Slowing Down

I feel like I’ve been moving at the speed of light. I have been flying back and forth across the country. I have been working long hours, working hard at what I do and I’ve been playing equally as hard. There are times and there are places where you just have to be in constant motion to accomplish all there is to accomplish. Sometimes, depending on what we do, where we live, and the demands of our lives, we get stuck there.

I’ve been in New York and New Jersey for the past couple of weeks. I always want to experience all that I can when I visit New York, and since I am there for work I have limited time to do so. Every waking moment is hurried, matches the pace of the city itself. I work, then I transport myself around the city in various ways, taxi, walking, the subway, in order to visit, see, do, accomplish that which I intend to visit, see, do and accomplish. In New Jersey, it is a matter of working and navigating through the unfamiliar landscape, again, to accomplish what it is that needs to be accomplished. I am part of the speed and part of the noise of these places, and some noise I create just to drown out the noise that others are creating. Does it make sense to apply noise to accomplish enough peace to seek any rest whatsoever?

Now, I am in Alaska, in Anchorage, first, for a wedding. Having never seen Anchorage before, there was some time set aside for seeing, exploring, visiting and experiencing. There were timeframes and schedules to be met. Yesterday was the long drive to Fairbanks, with fires and road construction requiring traffic controls, and the list of “must sees” on the way, Denali, for example, though sitting in the passenger seat all day, it was not a “slow” day.

Now I am outside of Fairbanks, a place I have been several times, a place that suggests slowing down, a place I find grounding, where I can find my center. A place with a rhythm all its own and different from anywhere else. It is a seasonal rhythm more than a daily rhythm, not unlike our days, busy when the sun is up, slower when the sun is down, rhyming with the amount of daylight. But here, that is seasonal much of the year, with entire days of light now, and later, with winter, entire days of dark. To me, it is so therapeutic, that even in the hustle and bustle of New York City and the frantic desire to see and do, I was thirsting for this. Exactly this. I was looking forward to it like I look forward to visiting New York City.

So, today, I am slowing down. And for the next couple of weeks I will move only as fast as is necessary. I am wallowing in slowness, quenching my thirst for it.

I could easily describe myself as a little competitive, as a bit of an overachiever, as driven, and motivated. I have not yet begun to accomplish all I hope to in my life, in this year, in this month or in any average day. Each day that breaks, as dark gives way to light, and often well beforehand, I begin my routine of perpetual motion. Climbing into bed at night, at the end of a high achievement day, itself, is something I am driven and compelled to do. I must get to sleep in order to get up and begin again tomorrow, anew.

Today is not one of those days. Today I am practicing living slowly. I know I am capable of living slowly, I have done it before. In fact, every so often, perhaps every few weeks or once a month or so, I just have a lost day and there is no sin in that. I know I have gone on and on about how letting time slip away is a crime, that every second lost can never be regained, and, ultimately, we have very limited supply of seconds in our lives. But I do support deliberately slowing down on occasion and just letting a day slide by. I don’t mean pulling the covers up over our heads and remain unconscious, nor do I mean sitting in front of a television mindlessly flipping channels, the first being an absence of being for as long as we are asleep, the second being an absence of being by immersion in sensory input “dictated” by others. By deliberately slowing down, I mean allowing your day to unfold naturally, to be open to our thoughts, to be cognizant of the sights and sounds and sensations around us. Remove ourselves from our daily, intentional life and place ourselves more in a position of an observer. Observe our thoughts, our feelings, our physical, mental and emotional moods, sensations and needs.

This is not a day without accomplishment, rather, a day with no requirements. I have done plenty, but none of what has been accomplished has been something I had to do. I reorganized my suitcases so I could find things, I walked through the garden and the greenhouse, marveling at how things have grown since I was here last just a month ago. I have taken some photos, and I’ve thought about what I want to write. If I had not done these few things, because I am focusing on a slow day, I would not have been disappointed in myself. Whatever gets accomplished today is just a bonus. My mind is engaged but not frantic, my body is energetic and willing, but relaxed. The possibility the day holds is exciting, but peaceful.

I am taking advantage of the peacefulness of my surroundings, today, to just slow down. I will breathe deeply, blink slowly, turn my face up towards the sky, listen actively, speak softly and only when needed. I will not seek to fill the quiet with artificial sensory input; music, radio, television. I will just absorb what my surroundings offer. The sun has been peaking in and out of drifting clouds, the wind is flirting with the birch leaves, the bees are bumbling about the flowers and the heat of the short growing season is causing things to grow, almost visibly, before my eyes. I can hear the songs of various birds intertwined with daily life; conversations, an occasional small plane overhead, the barking of dogs from distant neighbors, the ordinary sounds of others accomplishing what must be accomplished in their lives today. Here, a place where sound does not have to be applied to drowned out sound, as in the city. I have not isolated myself, I am not in exile, I am just slowly moving through my day, aware, engaged and open to whatever unfolds. And, today, this is all I aim to accomplish, let it be what may.