with us sooner or later. It’ll have us running in circles, forever. The mentality that things or status makes us worthy or valued is a sinking ship.
The mentality that the busier we are, the better our life will be can rot our fruit. Our friends call to try to get together, and we let it go to voicemail, thinking, “No way. I can’t. I’m so exhausted.”
Instinctively, We’re Pretty Chill
Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand pushing through. I’ve spent time in the rat race in years past, thinking busy meant success. Keep in mind I’m not talking about working hard and being responsible to work.
Income is important. We live in a day and age when we need cash for things like shelter, food, and basic necessities.
But I fell for the “more is better” idea—hook, line, and sinker. That’s what society taught me was valuable. However, my instinctual nature is a slower pace. A quieter space where I’m not looking “out there” for success, worth, or security. I’m not striving, climbing, racing, or knocking others over to get to the top!
Addiction is rampant. So many people are addicted to work, alcohol, drugs, shopping, technology, porn, sex, gambling, relationships, and so on. Their brains are running a mile a minute, because that’s the road they’ve been trekking for so long. They’re in perpetual “fight-or-flight” mode, using all sorts of things, including busyness, as their preferred numbing or escape strategy.
They don’t know how to slow down. Or, they flat out refuse. When life starts to get quiet for them, they start freaking out.
You want me to just sit here and do nothing?
The inner pain they’ve been running from for eons vies for their attention, but the noise is too great for them to hear.
There’s still too much to be done.
Why are we Here?
I fully believe we didn’t come here on this planet hardwired to be overly busy—or miserable. We didn’t come here to toil vigorously.
I like to believe we came here to experience a whole lot of love, peace, and joy. It’s just that the road to those states often leads us through all sorts of emotions and situations that cause us to forget our most important asset:
Our free-flowing, take-time-sprawled-out-in-the-sun, radiant spirit.
The Antidote For Busyness
As humans, we are evolving. We’re meant to grow and change for the better, from the inside out.
However, if we’re stuck in the rat race with minds racing, operating from our carnal, “gotta have it all” nature, we’re going to suffer in one way or another. Whether we’re busy making the money, trying to gain self-worth through relationships, carving that rock-solid body, or upgrading our home to be the best on the block, that busyness may just cause barrenness when it comes to the “good” things in life.
Like peace, which comes from inside.
Like love, without conditions.
Like joy, and humility, comfort, and security.
See, the antidote for busyness is making the conscious effort to slow down. To be mindful and aware of what’s going on right now. It’s accepting that true peace and joy won’t come by gaining things “out there.” It’s getting off the dopamine hit wheel.
I know it’s scary to slow down. To think about not doing what you’re so used to doing. To sit quietly with yourself without doing one single thing. To recover from an addiction to busyness (or any other addiction).
But I assure you that when you discover just how beautiful quiet is—and by quiet, I mean inner silence—you’ll finally be able to let go.
You’ll be able to breathe deeply and trust that life—the powerful energy that sustains your body—has got your back. God, in a way that you define God, is good and wants more than anything to meet you in the space behind your eyes. That sacred space where fear (and loneliness, anger, depression, anxiety) is swallowed up in love.
Listen, my dear. Slowing down is a courageous act. Breaking the habit of being busy is faith in non-action.
It’s realizing that slowing down does not mean you’ll lose your productivity or success. You’re not going to spin out of control. You won’t lose your “self.”
Slowing down means you’ll live a more intentional, present life. A life marked with clarity, rather than spinning wheels that get you nowhere. A life where you’re present enough to feel a connection with a God that created you.
You want more peace? Joy? Love? Friendships?
Get out of your head. Close your eyes and drop down into your heart. Allow things like gratitude and compassion to start mending you at the heart level. Allow whatever you call your God to meet you there and get filled up.
Get filled up inside, so you have something of value to give outside to those in need. Do what you must do and do it consciously. Override the auto program, refusing to add to your “to-do” list for the sake of feeling productive or important—or avoiding silence.
Our existence can be rich and full. Shut out the external world for a while. Dive deep, cup your hands, and drink from the well in which you were created. The well that promises wholeness, peace, joy, and perfect love.
There are hidden gems in slowing down, so ease up on the pedal and let them find you.