We need to work on slowing down. Everything moves faster than it used to, and that affects how we find balance and connection in our spiritual life. Last week, I attempted simple maintenance on one of our older computers and was horrified at how slow it ran compared to my newer, more powerful desktop. It challenged my patience to have to wait minutes rather than seconds for it to pull up a program or a file.
My husband — a physical therapist — has over his 22-year career seen a significant increase in the number of patients he is expected to see in one day. Therapists and physicians must now work fast even though physical healing can be pretty slow.
Journalists used to cover news stories in one medium. If you were a newspaper reporter, you wrote pieces for your paper. Radio people created audio stories for their station and TV did video. Today, reporters everywhere have to do all of that plus post updates on social media, updates on their employers’ websites and — if they are well known — serve as contributors to cable news channels.
Technology creates a hurried world where we expect more of ourselves, our co-workers and our service providers.
All this is fine until we need to slow down. And we all need to slow down, at least at certain times of the day or for periods of rest such as vacation, retreats or personal days.
The spiritual path is rarely speedy. The Spirit works on a timetable that isn’t affected by how fast we want the Spirit to work. Throughout history, mystics have spoken about God showing up in silence, in space and in mysterious ways. We can’t boot God up like we do our computers. And we can’t speed-pray. Being intentional about connecting with the Divine takes a calm mind.
How do we do this?
Commit to Slowing Down
It all starts with a commitment. You don’t have to slow down at work (although if that would help you do a better job and if your employer would understand, then by all means do it!). But wouldn’t you like to slow down at home with family and friends? Something like:
- Eating more slowly and enjoying your dinner company
- Slow stretches and easy body movements
- Giving your animal companion a nice slow brushing or scratches on the head
- Taking a nap when you feel tired
Fitness trainers don’t start your workout at a breakneck pace. They lead you through warm-ups and end your time with cool-downs. That kind of transition is good in daily life, as well. I’m guessing work is your “speed up” environment. Why not create habits that will ease you into the workday rather than “hitting the ground running?” And when work is done, create a simple ritual that helps you gently cross that threshold between work and home. For some it might be listening to soft music on the drive home. Others may ask their housemates or family for a little quiet time alone to help wind down and let go of the workday. I enjoy a warm bath that tells my body, “OK, now I’m home and I’m slowing down.”
Start Slow and End Slow
Many people find the best time for a regular spiritual practice is first thing in the morning right before bedtime. Starting your day with prayer, meditation, journaling, yoga or some other Spirit-connecting practice helps us reorient ourselves after a night of rest and prepare us for work. In the same way, finding a contemplative practice before going to sleep at night calms the mind and nervous system so we can fall into a deep and restful sleep. Phone apps like Insight Timer, Calm or Headspace are great because you can find just about any guided meditation you want, set it to play on your phone and let it lull you into a sleep. It’s more effective than tossing around in bed thinking about the day you had or the one ahead of you!
When we make the commitment to slow down, allow for transitions and bookend our days with contemplation, we notice how unbalanced we’ve been. Yes, we live in an accelerated world, and we want to be able to work at top speed, but when we get our balance, we see how unhealthy it was to be stuck there.
The monthly practice of visiting a spiritual director can help you find the rhythm that’s right for your life. If you want to learn more about spiritual direction, contact me at email@example.com or check out my website www.teresablythe.net. I do have openings for spiritual direction clients (phone, Skype or in person in Phoenix, AZ). Also, I have a new book Spiritual Direction 101: The Basics of Spiritual Guidance by Apocryphile Press that addresses many aspects of this practice. It’s available on Amazon.