I ask, “How are you?”. 

“Busy”. “Flat out”. “So much going on.” That’s what I get back. 

Photography by Martin Tremblay
Photography by Martin Tremblay

We might be busy. But busy is a choice of mindset, if you think about it.

It’s funny, busy-ness is what creates our aching need for more self-care and a deep desire to live a life we actually want. And yet, it’s also the the thing that prevents us from having this life.

Or put simply: we are too busy to live. Which is just craziness!

There’s also this. When I ask how you are, I’m not asking if you’re busy or not. The satiating, more connecting answer is a true description of where you are at, behind the busyness. The real you that’s always there, regardless of how much activity you’ve chosen to sign up for.

I read that Arabic for “How are you?” is Kayf haal-ik? In Persian it’s Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? 

Which translates as,

“How is the state of your heart, in this breath?”

This is what I’m wanting to know. At parties, over coffee, even in work meetings, I’d rather know where your heart is at, whether it’s aching for more love and outlets for giving. Whether it’s feeling a lightness of possibility. Whether it feels clouded in by restrictive thinking from the head. I want to know these things so I can feel less alone and we can connect. As we all crave to.

I’m going to try working from this conversational pivot for a while…see what happens. Join me? 

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Cheyenne

    I always answer busy because I’m not sure those asking really care where I’m at or my heart is. I feel a sense of guilt for answering “busy, so flat out” which is glorifying being busy. I’m definitely joining you.

    • it’s made me so aware of WHY I say it…it feels grubby!

  • Andrew

    This would be an interesting exercise. I see the How are You question as an opening sally, something that can be just swatted out of the way as an irrelevance. It’s the follow up questions that matter. I guess it’s getting the balance right between being that slightly crazy person who asks “How are YOU REALLY? and that person who then has to listen to a two hour monologue on what is wrong with the world. But I get the idea, we should be willing to listen to that two hour monologue, and show that generosity of spirit.

  • Cal Stewart

    My heart is struggling at present, possibly because I’ve been too busy and taken on way too much. I love being busy, but this time its actually taken a toll on my heart and my body is screaming slow down!
    I’m learning how to say NO

    • please do. you heart knows. and you will feel sooooo much better just for making a tiny step in that direction.

  • Tracy Dawson

    Sometimes it’s hard to reply honestly without sounding like a drama queen. “Overwhelmed” is the answer I most commonly want to give! Although, as an educator learning about mindsets thus year, I have been trying to model for students and colleagues saying things like “I’m great! I have just learned something new! It was hard but I did it!”

    • Colleen-Estelle

      I love that! What a great way of looking at things!
      Have you found your mindset changing as you practice?

      • Tracy Dawson

        Yes Colleen-Estelle. But sowly, I constantly need to remind myself. Which is the point I guess, to be conscious and deliberately practise being better. It’s really hard!!!?

  • Jenny

    Sometimes I answer good as the person asking is not someone I would want to share my heart with, selfish maybe? Opening your heart is a beautiful thing to be valued and definitely brings a longed for connection for which I feel protective over. Or sometimes the time is just not right… It is funny, however though that this phrase ‘How are you?’ has become just a greeting in many ways and lost it’s meaning.

  • Bec

    Oh. So. Beautiful. Well said (as usual!) Sarah 🙂 x

  • Trace

    I love this so much. I’m on board. I think asking yourself that question regularly is super important, as well.

  • Kat

    How are you..?? Busy I say….busy busy….doing this doing that, going here going there….doing my thing.
    Some are surprised with the answer, not sure that busy is not always a bad thing. I enjoy being busy…living my life.
    There are times when the busy is not as I want. Its all about balance….and it can easily tip either way.

  • Sonia

    My aunty ask this question in such a way, with a real emphasis on the ‘you’, that you know she is asking a deeper question than just ‘are you busy today?’. And it always makes me feel comfortable and then open up and tell her a real story rather than just an ‘I’m good’!

  • Eilish Bouchier

    I never answer busy anymore. I used to. It does now mean I am less occupied but I am conscious that I choose my ‘state’ and busy is not where I want to be. It has become the most frequent reply and often worn as a badge of honour. Im so with you on the connection, and heart. It’s the only question worth asking n’est pas? I’m in x e

  • Sue

    I love this beyond reason.

    One day a retired friend was telling me about her busy week, she had an afternoon catching up with friends from out of town, she had a massage booked and an afternoon to be spent with her granddaughter.
    I had to wonder, what do you do for enjoyment? These things sounded enjoyable to me?
    What does it mean to not be busy? Is it a bad thing? Are we striving for busy? It think to times in my life when I felt truly busy and I think they were quite punishing times. Am I alone in this or is busy a good thing?
    Can’t wait to see more posts on your viewpoint.

  • Michelle Dunstall

    ‘How is the state of your heart, in this breath?’ What a genuine heartfelt question, ‘Are you okay?’ or ‘How are you?’ is easily avoided, though not many people ask it, as they don’t want to know, the weather must always be ‘fair’, they don’t want to hop in the boat with you if its ‘rough’. Though this question is different, it makes you stop, take a breathe and another as I realise I’m holding my breathe and as for my heart,…..she is anxious, tension is rising, as she feels she is running out of time, its a battle to keep her calm, she hates the busy-ness, the constant doing but it seems to be all there is, the only way to be but I know its not and this is what I battle for, I’ve just got to build a stronger connection to the quiet places. Thank you for this ? I will add it to the other sticky notes on my wall, its a beautiful sentiment, a beautiful thought. Namaste.

  • dg

    It’s so easy to get so lost in busy-ness to forget that the goals aren’t even sacred to you. I read a story/legend in martial arts where a person was training really hard to have legs strong enough to walk on water. A master scolded him asking why he would bother given he could take the ferry for a small charge.

    We can become really efficient in achieving a goal. But if there’s no real efficiency if the goal doesn’t fit. (Kind of like learning to go round in circles faster but really only wasting fuel)

  • Janne

    I have really loved what everyone has responded with so far. Love your honesty and insight. The state of my heart was one of overwhelm earlier today. I am trying to be all things to all people in my circle of influence, as I also try to manage living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Celebrating my 61st birthday yesterday has left me totally depleted of energy today. That’s how CFS works. I had a list of chores. But I made the decision to overlook the urgency and stress I felt about these, and take myself to the beach instead. I knew the fresh air, sunshine, barefoot grounding on the sand, a little exercise and time alone with God and in meditation and giving gratitude for all the good things I do have would turn my heavy mindset around. And of course, it did. I came back to a household of demands, but was able to face them refreshed and with a healthier frame of mind. I had assessed the state of my heart, and it was not good. So I took it for a tune up. And filled up with God’s goodness. Need to do this more often. Thanks Sarah. I so agree that we need regular assessment and tune ups for our hearts. I also look forward to further discussions on this.

    • I’m glad you shared how you are….even to a comments section of strangers.

  • Colleen-Estelle

    I love to be busy, I have found over the years that I am much more healthy in my head when I have many things to do, I love to get up early and get stuck in. When I am not busy, that is when I become overwhelmed with anxiety, and sometimes depression (battling on & off for 10 years), I find it much harder to get out of bed, and I don’t want to talk to people- that is when I reply “fine thanks. How are you?”

  • Genee

    I lack inspiration and desire! I have had a hell of year and am ready to lose weight, quit smoking and find the man of my dreams. So, my heart is yearning for some adult joy!

  • Joan

    This reminds me of when I was a uni student and went to Russia. Our class was told, as part of the ‘cultural’ preparation class was that Russians did not ask each other “How are you?” because everyone was so beset with issues and to ask was to invite a very long conversation you may not want or have time for. (this was over 10 years after the USSR disintegrated)