Busyness and Leisure: An Experiment In Conscious Presence

Everywhere we look we find ourselves and others in a rush, consumed with busyness, oblivious to the mystery and miracle of the breath of life, of being alive now and here. I am not, of course, talking about the time and effort required for “right livelihood,” the honorable work we must do for the survival and genuine satisfaction of ourselves, our families, and our communities. No, I am talking about the self-manufactured busyness that buffers us from ourselves and enables us to live without either consciousness or conscience.

Perhaps we assume that being constantly busy is not only necessary, but is also a sign to others of our importance. Or perhaps we assume that the devil does indeed find mischief for idle hands. Whatever our assumptions, however, it is often our very busyness, even the busyness of “waking up” or “creating a soul,” that keeps us turning on the wheel of unnecessary thought and action.

Who among us, for instance, can eat breakfast or lunch without trying to solve some problem or without rushing through the meal to get on with the busyness of our life? (Many of us even eat with our laptops or smart phones hard at work next to us.) Who among us is not frequently caught up in an effort to escape from boredom or discomfort or to hurry into the future chasing some dream or other? Who among us can be content with the actual demands and perceptions of now or of the unbidden leisure, a kind of inner and outer “stop,” that appears when, for whatever reason, we are able to let go of something that is unnecessary, especially the anxious thoughts that usually drive us?

To experience such leisure in our lives is to discover, both internally and externally, an empty, unoccupied space where we can unfold, live, and act without hurry. It is in this unoccupied space that we can perhaps reflect for the eternity of now on what is truly significant in our lives.

An Experiment in Breath Awareness and Spacious Presence

Next time you notice that you are about to be seduced by your need to be busy, try an experiment. Simply stop whatever you are doing (if it is possible to do so safely) and pay attention to, follow, your breathing for two or three minutes. Notice, sense, how on the in-breath your lungs are gently filled with air from the space around you, and how on the out-breath that air, no longer necessary, is gently released back into the space around you. Then notice the slight pause at the end of the out-breath. That pause is a portal into your own inner spaciousness. Sense the spaciousness that is revealed between the out-breath and the in-breath. Let yourself become one with this spaciousness as you observe the in-breath and out-breath continue to take place on their own. (To go deeper into the significance of the pause at the end of the exhalation, listen to my Natural Breathing audio program, especially The Unconditioned Breath practice at the end of the third CD (the program is also available for instant download). It is advisable, of course, to work with the entire program before trying this final practice. The Boundless Breath practice in Free Your Breath, Free Your Life will also be very helpful.)

When you have finished the formal experiment (which should also be practiced in a formal meditation setting), and when you find yourself back in the flow of action and busyness, experiment again in a spontaneous way. Pay attention every so often to the pause after the out-breath. Allow that pause–and the sense of spacious presence that it can bring–to act on you each time you are aware of it. And as the sense of spacious presence manifests more often, notice how you can be as busy as necessary, but with no hurry, no rush.

Copyright 2001-2015 by Dennis Lewis

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