Slow Down: Exposing What's Underneath
“You’re striving so hard.”
“God doesn’t want to be on your To-Do List; He wants to beyour list.”
In the last year all of these things have been said to me by people I love and whose love for me I trust.
Yes, I see the pattern.
My practice of asking for a keyword at the beginning of each year isn’t new, but I don’t think I’ve written about it on the the blog. For years each December, I’ve asked for a word to guide my awareness through the coming months. The word for 2017 was SLOW. I even adopted the turtle as symbol to remind me. I put a small concrete turtle in my garden, bought a simple beaded bracelet with a turtle on it and wrote a blog post in May titled Slow Down in the Turns.
I think I’ve made a good effort at adopting a practice of moving more slowly in the world this year, scheduling less each day, leaving blank space for soul care and spontaneity. It’s been a good word to remember in a year filled with changes and new opportunities. It’s also been a hard word to live because slow means less - fewer activities, events, people, and things. Simplicity is the name of the spiritual practice.
Slow has meant saying no to some social invitations and family gatherings, refraining from ordering another book until I digest the five already stacked on my nightstand, resisting the pressure to fill a need just because I am capable and the organization has a need. It has meant missing out on some people and places I love at times. Should we talk about #FOMO here? Slow has meant facing fear. Not just the fear of missing out, but the fear of judgement when I don’t show up, when I don’t continue to be the same person I was last year or a decade ago?
People in relationship to you don’t always like it when transformation is taking place; they may not get what they want from you anymore.
Slow has also meant taking longer - intentionally spending more time than I have to -which flies in the face of my former (and sometimes revisited) idols of efficiency and productivity. If you read my last post, you know that the longer I pondered a situation in which I said something I regretted, the more I saw the depth of my selfish motives at work in what initially seemed like the right thing to do but really was a ‘quick and dirty answer’ for making me feel better about myself. Taking longer to ruminate, to think through a problem or to wait for a solution to arise has meant facing my impatience. I thought I was a patient person. I’m not. I know how to keep my impatience in check publicly (usually), but when it comes to getting things done, items checked off the list, or decisions made - today is my idea of a good deadline! To chose the long way means delaying gratification and allowing what’s below the surface to bubble up - even it it’s sludge.
For years I’ve worshipped the idols of productivity and efficiency, though I didn’t know to call it that nor would I have wanted to. I called it “preoccupation with occupation.” I called it being driven. I called being a hard worker, a go-getter. I knew I thrived on getting things done when I compared myself to people around me, and I was quite proud of that. Comparison and pride should both be red flags in that last sentence. I was the busy person in the cliche', “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.” Productivity made me feel important, worthy of the space I took up. The world values and affirms productivity.
Slow is a slap in the face of productivity and efficiency; it’s a punch to the gluttonous gut of more. Doing less and staying with something longer go against the fast-paced, consumer-driven society we’re immersed in. I’m just beginning to understand the implications of SLOW at the level of my soul.
I wouldn’t be surprised if my keyword for 2018 isn’t a repeat or a sequel.