I hate hustle.
Hustle doesn’t sleep. Hustle certainly doesn’t meditate. Hustle prefers spreadsheets and social media to silence and stillness.
We’ve been told to idolize hustle, that hustle is the only way to matter.
We’ve been lied to.
Hustle culture is killing us. We’re more stressed out, burned out, and fed up than at any other time in history. People can’t stop talking about how busy they are, wearing their 18-hour days like a badge of honor. This relentless busyness and performative workaholism are spiritual bypasses, attempts to run from the hard work of knowing god, spirit, and our own hearts on a deep level.
We long for rescue, redemption, and resurrection, but are unwilling to do the hard work of listening and being still. We turn all of our energy outward in an attempt to slay the day, crush our morning, or take massive action on our dreams. We venerate exhausting, superficial productivity, and confuse meaning with movement.
It will be the ruin of us.
If we are ever to feel whole, we must learn to balance this output with quieter introspection. We need time in the belly of the whale.
You know the story. God demands that Jonah do something that he doesn’t want to do. Jonah runs away, jumps on a ship, causes a terrible storm, gets thrown overboard, and is promptly swallowed by a whale. He spends three days in this dark, quiet lair. With nothing to do but think about his life and legacy, he faces his fears and comes to terms with his mortality. The whale barfs up poor Jonah, who emerges from his meditative state a changed and better man.
Jonah had to spend time in silent stillness to battle his inner demons and be resurrected. This necessary down time gave him the time to absorb and process the inevitable challenges that he was facing. The belly of the whale was a gift, not a punishment.
It works the same for us. So why do we resist, stow away on the boat, run from spirit? We run because being in the whale’s belly is hard. It’s dark and uncomfortable to sit with our thoughts and feelings. We might feel bored, scared, angry, or overwhelmed. It’s far easier to ignore, dismiss, or sublimate those emotions if we are moving at a breakneck speed. So we schedule too many things, work too many hours and fill the rest of the time scrolling on social or binging Netflix. We major in the minor things, telling ourselves that every appointment, chore, brunch date, volunteer opportunity, parenting decision, meal, mile, report, or social media post is absolutely crucial to our happiness.
But if ever we are to feel whole, we must live in the place where our light and dark intersect, must learn to balance doing and being.
It starts by letting go of the sense of urgency we apply to everything in our lives. Running full tilt towards the relentless more means running from spirit and a life of deep meaning. We can design a life that includes stillness and silence if we so choose. When we do, we find that our “doing” flows more easily, is more aligned with our “being”.
If you are someone who uses busyness as a spiritual by-pass, start with short breaks of silence. Here’s how. Simply count the breaths as they pass. On the inhale, silently count one. Now exhale. The next inhale is two, and so on. Count the in-breaths all the way to ten. If you lose your place, no worries; just start again at one. Breathing deeply, with a slow, steady inhalation-to-exhalation ratio, engages our parasympathetic nervous system and decreases anxiety, fear, anger, racing thoughts, and a rapid heartbeat. In this relaxed and present state, it’s easier to notice uncomfortable thoughts or feelings without getting swallowed by them.
The belly of the whale is a gift, not a punishment.