Today’s guest post is by Patricia T. Bass. Patricia is a speaker, retreat leader, and ordained minister.
A colleague once told me, “Patricia, you have to slow down to move faster.” At the time, my driven, work-addicted personality did not understand her wisdom. There was no time in my life to slow down. How could slowing down possibly help me move faster? I had become successful by mastering multi-tasking and working long hours. That’s what I knew.
I also knew stress, anxiety, fatigue, and imbalance, but I thought those just went with the territory of being a CEO. Today I know different.
Today, I know that taking time to slow down brings greater peace and greater productivity. Finding space to breathe brings balance and creativity. Slowing down and savoring silence ultimately bring greater meaning, purpose, and fulfillment to our lives because we connect with our spirit.
Less Is More
The field of graphic design provides a great metaphor by teaching us that “less is more.” If the page is completely filled with words, we will not want to engage with the message no matter how witty the writing. On the other hand, if the words on the page are surrounded by empty space, suddenly we are drawn in. It is actually the empty space around the words or image that gives weight and meaning to the message.
In the same way, we find meaning in our lives when we give ourselves enough empty space, silence, and freedom to notice and appreciate what’s important to us.
Why Is It So Hard?
Author Wayne Muller says we’ve become enthralled with the trance of our work. Our very busy-ness makes us feel important. In his book, Sabbath, Muller says that when we think about our work, we tell ourselves things like, “It is all-important, it must be done right away, it won’t get done without me, I cannot stop or it will all fall apart, it is all up to me, terrible things will happen if I do not get this done.”
And then there’s technology. Today’s technology just stimulates the work addiction. Its tentacles reach encircle us 24/7. Technology is a gift most of the time. But when it interrupts our sanity, that’s another thing altogether.
We may take time to stop and smell a rose, but only if we can get a photo of it first so we can post it on Facebook or Instagram. Can you relate?
How Do We Slow Down and Recharge?
In a world that never stops, how do we slow down? How do we find balance? How do we create the space to live meaningful lives? Here are seven ideas you can put into practice today.
- Stop using the word “Busy”. Our words have power. Notice how often you use the word “busy” and see if you can cull it from your vocabulary. Instead, try describing your life as “full”. Remember, busy-ness is not a badge of honor.
- Stop multi-tasking. Research says you actually accomplish less when you multi-task because you spend more mental energy shifting from one task to the other. Instead, try staying with a task until you move it to the next step or better yet, until it is done. Then, take a mental break before going to the next task.
- Take a breathing break. Slow deep breathing stimulates the relaxation response and promotes calm. You can do this any time, any place. Just three slow deep breaths. Even better, give yourself three whole minutes to focus on your breathing (though, of course, not while you’re driving.) Then return to your day.
- Try arriving at appointments five minutes early. You’d be amazed at how much more centered you feel when you aren’t rushing. You can use the five minutes to catch your breath and touch your soul.
- Schedule open space on your calendar. Schedule time on your calendar for nothing. That’s right – nothing. Call it a “Special Topic Meeting”. The special topic is “being.” For those 15 minutes, take a mindful walk, get up from your usual chair and sit some place else and breathe mindfully. The key is to shut off your phone and computer, power down, and just be. I promise you, you’ll be more productive when your “special topic meeting” is over.
- Take a break from technology. A friend of mine takes one day a week away from all technology. All of it. No tv, telephone, computer, etc. Now, if this terrifies you, just practice for smaller periods. Plan an evening where you will set your phone and computer in another room and do not check them until the morning. Notice how you feel. Research on mice suggests that periods of daily silence may actually develop new brain cells in the hippocampus, a key brain region associated with learning, memory and emotion.
- Take a mini-sabbatical. Some professions and corporations encourage employees to take a 3-6 month sabbatical every 7 years or so. While that may not be feasible for you, consider taking a weekend away on your own for reflection and quiet. Or a day. Or an afternoon. Or an hour.
All of these ideas can be implemented in any day. Just choose one and get started. The aim is to have a life of meaning that you enjoy moment to moment, day by day. Now go to that “special topic meeting.”
About the Author
Patricia is a speaker, retreat leader, and ordained minister. She’s a former banking executive who felt a call to ministry over 25 years ago. Her passion is prayer and helping people live more meaningful lives. If you’d like to contact her or ask her to pray with you, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.