“Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you.” – John De Paola
At my church this weekend, we talked about inner peace. We talked about quieting the mind, about centering, about breathing deeply into the core of our stomach instead of the superficial breathing that usually consumed our lives – and it was a beautiful service, full of love and meditation and Tibetan singing bowls.
I don’t want these lulls, a part of me thought, fidgeting in my seat and trying to look tranquil. I want to be a glowing pastiche of color, light and thought. I want to radiate. I want to loom.
But the only way we can step into our full creativity and power is by taking time to step back, slow down, and reflect.
For those of us who are fueled alight by sheer passion, who thrive on energetic bursts of daydreams and enthusiasm, slowing down can be a hard concept to embrace. But like most things in this bombastic self-growth world of ours, our resistance to slowing down signals that we are the exact people that need to try it.
Our bodies have a pervading intelligence keeping cells and pieces functioning together in ways we still don’t entirely understand. Yet we often ignore bodily signals that encourage us to rest – the foggy head, the fatigue, the sleeplessness or oversleeping. The periods that come too often because stress has wrecked our moonglow rhythms. The temper tantrums, the acne, the depression, the listlessness.
I was bumbling down a street in Chicago one recent morning, another pulsating speck in the sea of commuters, and I felt physically awful. My forehead felt like it had stockpiles of sand weights lodged in its tunnels, and my limbs yearned to plop themselves into a lumpy stick pile in the middle of the concrete.
I suspected that it might be time for me to take it easy, but I tend to treat Slowing Down like one more thing on my blossoming To Do list – I’ll slow down after this weekend, after I do all these other things – things are just too busy right now.
I am convinced that our spiritual growth will unfold when we allow ourselves to be guided by creative murmurings and by the flashing neon signs of our anxiety, fear, and self-sabotage. But the signals of our bodies are markers too, and when our cells and bones band together to proclaim that they are Tired, we can pull together the courage to listen to these signals too – even if they aren’t the big flashy messages of Accomplishment and Doing Things that we want to hear.
In art, as in life, we thrive in times of taking a break. Julia Cameron talks about using writing as a tool to noodle around, to find ourselves, and to “hang out on the page.” We don’t have to sit down and decide This is going to be a blog post. I am about to write a poem. My mom is going to see this piece, so I had better keep it tame.
We can take a step back and write more slowly, with no preconditions of what the final result will look like. Stepping back and slowing down can open the door to our creative freedom, where shimmering insights await us.
When it comes to the artistic process, whether we write or paint or daydream or use any other medium, our logical ego selves are used to clamping down on anything that doesn’t look like it’s Going Anywhere. That self-sabotaging piece of us thrives on topic sentences, 1-2-3, why-are-you-even-bothering, you’re-not-good-enough… and it deters us from taking a break and just playing around in our creative waters. We never get a chance to replenish when we put ourselves under this much pressure.
So today, I am resting. And I am taking my time to respond to blog comments that have rocked my soul, instead of rushing through. And I am rethinking the commitments I have made, and I am feeling brave enough to bow out of those that I don’t have the energy for.
And I am letting my big dreams simmer for these few days to see what that even feels like. And I will write a few poems about herons, and I will daydream about Santa Fe, and I will know in my heart when I am ready to dive back into fierce action.
(We can shift our mindsets and create miracles while remaining engaged in our day-to-day lives. My full time job is not going on hold because I happen to feel like slowing down – we don’t have to run off to tropical retreats to find lush tranquility.)
I dare you to rest along with me. To let your senses and your spirit and your thoughts and your health integrate with one another for a while. Big plans, thumping adventures, restless vocational tugs will pull you back when you are ready to burn with passion again – but you never know what eye-opening discoveries might come to you in the sweet silent meantime.
Love and Beauty Sleep,
(Do you have a story about a time you decided to slow down? Do you have a story about a time when you didn’t let yourself rest, even though you probably should have? Share your wisdom in the comments section!)