The season is changing. Are we?
The intense heat of summer ebbs as the cool crispness of fall sets in. For many people it's a busy time: harvesting, going back to school, focusing on work. As we head into November the pace quickens in anticipation of holiday celebrations and the approaching dormancy of winter.
It was during the darker and colder winter months that the tempo would slow, and traditionally we had time to recoup our spent resources with a less hurried pace. Eventually we would emerge from this period of inner restoration, and our lives would quicken in concert with the emerging green of spring. We would again ramp up our activity with the warming weather as we moved into the fullness of summer. After several months of summer's intensity the long balmy evenings and vacations would wind down as we circled around once more to autumn's call.
People have always sought to modify their experience of the seasons. Starting with the first woolly mammoth coat protecting our ancestors from the cold, we are now able to completely insulate ourselves right down to our temperature-controlled car seats. Similarly the merchandising cycle has put us out of sync with the time of year by selling Halloween in August (please!) and Christmas in September (stop!).
As we are increasingly disconnected from the seasons we lose the sense of ebb and flow they naturally provide. We live in a 24/7 world year round with just one speed: Go. What's missing from both our daily and annual cycles is down time. This is the time when we appear to be doing nothing, but actually we are engaged in the deep work of reflecting and integrating. We need this fallow period to catch up to our selves. We need stillness. Touching in with this void replenishes our deeper selves in ways we can't when we're busy being busy.
What happens when we don't make room for down time? We become ungrounded. We lose our center and shift into reacting. Our breath moves from the depths of our belly to our upper chest, and adrenaline rules the day. All our activity begets more activity as our monkey mind takes over and has us swinging from task to task. We are getting things done, but are they the right things? Life becomes a series of undigested experiences.
The antidote to all this rushing around is to slow down and to give ourselves the time to drop into the depths of doing nothing. "No!" screeches our overheated brain, "We've got things to do!" "Things to do" flow constantly through our lives like a river. This is true for everyone from the overscheduled 6 year old to the overcommitted retiree. Paradoxically the permission we need to stop lies in the very fact that everyone is so crazy busy. How? First of all, few people have the bandwidth to even notice when we carve out some down time and absent ourselves from the rush. Secondly, on some level most people are grateful when we are not adding to their busyness (as loving as our intentions may be). You can hear the sighs of relief when we cancel the meeting, don't instantly reply to the e-mail, and don't add to their list of things to do.
That's right. By doing nothing you are not only helping yourself, you are helping others and (perhaps) saving the world in your own small way. Hyperbole aside, think for a moment how the world would benefit if we all took a moment to reflect before embarking on the next thing. What if "Just do it" became "Just stop." Here are a few thoughts to get you on your way.
Take the next two minutes to do nothing. Just stop reading and take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes if you want. Touch in with your body and see if you can find a still place.
How was that?
Schedule in a couple of hours of down time in the next week. If you can't schedule it in, reflect on why not. How real or imagined are the obstacles?
How do you feel afterward spending some down time? What are the changes and consequences of taking this time?
May your down time pick you up!
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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