I took a three-month sabbatical in the summer of 2013. The purpose of the sabbatical was to disconnect and be refreshed. One of the first things I did was deactivate my Facebook page, followed by deactivating my e-mail account, followed by turning off my cell phone. The ensuing silence was deafening. I quickly learned how I had allowed my life to be governed by dings, buzzes and bells. Next, I turned off my alarm clock. I slept until my body said I was done sleeping and I quickly learned how sleep-deprived I’d allowed myself to become. It took nearly six weeks until I stopped hearing the little voice inside my head that incessantly said, “Aren’t you supposed to be doing something? Aren’t you supposed to be somewhere?”
I learned on sabbatical that I had become a “human doing” rather than a human being. And truth be told, I went through some withdrawal. For a while I missed the frantic pace and the adrenaline and caffeine rush of the day. I missed the endorphin boost of checking things off of my to-do list and the way in which my accomplishments bolstered my self-esteem. I missed the sense of self-importance that constant text messages and Facebook “likes” offered. I missed all those things for a while and struggled with a sense of emptiness. But as I learned to slow down I came to know two interesting people with whom I had lost touch: God and myself. I can’t help but wonder if perhaps the hurried pace that I had adopted was really my way of running from both of them.
Slowing down is more than just a spiritual practice. It’s actually a foundation for nearly all spiritual practices. The problem isn’t that we could somehow outrun God; the problem is that it’s nearly impossible to notice God, let alone grow in relationship with God, on the run. In fact, I would suggest to you that our culture’s addiction to busyness – and make no mistake, it is an addiction – negatively impacts more than our relationship with God. Research shows that it negatively impacts our health, our relationships and our emotional well-being.
You’ll find lots of simple ways to practice slowing down here, but the practice that I have personally found most helpful is the practice of breathing. I know, you’ve been breathing all your life so who really needs the practice? But consider practicing the new habit of pausing several times a day – literally stop what you’re doing. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing…the rising and falling of your belly. Count the breaths if that helps. It’s amazing how doing that several times throughout the day can help us to be more present in the moment, more aware of what we’re really feeling and more aware of God’s loving presence. Personally, I find that this is the most powerful practice for helping me to live in the moment, rather than stewing about the past or worrying about the future. If the idea of sitting in silence makes you sweat, try this creative way of meditating.
What’s your favorite way of slowing down? What helps you to live in the moment? Share a comment.