I once saw an engraved name badge in shop which read, ‘Hello, I’m VERY BUSY VERY IMPORTANT’. I laughed myself sick, and then rather stupidly didn’t buy it.
Because at my stage of life there is an awful lot of rushing about. Compared to many others in our circle, we’re not super-busy; even so, every week we hustle our kids to school, church, piano lessons, swimming, soccer and dance. While they’re at school we work and study. On weekends we work and study some more, and shop and clean the house; then, if we’re organised, we catch up with friends. Then the week starts and we’re off and running again.
It’s easy to feel the urge to fill every minute. Eating breakfast? Read the paper. Sitting on the loo? Plan the day. Dropping a kid at a dance class on a Saturday morning? Well, that’s an hour and fifteen minutes I can sit in a nearby café and study, and often I do just that.
I can be swept up in the culture of busy-ness, trying to form an identity by how Very Busy Very Important I am; but it’s very ego-driven. And if it’s all about ego, then no matter how much I do, I will never feel satisfied.
Do I have value apart from all my doing? Our society and my ego say no, but my faith says yes. So as a spiritual discipline, I practice doing not much at all. I waste time. Most mornings, I sit in the weak winter sun at the school canteen, nursing a coffee and chatting with whoever’s around. We talk about gardens and books and families and religion and politics and work and death. Then I tootle home on my bicycle, a different way just for fun. I hang out the washing, then hit the books.
I collect my daughters from school. We cycle home via the local park, and stop for a play. They shoot across the monkey bars while I pull out the newspaper and tackle the crossword. I catch the train when driving would be quicker; I stroll to the shops. On my way I see interesting gardens or a puddle mirror-bright, or just my own breath steaming in the air.
There’s not much to this spiritual discipline. It’s just about being present: with people and with gardens, with the sun warming the top of your head, with your cold hands and the way your back moves when you’re pumping the pedals uphill. It’s being present with your step and present with your breath and not worrying about what you’re doing at all.
And gradually you realise you’re not very busy, not very important – and how liberating that can be!