Book: The One Who Is Not Busy

The One Who Is Not Busy is a short book by a Zen Buddhist priest from California named Darlene Cohen. (Have we lost you yet?) It is one of those books that is more than the sum of its parts: it can feel repetitive as you read, but when you are done you realise you have been offered a new way of experiencing your working life.

The basic concept the book offers is called simultaneous inclusion. It is the idea that you can be both deeply engaged in your work and aware of yourself working at the same time. Another way to think of it is that you can learn to see work as just another type of activity; that ‘work’ is really no different from ‘life,’ and can be done as activity without all the usual stories around it.

Cohen offers ten exercises to develop mental flexibility and body awareness, with the larger purpose of developing the ability to narrow and widen one’s focus at will. Each exercise seems simple but is profound if you open yourself to it (this is Zen, after all). She also offers examples which, unfortunately, strike a few off-notes with their heteronormative assumptions, so be prepared for those, but the book is well worth a read. 

It is hard to explain the effect this approach can have. Work starts to feel less like work and more like, just, life. And when that happens, some of the resistance you may feel to actually doing it starts to slip away. 

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