The How (and Why) of Slowing Down

 

Friends! I am alive. I mean several things from this, but first and foremost, I am actually alive and breathing and thankful to be. The past four months have been everything I never expected, have you ever had a season like that? I expected to be writing here, working on other projects and enduring a Chicago winter with young kids. But wow! Then something takes you by surprise and unfurls a series of events that you didn’t see coming…it’s been that sort of year for me so far.

Often in my life those events have been bad. They’ve struck me out of nowhere and kept me reeling until I hopefully stumble upon that thing that I need to help me through. This time the inciting event was more positive. Undoubtedly stress-inducing, but positive. We decided to move. With three young kids and in winter. It turned out to be exactly as fun as it sounds 😉 But the discernment process we took ourselves through undeniably pointed in that direction.

I joke that we said some cosmic “yes” and the planets all aligned. The short story is that we decided to move one week, told three neighbors the next week, and by the following week had buyers and a contract on the home we were selling and we were under contract to buy a home we love in the town we wanted to be in. Four weeks later, we moved. We never even put our home on the market. One of my sisters joked after we had moved into our new home, “I feel like you were just starting to talk about the idea of moving…” Yea, yea, me, too. >>Because we were<< We’ve already been there over a month now! We are getting settled in and creating home within our new walls.

While the process of deciding to move was a bit slow, the selling and buying and moving all happened very quickly. I would say so quickly that my mind and heart couldn’t really catch up. I had to just do the work of packing and parenting nonstop every.single.day. For over a month I didn’t sit down once during the day, I would just collapse into bed at night replaying to-do lists as I tried to sleep. I was packing, taking care of kids, getting moving boxes, completing paperwork, and making sure every one ate, because these little monkeys are always eating. always eating. always. But this big shift for our family was taking place and I couldn’t be present to it at all, I had to make the shift from human being to human doing.

I had a ton to do in the short period of time and this was totally the best way to handle life for the time being. But then. BUT THEN. It happened just like it always happens. Life wants to get back to normal but I am no longer the person I was before it all changed. I have been moving at light speed to get it all done. There is just so much urgent. I lose any sense of being present to myself and then it happens: I lose any sense of God.

God hasn’t shifted, left, moved, but I have been so noisy there is no way I can hear any voice that calls. Busyness always snuffs out love, you know. And since God is love (1 John 4:8) there is neither mathematically nor soulfully any ways I am going to meet Him when I am this busy.

 

{Busyness ≠Love ; God = Love ; Therefore: Busyness ≠God (that’s the mathematical part I was referring to, just in case I lost you ;-)}

 

To get back to me I have to be with me. I have to be with #allthefeels, as they say. I have to slow down and allow the eruption of thoughts, ideas and fears and sadness come up. The only way through, well, is through.

Sometimes I can just return to myself through silence and breath, but there are times I have been so caught up in external or internal noise that I can’t slow down without getting more deeply into my body. This time I needed restorative yoga to bring me back present. I didn’t just need a class of it, I need a week of it to reacquaint myself with my body, my life, my soul. I needed to let tears come when they might (even though that’s sort of weird in yoga class…whatev). I needed to wake up early and sit in a quiet house and literally just breath as the sun rose. I needed to spend a night at a monastery and sit quietly in a huge empty chapel imaginatively walking through the Gospel of John.

Have you ever been there? Maybe you are there now. You’ve lost your way and are stuck in internal or external noise that keeps you knowing up from down. You need clarity to make decisions; you are judgmental or hard on yourself. You want to slow down but then you’ve been so busy for so long you are scared at what might bubble up if you do slow down.

It can happen to any of us. We are certainly not out of God’s view or his care when we find ourselves in this interiorly disconnected place, we are simply not present to ourselves or to God. The work of self-care **and dare I say true Christian spirituality** is to become present to Life, to the great I AM… so we can bring our great “WHAT IS” to this great “I AM” being ever-transformed into Christ’s image. But we must always come exactly as we are wherever we find ourselves. That’s always all we’ve got.

I think we all know we have turned into a foolish society with the inundation of things things things and stuff stuff stuff and noise noise noise. But the real thing to focus on is that it all keeps us from love, love, LOVE. Because while the things, stuff, and noise certainly hurt our relationships and our lives and ultimately leaves us empty, fixing those things is not to be the initial focus of our soul’s returning… We first need to do the work of returning ourselves Love itself.

Thankfully there is a way out of that scary noise that keeps us from ourselves: it’s silence.

Silence is the gateway to our souls and to God.

To be in silence truly is a gift and it can truly be scary. Jane Vennard writes in her book Be Still:

“We long for silence and ye we are afraid of silence. For when the outer world is quiet, we begin to hear our inner noise. Our heads are filled with chatter, our hearts with emotions. We replay history and rehearse the future. We wander away from the present moment by making lists, or planning supper, or anticipating an argument, or remembering who said what to whom at yesterday’s meeting. In the silence we begin to realize that we are everywhere but here.”

So the real thing to do is not to rant about things, stuff, or noise (though critical thoughts on these issues is undoubtedly helpful and fruitful), the real question for your own soul’s “how-to” is How do I return back to Love? You need to be able to answer this question, because life needs to be full of returnings. Some call it repentance. It begins with a shift in our internal direction.

Try taking 3-10 minutes of silence at some point in the day for the next few days (set a timer if you need, I have done this very often when I have just a short amount of time but don’t want to be checking the clock). Breathe deeply and continue to bring your mind back to your breath whenever it wanders. Don’t judge it for wandering, Henri Nouwen explains in his book Spiritual Direction, that this is what the silence is for, for bringing up all these things that are jammed in your soul with no where to go. So be hospitable to yourself and let the silence be a gift to you.

I would love to know (and I bet others would too!):

-How do you make time for silence in your life?

-What does silence do for your soul?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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