I do a lot of things.

My days are very full, my calendar is booked, and sometimes, I feel completely overwhelmed.

Probably the biggest question I am asked by my friends is “how do you do all the things you do?”

I always grin when I hear this, and I to be honest I also sometimes feel a little embarrassed. I know how busy I can get.

At times, I may find myself minimizing my activities, or expressing regret that I am so busy. If I am in a state of panic, as I was last weekend, I will say “I am TOO busy and I need to get a grip!”, or I will confess that I am a do-aholic.

Indeed, our culture’s standard response to the question “How are you?” seems to be a frenzied “BUSY!!!”

Some time ago, I read a wonderful article on this very idea. It introduced me to the custom in many Islamic countries to ask “Kayf haal-ik?”, “How is your heart in this moment?”, rather than the broad Western “how are you?”

I like this question because it directs me away from listing all the things I am Doing to the way in which I am Being (or in my affected spelling, Beeing.)

It turns out my heart doesn’t ever seem to be busy, even though my mind often is.

When I check in with my heart and answer from it, not only is my assessment more peaceful and open, my actual experience of the moment feels different as well. Accessing the heart and diverting from the mind brings me an experience that is more lively, more engaged, and more present.

The truth of it is I love my full life, and I am delighted to be able to play a role in so many endeavors. Yet, in the past, I often overcommitted out of shadow – my internal belief that I was flawed and not good enough – which led me to say yes to too many things in a desperate attempt to be liked and validated.

My shadow thus led me to much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Because I wasn’t always truly invested in these projects, I often resented them and felt pressed and stuck. I would become angry and bitter, and create a story about how hard my life was, how busy, how joyless, and how much I needed a vacation.

Of course, I still have that shadow belief of not good enough about myself – it never goes away – but because I am now aware of it, I less often allow it to drive my bus.

Instead, I now have a process of discernment when I am asked to take on a project.

I ask myself: is this something I truly want to do? Is it something that will benefit from my unique skill set and ability? Is there someone else that can or will or should do it? Will this project bring me joy, or is it just another pain-reliever for my needy shadow? Is this project in line with my mission?

When I have fully grokked these and other inquiries, I check in with my heart and my gut, and then wait. And I try to wait for at least a day or two.

Only then do I make a call.

Using this process, I have created more space for me in my life:

I sit in meditation every day…I take refuge in my writing and in reading poetry…I play my guitar and sing lugubrious songs…I listen to podcasts when I am walking around with Trixy the dog…I banter with my seventeen year old daughter Anya and play backgammon with my fifteen year old son Enzo…I tickle my beeloved wife, and we dance in the kitchen, and play cards, and talk before we go to sleep.

And now to answer the real question: “How is my heart?”

My heart is full of wonder and tenderness and compassion. My heart is broken open, again and again, as I witness the suffering in this world. My heart is sometimes constricted with fear and shame, and then in turn expanded with forgiveness and connection. My heart is alive and beating with the rhythm of the universe. My heart is strong and clear and brimming with joy and gratitude.

And this is true even when I am busy… Even when I am overwhelmed… Even when I am not sure how I will get it all done. Underneath all the busy, my heart beats with love and purpose.

How is your heart?

Please write me and let me know!

Dave Klaus

King Bee, Fire-Tender