What Happens if We Slow Down?
What if our lives have been based on the wrong question?
And what if the key to unlocking our creative, joyful selves starts with asking the right question?
Let me give you an example: In our world, we tend to ask questions related to lack, such as are you successful? Are you rich? Are you top of your class? Are you popular with the boys? The girls?
Yet what if instead, we asked: When do you feel fulfilled? When are you happy? Think of a time you felt safe? Felt loved? What would a balanced, just world look like?
When I was a teenager, I remember one of my teachers asking about the definition of success. Even then I said that it depends on the individual and that each person needs to figure out their own version of success. Allowing society to do it for us is a recipe for disaster, as is giving our power up to someone else such as a parent or partner to figure it out for us.
We have been living too fast. We have sold our inner selves to the devil of speed, efficiency, money, hyper-connectivity, “progress.” --Alan Lightman
There's so much pressure in our society to have our lives look a certain way when really they should feel right to you. Yet this can take months, years even, so perhaps we should buckle in and enjoy the ride. And perhaps while we're doing that we could try slowing down, not always zipping from one thing to the next. Taking time to smell the roses as the old saying goes.
Practically since the start of the pandemic I've been doing the NY Times crossword with my mum online (we live over 3,000 miles from each other) and that's turning out to be one of the best things I've been up to since COVID-19 took hold. She loves it and it's helping our synapses fire together, which is true bonding IMO! It makes me happy and it also makes me feel safe and loved. I wouldn't have suggested to my mum that we do this as I'm usually too busy, but because I couldn't see her in person, I wanted to do something that brought us together during this challenging time.
One of my favourite authors, Alan Lightman writes in an article titled The Virus is a Reminder of Something Lost Long Ago that We have been living too fast. We have sold our inner selves to the devil of speed, efficiency, money, hyper-connectivity, “progress.”
So now when we pause longer than we think we should, perhaps we'll see that our inner selves are beckoning us to do something different with our time.
Perhaps you start playing a musical instrument, or take up bird watching, or watch the dogs play on the back lawn longer than would normally be acceptable. It is this slowing down that will allow you to eventually take back your life as you realize the small moments of beauty that greet you each day, even during really hard times.
And just maybe as we slow our pace we'll imagine into being a world that's a bit different from the frenzied pre-pandemic one we left behind.
Recently I had the honour of being interviewed by Blisspot, Founder & CEO Deborah Fairfull, about my top tip for navigating this time. Blisspot is an Australian-based hub that offers education and insights to help us care for our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around us. You can view our conversation below.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi
photo credit: Omid Armin