Slow Down

child smelling a big sunflower

“I’m not in search of sanctity, sacredness, purity; these things are found after this life, not in this life; but in this life I search to be completely human: to feel, to give, to take, to laugh, to get lost, to be found, to dance, to love and to lust, to be so human.”  ― C. JoyBell C.

The pace of modern life is now permanently set at double or triple time. We run through our days and nights in a frenzy that approaches panic , multitasking our way through every second, forgetting a good part of what we do before a full minute goes by. When we can’t keep up we blame ourselves for not being motivated or focused enough, then grab a cup of coffee or pop an Adderall to put a little zip in our step. Down time—if it exists at all—is putting on headphones and zoning out at the gym or staring at the TV, watching other people live what we know perfectly well are not “Real Lives” Meanwhile, our relationships are whittled down to Facebook posts and instant messages. We are so busy, so consumed by busy that we refuse even to allow ourselves the comfort of another human voice.

In early July, a well-known, highly successful executive at software giant Google died of a fatal heroin overdose on his yacht in Santa Cruz, California. The police and the media are blaming his death (to some extent correctly) on his companion, a high-priced prostitute, who administered the drug and failed to call for help when he lost consciousness. And certainly there is no doubt that her actions showed a despicable disregard for human life. But we are missing an important lesson if we don’t see the bigger picture in what happened on that yacht—if we don’t pay attention to the metaphor of this man’s terrible death. Because it wasn’t just about drugs and prostitution or even about the larger issue of what prostituting oneself does to a human being over time. It was and is about a world gone mad—a whole society that is so intent on success-at-any-cost that we drive ourselves to emotional and physical exhaustion until we literally self-destruct.

We all—each and every one of us—needs to slow down and give ourselves a chance to live a real life. Productivity is essential, but it needs to be balanced by enjoyment, relaxation, and rest. We need to redefine our priorities, find ways to connect with the sheer abundance that is all around us, to connect with the essence of who and what we are. Running in circles until we are dizzy from exhaustion and incapable of anything but escape is a sure-fire path to an early, lonely grave.

Journaling Exercise: Slow Down and Live

According to author and mindfulness guru Jon Kabat Zinn, mindfulness is just another way of paying attention, and journaling is a great tool for shifting your attention to things other than the everyday busy-ness of your life. Today and every day, use your journal to remind yourself of the things that you take for granted, the things that you tend to ignore as you go through your day. Whether it’s the smell of fresh coffee brewing in the morning, the color of the sky when you first wake up, or the way your child’s hair smells when you give him a kiss and hustle him off to school, pay attention, and then write it down. These moments are not “extras”—they are not the icing on the cake of your life. They are your life. Learn to savor them before they disappear.

“Why do they not teach you that time is a finger snap and an eye blink, and that you should not allow a moment to pass you by without taking joyous, ecstatic note of it, not wasting a single moment of its swift, breakneck circuit? ― Pat Conroy

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