If you could simplify your life, would you? I don’t know who Mark Buchanan is, but apparently he knows me. Because I’m pretty sure he wrote this about me:
I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing … Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.
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Trigeminal neuralgia was the first medical impairment that taught me the value of slowing down. Trigeminal neuralgia is this condition where a blood vessel tangles with a nerve in the head to cause some significant pain. After seven months of strong meds that weren’t all that effective—and because Hubby’s cancer was flaring up—I opted for surgery. Open head. Push brain aside. Untangle stuff. Screw skull back in place.
So why should we practice slowing down? Take on less? Learn to say no when we’re overloaded?
Here are at least 5 reasons:
1. Slowing down reduces stress. Which, in turn, provides better health and a longer life. That should convince you, right there.
2. Slowing down can generate success. When was the last time you re-evaluated what you want to accomplish with your life? And then figured out the not-so-important time wasters? This from Tony Crabbe:
We think success comes from doing more. It actually comes from doing less, interestingly.
3. Slowing down teaches us about our value. For one who receives self-worth from the number of items checked off to-do lists—yes, yes, pathetic—the recovery period for trigeminal neuralgia surgery was a gift. I learned to enjoy the peace, the lit fireplace, quiet conversations with Hubby, a nap, reading, a bit of knitting, a second nap. Accomplishing very little on any given day. And absolutely nothing on some days.
4. Slowing down allows us to pay better attention. I stood at my large window recently, wrapped in fleece blanket, watching snow fall. How can there be no two snowflakes alike? How can they pile on top of each other randomly to make such a beautifully-designed sculpture? And how can white against a gray backdrop be so beautiful? Miracle, all this. Paying attention means drinking in this life, this moment, enjoying it as we live it.
5. Slowing down means more time for people. And people are the most precious commodity entrusted to us. I’ve been in Idaho these past ten days. And I got to see thirty-some family members. Because I set an intention to do so.
They’re all busy. They all have their own lives, jobs, immediate families, activities. But how lovely was it to hold babies and take one of the great-nieces to the park.
How nice to sit long over dinner with Hubby’s cousin; to take mom-in-law to aunt and uncle’s for lunch.
To attend cousin’s son’s daughter’s first birthday party (would that make the birthday girl third cousin?!).
But how do you do this? How do you make time in your crazy busy schedule to breathe more deeply, notice more intentionally? To stand and stare out windows? To stay connected?
It’s got to be a deliberate decision. Otherwise your good intentions will accomplish nothing.
Here are 3 practical steps for deliberately slowing down:
1. Retreat. Get away for a chunk of time where you won’t be distracted. Preferably somewhere in nature. Take your spouse, if you’re married. Sit outdoors for a while. Breathe deeply. Notice the sights and sounds and smells around you. And then brainstorm over what you’d like to accomplish with your single or married life.
2. Reevaluate. Determine what’s hampering your journey, how you got side-tracked. Where are you throwing time away as you hurry through life? Figure out how you can do less, more interestingly.
3. Reorganize. Once you’ve determined what it is you truly want to do with your one brilliant life, then capture in writing the steps you can take in the direction of your dreams, including what you need to let go of so you can slow down and actually enjoy life. And then move forward. More slowly. More intentionally.
For those of you running on a fast track toward poorer health, an earlier death, broken relationships, I would gently encourage you to slow down.
Because only this moment is life.
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