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TO BE MORE EFFECTIVE

WE MUST SLOW DOWN INSIDE



image of cracking ice: To Be More Effective, We must slow down inside

This week, I got the message, “Slow down.” It came in the form of a rune. Isa. Ice. One straight line carved into a smooth piece of wood. Another interpretation, at least this week, could be, “Chill out.”

It’s no surprise that I pulled that rune during a week filled with work-related stress, an existential crisis about the state of the world, and with day after day filled with the news of human suffering.


But really, “Chill out?”


How can we chill out or slow down when there is work to be done, and tasks to finish, and personal problems to figure out?


How can we chill out or slow down when there are genocides occurring, and autistic Black kids getting killed while holding gardening tools, and another trans teen bullied to death?

How can we chill out or slow down when the planet is in pain?


The answer is: We must.


Years ago, I studied the Gurdjieff Work. One lesson that Gurdjieff taught his students was to work quickly and quietly at a task like doing the dishes. Have you ever tried to quickly clean a sink filled with dishes while remaining quiet? It is difficult.  To accomplish doing something both quickly and quietly requires paying attention… and slowing down inside.


To slow down inside, I’ve realized over the years, is to be present in the moment while having a well-regulated central nervous system. When we speed up inside, we become agitated, clumsy, less precise, overwhelmed. Our central nervous system goes into overdrive, causing a cascade of physiological and psychological ramifications. Our heart rate spikes. Our breathing constricts. Our digestion rebels. We have trouble sleeping, or perhaps we want to do nothing but sleep. Our brains have trouble coping.

When we speed up inside—not from burst of joy or excitement, but from stress or anxiety—we become less effective in how we respond to the world. We react instead of choosing.


Right now? We need to slow down because we need to choose.


We need to ask: What is important? What is actually important? Not simply what is the biggest source of stress in the moment.


When we pause—to take some deep breaths, to re-center ourselves, to go for a walk, or sit in prayer or meditation, or rest beneath a weighted blanket—choice opens once again. We realize we have options. And if we are currently fortunate enough to not be living in an active battleground, I hope we honor those options.


By choosing to not live as if we are in an active battleground when we are not, we can offer help more effectively.


Is there a family who needs us? Can we feed someone? Can we write, or call, or join with friends in a targeted blockade? Can we listen to a teen who’s having trouble? Can we speak up? Can we listen more closely? Can we send money to someone who is offering direct help to those in need?


What is the next thing on our plate that needs to be addressed? Is that work problem really life or death? Likely not.


And what is one thing we can do to help the world? What is one thing we can do to alleviate suffering, right now?


It takes each of us doing that one thing, collectively. We hold each other, as James Baldwin once said, because the moment we stop, “the sea engulfs us, and the light goes out.”


We hold each other, and we breathe. We invoke hope, and then take action to build a kinder world to come.


So today, I’m slowing down enough to choose.


How about you?


 

 This piece was made possible by my wonderful Patreon supporters. I'm so grateful to each of them.

 

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