Sunday, June 30, 2019

Slow and Quiet



 Who has time for quiet?
Who has time to slow down?

Many people have studied the dangers and pitfalls of basing one’s life and one’s decisions on fear. I agree with this idea. We need and use “fear” to keep us safe from harm. However, it can be a dangerously strong emotion and can become a serious mental disorder that needs professional support- I’m not writing in that capacity. I’m writing because I’m grappling with another idea that I think may help us to not be swayed by Fear’s allure for a quick and protective response.

Slow down and be quiet.

Without any of the term’s baggage, that’s what is at the heart of “mindfulness practice”. I’ve written many pieces over the years on rhythm and stillness. Breathing, seasons, waves on water, sunrise and sunset: there are examples all around of us of things that occur at certain natural speeds and times.

Where do patterns, fear, mindfulness, quiet, rhythm, and slowing down intersect?

Allow me to bring in yet another human concept: vacation. We take vacations to break away from our normal patterns of life. We willingly throw some chaos into our living to experience an unfamiliar rush. Even if that “rush” is to end up sitting by a pool or natural water body. It’s different from our “normal”. We crave a change, and in fact, everything is changing. It’s all in motion.

Motion. Nothing is locked in place.


 I’ve tried to draw out my thoughts. (I didn’t label the X-axis as time, because I just attempted to read Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time and my one takeaway (other than an appreciation for his lyrical style) was that time is not linear.) The red line is a hectic experience of living that can lead one to ask the two questions I posed at the beginning of this piece. What happens when we experience an unexpected, loud sound? We jump. Our hearts race, like the red line on my graph leaping wildly and picking up speed like an EKG. The same reaction happens when we feel pressured at work, when we can’t pay the bills, when we feel alienated from others, or when we feel threatened by someone we perceive as suspicious.

A little bit of chaos and fear is beneficial- it can protect us from legitimate threats, feel good, or inspire us. However, those oscillations can get so wild, we can begin feeling like flotsam on an angry sea- completely adrift and without any control. Those are perfect conditions for massive growth in experiencing fear, founded or not.

The causes of chaotic living, that red line, are many. Some are from our personal choices. Some stem from the choices of others. Others are physiological. We’ll never get rid of them all, but we can decide to try to moderate that chaos through individual and group effort. In addition, we have many green patterns both in the world around us and within us to use as metronomes.

Life’s patterns can feel boring, but they are the vital buffers everything hangs upon.

We can return to these patterns and gain comfort from them- if we so choose. The red patterns can blot the green ones from our view, but that does not mean the green ones cease to exist. And thus, I return to my initial questions:

Who has time for quiet?
Who has time to slow down?

To me, the answer is: everyone must.


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