Slowing Down
by Ben Page
Person slowing down

It feels as if our lives are getting faster, or that time itself is speeding up. It feels as if our days lack spaciousness, that we rush off from one thing to the next, never finding time to rest. We hear from all sides that we need to ‘slow down’ and somehow, no matter how hard we try, this seems like an impossibility. How exactly do we slow down?

Simplifying instead of Slowing Down

Perhaps slowing down isn’t exactly a helpful concept when we are chronically overscheduled? Instead, perhaps what we need to do is actually better described as an effort to ‘simplify’ our lives or, in other words, ‘do less.’

I notice a lot of folks I know seem to just have too much on their plates. A lot of what is on our plates are even activities that are supposed to support our wellness or sense of pleasure in life. We stack up hobbies on top of hobbies; we’re hiking and bird-watching and crafting and baking and writing and making music and doing yoga and dancing. We’re just doing a lot… and this is all on top of work, family and the daily household tasks we already have.

When we think about slowing down, we reflexively try to chop away at the things we don’t like to do, the banal, boring stuff. We try to figure out to work less or automate chores, but then we seem to fill up all that new spaciousness with other stuff, with the fun stuff we feel we should be enjoying.

Yet how can it be possible to slow down when we have packed our schedules so full that there is no time for rest, for this phenomenon we call ‘slowness?’

What are the obstacles to simplifying our lives?

I find there to be two main obstacles in our quest for simplification. The first is a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). We tend to think that the quality of our days, hours, minutes, and seconds must be justified by doing all sorts of wonderful things. We look ahead and dread the days of old age when we may look at the time we’ve spent here on this planet and say to ourselves, ‘I wish I had done more with my time.’ And so we operate under the pressure of imagined time scarcity, that there is never enough time and it’s rapidly slipping away, so of course, we must maximize every moment.

This maximization drives us into chronic busyness, even when what we are busy with are things we genuinely enjoy. I hear all too often someone say, “Well, I’m busy, but busy with good things,” as if this was a justification.

The second, and perhaps more subtle obstacle is a sense of self-competition. We want to be our best selves, don’t we? We don’t want to let ourselves down in the lifelong project of creating a story worth telling. And so we rush about, doing all the things, going all the places, tasting all the foods, trying all the new experiences as if they were requirements to prove we have lived a life worth living.

How much do we value slowing down

And this, of course, is where it gets hard because we have to make a choice. Do we really value slowness? Do we value it enough to do less in order to create spaciousness? Are we willing to let go of things we love doing and release ourselves from the fear of missed experiences? If we are unable to make these choices, perhaps we are not ready to slow down yet, and in my heart of hearts, I believe that is OK too.

Life will eventually slow us all down. In the meantime, perhaps we can begin by just asking ourselves these simple questions: what would it be like to do less? What would it be like to have minutes, hours or even days with nothing to do? Would I see this as a failure or a waste of my time? And if so, why?

Stop trying to slow down. Instead, try to simplify.


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