“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” – Pico Ayer, The Art of Stillness, Adventures in Going Nowhere
I have a confession to make. Lately, I have been having some serious fantasies. I have found myself at the grocery store, or picking my kids up from school, or staring at my computer screen, and have found myself just…lost. Not present at all. Mind wandering, somewhere far, far away, dreaming of some other life than this.
My fantasy is not romantic, I mean, not in the usual way. I am not dreaming of running away to a tropical island with a beautiful stranger. My fantasy is simpler than that. A cabin in the woods, Thoreau style. Days of endless contemplation. Time for meditation and writing, reading and naps. Slow walks through the woods, days of silence and stillness. Come to think of it, it does sound pretty romantic to me.
I know I am not alone. When I have shared this fantasy with friends, their eyes glaze over, they sigh, they let out a relieved “yeah.” They have this fantasy too.
Our world moves so fast.
I regularly teach Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, and every series, I have a room full of people who are desperate to feel better, want to slow the pace of living down, but don’t know how. There is nothing in our culture that teaches us this essential skill. This time, time to do nothing, to slow down, to go nowhere, is essential to our well-being, and an essential piece that is desperately missing in our culture.
Most of us are so busy. Caught in the doings of life and there feels like there is very little time for just being, or as Pico Ayer calls it, going nowhere.
We all have busy lives. We have families and work and households to manage, we have obligations to others, commitments to ourselves, desire to spend time with friends, not to mention a desire to contribute to our greater community and the world in a way that makes a difference. We have laundry to keep up with and emails piling up in our inbox. For many of us, when we have a few minutes that we are waiting for something, we pull out our phones, to check our texts, to hop on social media for a bit, see what we are missing. I think many of us feel like we are in a constant hustle, to keep up with our lives. And what I have found, from my own experience and from talking to others, most of us really want off of the hamster wheel, but don’t know how.
I am not saying I have all the answers. I find myself over busy, addicted to my to-do list, juggling the different commitments in my life too. How many of us fool ourselves into thinking that our value has something to do with checking things off of a list?
I have simply been exploring this idea for a while, of how to live a contemplative and meaningful life in the midst of our modern and chaotic world. How to slow down while in the midst of all the doings.
Here’s what I have discovered in my past weeks of deep contemplation of this question:
There is no magic formula.
But I find time in nature helps.
Commitment to daily time of going nowhere and doing nothing. This might look like formal meditation or prayer, or it might look like 5 minutes where we sit and do nothing – no picking up our phone, no watching or listening to anything, just being with ourselves.
For me it is certainly scheduled retreat time away, once a year is essential, twice a year is preferred.
It is taking a break from my phone and the computer. Plugging my phone into the wall and leaving it there for a few hours. Closing my laptop when I am home with my family.
For me it is minimizing my social media intake.
When I slow down and I listen, I have a deep knowing in my heart that I am meant to be living a slow life. A contemplative life. That the pace of the modern world we live in is not the pace I am meant to be keeping up.
When someone goes at their own pace, something different from the norm, we often say they “dancing to the beat of their own drummer.” sometimes this is said with some sort of admiration, but more often than not, it is said with a slightly critical tone. Noticing how someone doesn’t fit in, isn’t willing to fit in, or can’t fit in.
This “different drummer” phrase comes from Thoreau, a man who certainly chose a different, slower path from the one of most of his contemporaries.
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Henry David Thoreau
Perhaps finding our path toward slowing down is accepting that we will be carving a new path, finding a new way, and listening to our own drummer – in fact, listening to the drummer inside our own skin, the rhythm of our own heart.
I think it takes real courage to choose to slow down. I’m up for the challenge. Perhaps you would like to join me in forging this new path. Getting off the hamster wheel and choosing slowness.
Perhaps we can begin right now. With this very breath. Maybe you don’t have to go back to checking your email right now. Maybe you can set aside the phone or the computer. Perhaps you can take this next 5 minutes, or even 2 minutes, to pause. To do nothing. To go nowhere. To listen and hear the beating of your own drum, your own path.
To slowing down and going nowhere,
Source Yoga Studio Director
PS: If taking retreat time feels important to you on your journey of slowing down, save the date for my Fall Harmony Hill Retreat. October 18-20, 2019. Registration opens May, 2019. Find out more here.