Stillness and action: 5 ways to stay sane when life is mad busy

Posted by on Sep 29, 2013 in Buddhism | 1,153 Comments

My old friend and teacher had a whole bunch of health issues. He had a whole bunch of physical disabilities and other conditions that all combined to make his life tough.

He could easily have sat around doing nothing. No one would’ve blamed him. But he didn’t.

He became a master of energy management. And pain management. And emotion management. And mental state management.

He was an ordinary bloke, but he was also most certainly a master.

I’ve met a lot of teachers and supposed ‘realised beings’. He was up there with the best of them.

Sometimes he’d have to spend a few days in bed. When he had to, he did.

But he got every last ounce of use out of the energy he had. And with all the pain, injustice and difficulty, he managed not only to stay positive, but also to be a support to others.

He certainly gave me plenty more than I ever managed to give him.

He died a few months ago, but I think of him often.

Healing trumps blogging

Right now, I need to take care of myself. I got out of hospital a little while ago and am still on the mend. I’ve been thinking of my friend a lot.

When he was ‘ragged’ as he called it, he’d look at all the things on his list and decide which ones he could cancel. Then he cancelled them.

When people came to him asking for a decision on things that he hadn’t had the time or energy to decide, he’d say he needed more time. If they said they needed a decision now his decision would always be no.

Strategies like these helped him stay as well as he could be and gave him the emotional space to stay positive in the face of it all.

Right now I’m taking a leaf out of his book. Hence the slow-down in the number of posts of late.

I’m taking time to rest when I can, and carving out bits of space when I can’t. In that space I come back to my body, come back to my heart, and come back to my breathing.

Then I rest in that. I find it incredibly healing. It makes me feel happy. Such a simple thing, but it works.

A friend of mine just taught me a form of standing qi gong too. (He runs a forum called TTEM. You should check it out.)

I’ll be doing this as a regular practice to try to build up some credit in my energy account.

The meaning of ‘stillness’ in everyday life

Some people think of stillness as doing nothing. Sometimes that’s what it has to be. But often we can do nothing while we’re in the middle of action.

Stillness in the moment doesn’t have to mean inaction.

When you’re well, if your life is busy and you can’t (or don’t want to) change that, the trick is to be still while you’re doing.

Sure you need your times when you’re doing nothing, but life is being and doing. When you’ve really cracked it, life is being as you’re doing.

I’m not advocating a busy life. I think we should all chill out as much as possible.

But we all know that life gets busy. If you aren’t the beneficiary of a trust fund or a sizeable inheritance, you’re going to have some busy times.

Buddhist practice must aid you when you’re busy, not just when you’re still.

5 ways to stay sane when life is mad busy

When life gets busy, try this:

  1. Get 1 minute mindfulness breaks throughout the day. It’ll feel like you don’t have the time. The more it feels like that, the more you need to do this.
  2. Eat well and drink plenty of water. When there’s no time, we often go for fast food. But that takes your energy and makes you sad. Raw food is fast. Eat a cucumber!
  3. Move your body. If you’re cramped up in an office chair at least. If your life is busy with movement, do the opposite!
  4. Do some formal sitting. You may have to cut down your time but don’t cut it out altogether. Ten minutes is infinitely better than nothing.
  5. Have patience. Remember this will pass. And then make sure you set up conditions so it does! There’s no point being up to your limit all the time. Sometimes, sure. But as a lifestyle? Admit it. It’s not the best way for you. (I say ‘admit it’ because there’s something quite addictive about busyness. Like all addictions, before change you need to be honest with yourself that everything’s not fine.)

Anyway, sorry I won’t be posting so much for the next few weeks. I’ll be sorting myself out so I can keep going with this blog in 2014.


Did you know The Meditator's Handbook is out? It has everything you need to set up and maintain an effective meditation practice. Check it out!


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