Posted by: coachingparents | December 6, 2008


By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.
The Chinese word for “busy” is made of two characters.  The first is
“heart,” and the second is “killing.”  For the Chinese, to be busy is
to kill the heart.
Children raised by insecure parents often learn that the faster they
talk, the faster they move, the faster think, the safer they feel.  A
moving target is harder to hit.  Such children seek safety in the
speed of their activity and speech.  They take refuge in relentless
action.  When they feel insecure about what they know, they produce
more words and share them in rapid-fire, to hide their perceived
ignorance.  Constant motion keeps them from being caught.  Relentless,
busy activity distracts them from experiencing their fear.  They are
often misdiagnosed as “hyperactive” or having “attention deficit
disorder” when they are actually trying only to protect themselves
from a frightening environment.  Their constant motion of mouth and
body, kills their heart.
Desperate activity often masks our fear of our own insides.  When we
are still, we may discover our own pain, our own emptiness, our own
fear, or our own self-image.  So, rather than confront our own
thoughts and feelings, we remain focused on outside activity.  We run
from one task to another with no moment of rest between completion of
one and the beginning of another.  We may even use speech to keep us
from feeling alone.  Loneliness also kills the heart enthusiastic joy.
I know a man who was told by his cardiologist, “Slow down or die!” 
He was already working only an hour or two per day.   Dr. James Lynch
discovered that the mere act of speaking elevates our blood pressure
by ten to fifty points after less than thirty seconds of everyday,
non-angry, conversational speech.  Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There is
more to life than increasing its speed.”
  When overwork and
over-talking becomes our lifestyle, we kill our hearts just a little.
The greatest psychological danger in constant busyness is we neglect
ourselves.  We lose our awareness of our own needs, thoughts and
desires.  We lose the capacity to listen, not only to others, but to
ourselves.  In our constant rush, we forget our own talents, our own
abilities, our own gifts, our own worth, our own inner wisdom.  We
habitually ignore who we really are.  And when we are unaware of our
value as the persons we genuinely are, we do violence to the heart of
our lives…ourselves.
Thomas Merton writes, “There is a pervasive form of contemporary
violence… activism and overwork.  To allow oneself to be carried
away by the multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too
many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help
everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence.”
  Busyness kills
the heart.
Stillness is the antidote for busyness.  Silence is the antidote for
talking too much.  Perhaps, like the lake, stillness is our natural
state.  The surface of a lake is always still unless something
disturbs it.  In stillness, the lake more accurately reflects the
reality of the environment.  Confusion and distortion arise only when
we are too busy or wordy to listen.  We know that muddy water becomes
clear only when allowed to remain still.  All powerful words and
phrases are brief.  We only weaken the power of our words with excess
speech.  Taoist, Chuang Tzu, writes, “Still water is like glass…it
is a perfect level.  The heart of the wise man is tranquil, it is the
mirror of heaven and earth.  Emptiness, stillness, tranquility,
silence, non-action…this is the perfect Tao.  Wise men here find
their resting place”

We don’t have to choose between activity and stillness.  Life is
never exclusively one or the other.  We need to create a balance in
our lives between action and stillness, between speaking and keeping
quiet.  In the biblical book of Ecclesiastes there is written: “There
is a time for every purpose under heaven, a time to be born, and a
time to die; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…”
is the key.
Since the Chinese meaning of “busy” is accurate, perhaps the counter
balance to killing the heart is found in what Meister Eckhart, the
14th-century Christian mystic, said when he wrote, “nothing in all
creation is so like God as stillness.”
Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. has 30+ years experience as a Life Coach and
Licensed Psychologist.  He is available for coaching in any area
presented in “Practical Psychology.”  Initial coaching sessions are
free.  Contact him: (970) 568-0173 or E-mail:



  1. […] mentality that keeps the wheel of the cage spinning. Dr. Lloyd J. Thomas, in The Value of Stillness, sheds some […]

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