Each December as the year approaches its end, the staff and I make a firm decision to de-clutter our schedules and to do less so that we can do what we do more mindfully and better. We typically arrive at this decision overwhelmed by the busyness of the holy season and every year we are firm in our stand: we don’t have to be bullied by the pace of the group mind; we can determine our own pace and be responsible for our own peace of mind!
Imagine the sighs of mutual support and relief, as we come to our senses. We are typically successful, for a while. Then it starts to creep back in—this insidious speeding up of pace—little by little, more things to do with fewer minutes in which to do them. And with the increase in pace an old familiar awareness that when we are rushing, we don’t have the time to be mindfully present with the tasks and people that we love to serve. In doing more than we rightfully can handle, we miss some of what makes ministry and life so beautiful at this time of year: the people.
Someone told me that impatience is just another word for “being in a hurry.” Impatience does seem to be connected to wanting to go faster than what is possible. It is very difficult to love when in a hurry. When I am rushing through life, I am often also preoccupied with matters I have to attend to, and less of my awareness is given to what is truly very important to me. It becomes easier and easier for me to miss more and more. I notice that grumpiness is a frequent companion to my rushed mind, out of frustration from not getting everything done. Ironically, grumpiness makes matters worse, and even less is achieved, probably because a grumpy mind alienates people and delays things because of the friction it causes.
A first step in remedying this situation is to slow down my mind, because it is the mind, not people and situations, I believe, that drives the constant sense of urgency and restlessness. I try to practice slowing down the pace of my day and have noticed that it doesn’t negatively impact my ability to cope or creatively engaged in life, indeed it improves my attention. Slowing down the pace of my mind seems to make deep connections more readily available with the people I interact with because I have more time to listen, enjoy and notice. Slowing down lets me see what is around me, and become aware of what blessedness has always been here and there, the places I rushed passed and through before.
Here are some practices I bring out of my spiritual practices bag in the busy season when I notice that I want to slow things down a little.
- Start the day a little earlier. Not to get more things done, but to have more time to do nothing.
- Set aside 30 minutes in the morning before doing anything so that when I’m good and ready to engage with my world, I’m already peacefully slow.
- Eat intentionally, without doing something else at the same time.
- Arrive wherever I’m going on time or slightly early. When I do arrive, try not to jump into business right away.
- Do one thing at a time.