Busy is the opposite of Idle. Busy is said to be good and Idle is meaningless.
There goes a saying “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”, so much emphasis on keeping ourselves occupied and busy. Let’s look at Idle with a new lens. Here I am holding Idle as being unoccupied or still.
Reflecting on a recent experience where I was facilitating our ELC (Express . Listen . Connect) Circles, there came in stories of high intense emotions of sadness, loneliness, hurt and more. In all of these expressions, one theme that stood out was the need to be busy. It reminded me of elders wanting to send children for classes, schedule their day, of constantly doing and more. People calling out a busy calendar and lack of time.
I picked up in our ELC Circles, the fear of being Idle, surely the mind is powerful to bring that fear in. I certainly do not want to build on these lines. Let me start by the hypothesis, “Idle is good”, yes you heard it right. It is. Of the many life examples, let me give you one such which will tell you a little more about being Idle, you can then decide for yourself.
Reesha, a leader of a large global MNC, lives with in a joint family, has children. Before the pandemic, her work life included, busy days of travels, meetings. The other part of her busyness was managing the many life roles beyond work, home and relations. She was basically doing and doing. As a person whose life was largely structured, she also made space for creativity which was a big motivation for her. These spaces for accessing her creativity were in times of doing stillness; like while she was travelling, just before going to sleep, sometimes in her dreams etc. So, the messages from the unconscious, messages from the field were making space, at a time, when it experienced no busyness or she had the readiness to listen and it was in these moments of pause or idle time.
Come the pandemic, life changed, travel time gone, sleep time more organised and she has more time at hand with the life changing context. Life has slowed down a lot more, there is more space or idle time and busyness is now different. She has also decided to take pauses during the day. This time, she has had different experience, she has been noticing the messages from the unconscious coming in, while she is going on with her day. The other day, she was in had a hunch of a something at work much before it happened and then she watched herself in a déjà vu moment, “I saw this happening to me” she said to herself. At this moment, she realized, she was not listening to this voice. Some call it the hunch, some the unconscious, some call it the message.
Reesha, noticed, the messages she earlier received in her idle time, started coming to her in the midst of a busy day as well. She was receiving subtle signals coming her way, which she picked. The other day, she experienced a passing thought of a client conversation being in trouble and needing some support, this was not known to her in reality. She acted on this, reached out to the client proactively and interestingly, the client said, “I have just been thinking about this, and here you are, taking to me about it, as if you read my mind. Thank you, it has saved me from a big error of judgment”, the client said.
While this may seem one of a case, there are many such moments, Reesha is witnessing. What is different now; Reesha has slowed down from needing to constantly do, to being comfortable with time for doing nothing, she is the observer and the observed.
The observer and the observed – When you say, ‘I must be free from all conditioning, I must experience,’ there is still the ‘I’ that is the centre from which you are observing. Therefore there is no way out because there is always the centre, the conclusion, the memory, a thing that is watching and saying, ‘I must’ or ‘I must not.’ Is there a state of the non-observer, a state in which there is no centre from which you look? At the moment of actual pain, there is no ‘I’. At the moment of tremendous joy, there is no observer—the heavens are filled, you are part of it, there is bliss. This state takes place when the mind sees the falseness of attempts to become, to achieve. There is a state of timelessness only when there is no observer. – Krishnamurti in Bombay 1961, Talk 8
All that is happening to us, our surroundings, our life, we can notice more than, what is visible to the eye. The mind may not comprehend, the phenomenology, the undercurrents, the signs, the energies. We start a different form of noticing and listening, when we enter in our own stillness or own being unoccupied, our idleness.
Co-relating it with our corporate world, as professionals today, when we recommend that organizations have no meeting zones, no meeting days or even have a reflection time, one thing we see is; empty spaces create fear, a sense of not being productive. MANY, MANY professionals and leaders do not know how to be with themselves in the stillness, struggle with being able to reflect on their experiences.
In these times, the need for being productive all the time is a fantasy, asking ourselves to live like a production machines. So, are you choosing Busy; are you choosing the Idle?