Living at the Speed of Life
Some of us are in a rush to live faster than the speed of life.
We are eager for tomorrow, or next week, to arrive. There are people who cannot wait for this month to be over and next month to begin.
Many of us live our lives leaning forward into the future. We may be impatient for the world to become a different place, for us to grow into new people.
If we had our way we would step on the gas and increase the speed of life.
Other people tend to ride the brakes and try to slow down the speed of life.
We might remember yesterday fondly and wish we could take time to savor the way things were. Some of us feel life has started to go downhill and would like to go back to better times.
There are people who believe we could solve many of our problems if we just slowed life down.
We may feel the speed of life has accelerated too much, past the point where we are comfortable.
Life can feel like we are rushing from one thing to the next without time to catch our breath. There are other times when we feel we are stuck in the past and unable to move forward.
Can we choose the speed at which we live? How can we learn to recognize a healthy speed of life?
Some of the people I know who seem to have a good understanding of the speed of life are monks. Monastic life appears to help people find and maintain a healthy speed of life.
Part of what helps them is the approach to time described in Benedict’s Rule. Each community helps its members find a healthy, balanced speed of life.
Finding Our Own Speed of Life
There are days when we love to catch a strong breeze and go skimming across the surface of life.
Sunny and warm, life is smooth sailing. Ideas arrive exactly when we need them and people take what we say to heart. Our sails are set well and the tiller rests easily in our hand. Life is a pleasure. We could stay out sailing until the sun sets.
There are other days when the wind is stronger and the water is turbulent. Life is more of a challenge.
It takes us more frequent adjustments to stay upright. There are times when we need to hold on and hike out over the edge to remain afloat. There may be disagreements, conflict, even arguments. Life requires more trust on those days, though they have their own sense of adventure.
Strong feelings can be exhilarating.
There are also days when the wind and waves seem to leave us forlorn. Life is in the doldrums. There is neither a breath of breeze nor movement of water to get us going. Everything seems to take too much effort. Even rowing gets us nowhere.
The speed of life, like sailing, is about working with what we have. Sometimes we anticipate smooth sailing but need to deal with high winds and choppy seas. We may sense the potential benefits of clearing the air, but be met with dead calm.
Some of us enjoy skimming across the water, some of us prefer the challenge of struggling our way forward. We may be more willing to wait and rest when things are calm.
Together, we work our way across the water, enjoying the sun and the fragrance of fresh air and water.
The Present Moment and Our Speed of Life
My own speed of life has been slower since Easter. Since having surgery a few weeks ago I have spent more time resting, recovering, and reading.
Some days I struggle to push myself into a faster speed of life. There are so many things I would like to do and practices I would like to begin. It is almost as if I were trying to regain a speed of life I have had in the past.
When I push myself to regain a faster speed I often end up needing more rest and more recovery.
Contemplative, monastic practices are a significant part of my recovery routine. They help me release my grip on the past and focus on the future.
Life is not about what I have done or what I could do. My life is about today, this present moment.
I may be this moment is, for me, about taking a nap or resting my way into recovery. Even when my mind begins racing forward or running back, I am taking time to rest right now.
When I am present to this moment I remember it is a time of restoration for me.
Taking Time to Enjoy the Speed of Life
Many of us seem to take pride in losing touch with the speed of life. We believe it shows our lives are full and productive when we are pushing ourselves to live faster.
There are times when life comes to a grinding halt for each of us. Our unstoppable lives may collide with immovable situations. Other people or events may draw us into paying attention to this moment.
Some of us develop a growing appreciation for living at the speed of life. We find ways to stay in sync with the speed of life each day. Some of us learn to recognize and enjoy the speed of our lives. We take conscious, intentional steps to slow down or speed up how we live.
There are people who celebrate the speed of life. While the rest of us race around chasing the future or the past, they live into the present.
Each of us has an opportunity to take time to enjoy the speed of life.
How can we find and live into our own speed of life today?
When will we take time to enjoy the speed of life this week?
[Image by TomiTapio]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.