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.


Garbage In – Garbage Out

I’m talking trash.

I generally try to surround myself with positive people. However, this is not always an option, and, at times, I struggle with how to deal with people who are less than positive, less than optimistic, less than happy. And what to do when some of these folks are close to you presents even more of a dilemma.

Today I tried explaining to someone that by focussing on the negative, the bad, the undesirable, we are actually attracting the negative, the bad, the undesirable into our lives. Whether you subscribe to the law of attraction, or not, think about it. If all you think about, or worse yet, talk about, is the horrible things you heard on the news, the pain throughout your body, the poor state of your finances, your lack of energy, what are you experiencing? Horrible things, pain, poor finances, lack of energy. What you think, is what you experience. It is that simple. If you dwell on something in your mind, it is what you experience.

Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night and heard your heart beating? And why is it in the middle of the night our anxieties are most acute? You think, “is it normal to be hearing my heart beat?”. Anxiety rises, heart beats faster. “My heart rate is accelerated!” Anxiety rises, heart beats faster. “Am I having chest pains?”, now focussing on possibly having pain in your chest, and you honestly can’t tell if you’re having pain in your chest, or not! Anxiety rises. You think you’re dying of a heart attack! It is totally normal to awaken and hear your own heart beat, but we can easily convince ourselves that something, potentially, is wrong. We lose sleep, and feel like hell the next day, confirming our suspicion that we aren’t quite right, when, in fact, we are perfectly fine.

This type of thought pattern is common, it is how the “untrained” mind naturally functions. The key to being positive, to being happy, to being content, to evolving into a productive, fulfilled person is to train our minds. Much easier said than done, and, in my humble opinion, it is a job never 100% done. Like doing cartwheels, you may be really good at it, though never perfect. And if you don’t practice all the time, you’re going to lose the skill. Thinking positively is just like doing cartwheels. Practice. Practice. Practice. And never stop. You may get close to perfect, but never quite.

The trash we allow our minds to dwell on is compromising our physical, mental and emotional health, and so, our quality of life, even our longevity. Take the trash out.

In my conversation today, about not focussing on the horrible, the pain, the poor finances, lack of energy, etc., part of my message was what you allow into your mind is usually what comes out. If you fill your mind with garbage; horrible news, that is all you have to think about. If you fill your mind with productive reading material, that, in turn, is what drives your thought processes. If you begin your day not with a mental list of your ailments, your aches, your pains, your poor situation but with affirmations of what you want to experience instead, and with gratitude for the positive things your already have in your life, your whole mindset shifts to those more positive drivers. Garbage in, garbage out.

This is an exercise I do each and every morning. Well, most mornings. And I really want to do it every single morning. And if I don’t, I usually have a more difficult time remaining in a super positive frame of mind. But, honestly, while this may be a starting point, it takes constant “policing” of our thoughts to keep them from nose diving back into the negative during the course of the day. I spent a full year actively re-training my mind to focus on the positive, and still, now and then, I have to give myself a pep talk.

During the course of losing my dream of living on a ranch in the country to foreclosure, during the course of losing the house in town, shortly thereafter, to a short sale, then leaving my husband after a lonely marriage of twenty some years, and getting my kids through the last years of high school and off to college reasonably unscathed during the midst of all this turmoil, in all the trials of moving multiple times, trying to discover who I really was, trying to reclaim my health and fitness, trying to build a life for myself and provide emotional and financial support to my family, all the while trying to progress in my career, I have, somehow, kept quite upbeat and positive. I consider myself a modern marvel!

I read highly nutritive material. I always have on my Kindle, a book I am reading that fosters a positive mental attitude, the law of attraction, developing good relationships, or something along those lines. Yes, I have fun reads, too, novels by Candace Bushnell or Sohpie Kinsella. And always a classic, my favorite being Jane Austen. But I really try to put into my mind only positive matter, so that what come out is positive in kind.

I, personally, believe in the law of attraction. I’ve read The Secret, I’ve listened to it in audio, I’ve watched the movie. And, to me, it a lot of it makes sense. I usually glean out of all the material I read, the snippets I think will work best, and sort of craft my own “philosophy”. But I do believe in the law of attraction, that energy attracts like energy. Positive thoughts are positive energy, and in kind, attract positive results. No, you can’t just think “I want a million dollars” and it magically appears. I’ve tried that. Doesn’t work. But, in thinking reasonable and positive thoughts, I have been able to progress considerably in becoming more financially stable, and, financially independent; mostly by focussing on budgeting and living within my means. But, where a few years ago, I thought retirement was never a possibility for me, I see now, I may, at some point, be able to retire. This, I am certain, is because I am focussing on positive thoughts in this area, and through those positive thoughts I have found positive solutions and have achieved positive results.

I read another book, Relax, Focus, Succeed by Karl W. Palachuk. This was a man who suffered incredibly from pain due to a very real medical condition. Through training his mind diligently, he learned to override the thought processes of focussing on the pain, and now lives a far more pain free and active, fulfilling life. His material is definitely worth a read.

So, in my conversation today, I am hoping I made some sort of impact, because I care a great deal about this person. And while there may be fear of the horrible things heard on the news, true pain, dwindling savings and a resulting lack of energy (probably from depression over the other items), I am hoping that a concerted effort at altering thought processes will provide relief, and, better quality of life.

I challenge you to really, deeply examine your thoughts. What are you allowing into your mind that influences your thoughts, and what are the results manifested in your life? Take the garbage out and keep sweeping up, I’m certain you’ll see a positive difference if you are diligent. Why do you think they call it being down in the dumps?