A New York Times opinion piece entitled “The ‘Busy’ Trap” by Tim Kreider has put the American work ethic under a microscope as of late.
The article has been re-blogged countless times all over the Internet and has created a conversation all surrounding the word a word we use almost every day — busy. Kreider reflects on the overwhelming numbers of people, including children, claiming to be too hard working and comments on the congratulatory reactions that we often receive for being “crazy busy.”
Kreider claims that overactive schedules are a lifestyle choice, not an obligation. An ambitious schedule attempts to prove to one another that our lives are not trivial, but full of meaning. The article concludes that perhaps something is lost in our “busy is better” lifestyles. Oftentimes, inspiration is the product of idleness.
In an attempt to counterbalance my own “busy-trap”, I found myself cross-legged on the floor of Otter Creek Yoga one Sunday afternoon, attempting to meditate.
I, too, suffer from the guilt that comes from idleness, and meditation seemed like the perfect remedy. College life has trained me to fill my days with class, work, and extra-curricular activities, and it sometimes feels as though many students are in an unspoken competition, vying to see who is the busiest. To me, meditation always sounded like less of an activity and more of a state of repose.
In its definition, meditation is the ultimate form of relaxation and challenges individuals to find meaning through mindfulness. As very a eastern practice, western culture often does not see the benefits in pure focus, instead placing a higher value on achieving results and checking items off our to-do lists.
Its more mainstream companion, yoga, often overshadows meditation. Known for its immense health benefits, yoga has become a trendy practice for many Americans. The practice has caught on because of its relaxing nature, but additionally because of its challenging physicality. Where this practice has been widely accepted, many have not realized the equally important benefits of pure meditation.
And what no better place than a Sunday Sangha to release myself from the “busy is better” mindset.
Sangha is the Sanskrit word for “community” and generally consists of people who are invested in studying the dharma, or Buddhist teachings. Meditation is critical to this practice, as it leads to a deeper concentration and higher understanding of the self. Intense followers of meditation claim heightened senses of serenity and insight.
The class at Otter Creek would follow this model and would consist of 45 minutes of gentle yoga and an hour and 15 minutes of various meditations.
To begin the meditation portion, we assembled by placing our mats in a circle, as if each individual was a spoke of a wheel. In the hub of the wheel lie a vase of flowers. Our instructor signaled the beginning of meditation by sounding a bell. Mediation would end at the sound of the same bell 20 minutes later.
Without the intent of falling asleep, sitting silently with your eyes closed for 20 minutes proved to be much more difficult than I had expected. Searching for distractions yet finding none, I was not sure what exactly I should be concentrating on.
In this time, I found that meditation is way to pay attention to the body’s most minor movements that are neglected on a daily basis, such as breathing and walking. It is in direct contrast from the normal influx of distractions that beg our attention at home, work, and on the Internet.
Opportunities for people to practice meditation in a community atmosphere are available throughout Vermont. The Burlington Shambhala Center provides a space for an escape from our own personal busy traps, as do retreats all over the state.
While I could have done without the second round of 20-minute meditations, I did find it very relaxing. Taking time out of a busy schedule can be very rewarding, even if maybe “nothing” was done.
Meditation was an interesting experience. And although I am not currently on the path towards Nirvana, I did find it rewarding to slow down my day and learn to relax. I found that an “activity” might not necessarily require you to be occupied.
Being busy may be a trap, but there is a release.