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“The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life. It’s so easy to make it complex.” — Yvon Chouinard
It felt as though the Earth took a ginormous breath of relief (but will not admit that outloud) when the global decision to flatten the curve, stay home, began to take shape. Granted there were outward as well as internal feelings of angst and fear, but for many of us a breath of unconscious gratitude for allowing us all to catch our breaths. There is no pun intended there as for so many, their lives have been altered forever, but that is all the more reason to learn from this much unwanted moment in time.
I woke up this morning and had to remind myself it was Sunday. In many ways, it has felt like Saturday every day of the week. Some may not enjoy such a feeling, but I do because Saturday during the school year is my one and only day that is mine to design and do what I want, not what I have to do. If I choose to work on a project, that is absolutely fine and because I have the energy but I didn’t have to and that is liberating.
Each day the boys and I wake up early without an alarm clock – the pups’ tummies are rumbling, aka the internal alarm clock – breakfast is enjoyed and then a walk follows. The clock hasn’t been looked at in I do not know how many days, and I am eating far better and less because I am resting when I need to, exercising more fully and frequently because I have time to, and am sleeping for as long as my body requires to feel rejuvenated. As well, what I used to stress about frequently, currently I don’t because I have moved away from it, turned it off and chosen to better handle what steps into my mind with far more scrutiny.
I think there will be many lessons and effects once we have moved passed this moment in our collective histories. Many will be positive, but not all. However, one positive I hope will remain is the observation that slow and steady is not a bad way to go about everyday life, and in fact, may be a life transformational approach once we realize the gifts such a pace wants to show us but which takes time to materialize – reduced blood pressure, stronger relationships, better decisions of who we choose to be in relationships with, better eating habits, better spending habits, less screen time, more “in-real-life” time, more exercise and stepping outside in fresh air, doing what is needed rather than what is expected, setting better boundaries, appreciating and supporting our local businesses for the connections and structure and community they provide, valuing the foundation of a civil society – healthcare workers, teachers, emergency care workers and once taken-for-granted business owners and workers we cannot visit at this moment, finding the power of mental agility and awareness and knowledge and skill to cultivate self-contentment.
“I really like to live my life in a low-key fashion.” —Alicia Keys
In an interview recently, Alicia Keys shared she did not know she did not know herself until she slowed down. Each of our “slower pace”s will be slightly different, but you have slowed down enough when you are confronted with who you are, how you are living your life and what purpose drives you. When you are honest about each of these three components and can be honest about whether they work well for the life you truly want to live, then you can be still on a regular basis. Then you will know you have slowed down enough.
“Americans need rest, but do not know it.” — Bertrand Russell
Philosopher and author Bertrand Russell shared the above quote in the mid-twentieth century, but it holds far more truth today than every before. It was shared by a Yale Psychiatry professor that fear is spurred by one of three factors: (1) unpredictability, (2) uncontrollability, or (3) sustained and chronic stressful events/experiences. It is the third factor that we subject ourselves to needlessly and have the power to reduce. How? By turning off and looking away or not picking up or not refreshing our go-to news site to check the news.
I have long been an advocate of staying abreast of the news, and I will continue to be, but our “how much” we think we need to intake on a daily basis is causing many of us to be in a state of fear constantly, often unaware that it is fear that drives us to be busy, to over-extend, say “yes” when we need to say no and respect our personal boundaries, and make decisions that will not serve us well but rather placate a need we think we have when it is actually a need to appease society.
All of this is easier said than done. Each of our lives is a puzzle of sorts as we have to navigate it with the decisions we make being able to think short- and especially long-term to determine what would curate a life we love living on a daily basis.
“I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day … So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run.” ― Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau offers sage advice – “probe the earth to see where your main roots run”. My roots run to a slower pace for a way of life that is more enjoyable, productive, kinder, stronger in clarity and smaller in size, but bigger in quality. But it is important to remember that the probing does take time; however, our curiosity and our honed intuition will lead us to our roots if we will give it the space to communicate with us.
Helpful practices will lead us where we want to go with more clarity. Practices and rituals and routines that inspire us to slow down, to sit still, to not have to fill the space with words or speed or “busyness”, each of these practices helps as well to improve the muscle of being comfortable with slowing down. Enjoying my cup of tea during the day – morning and especially in the evening – are daily rituals that are all the better when I sit still.
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Choosing to savor the present is a way to honor the lives we are living, to pay gratitude without really do anything but being present, fully present. I can remember having a very busy schedule in high school due to sports and school, and it was on a rare Sunday when I did not have anything to do, I could stay home or do something that I simply wanted to do that I savored with all of my might. In those moments I can remember thinking, “I want more of this pace . . . of this way of life”. That was the beginning of figuring out my life puzzle that has led me to the slower of pace of life I live most honestly and completely now more than ever before.
“We need, above all things, to slow down and get ourselves to amble through life instead of to rush through it.” ― Alan Watts
So why not amble through life? Why not step out of the car (or leave the car in the garage) more often? Why not go outside and walk about your neighborhood, have face-to-face conversations with people and appreciate being able to do so?
I recognize that each of our approach to slowing down will be unique based on so many different factors – geographical location – urban vs. rural vs. suburban, family structure, etc., but simply by being conscious of how our lives can improve and do improve when we slow down is a worthwhile goal to pursue and gradually incorporate little by little into our daily lives.
It may seem that going fast is a wonderful way to travel until it runs us into a most unwanted situation and we do not have enough time to swerve or brake to stop, and in such a case, wouldn’t it have been nice to have been going slower so that we could have been more preventative and proactive? I vote for going with the pace of nature, the seasons, the fruit trees that last for years bearing ever better quality of fruits when tended to well and given time to go at their natural speed of growth, rest and rejuvenation.
“The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.” — Moliere
So today, even though our slower pace may be forced upon us to take, choose to find a gem or two of what is working and may be something to welcome into your everyday routine when you choose to slow down simply because you want to because you see the immense value in doing so.
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