The pace of our culture is increasing at an astonishing rate. While this speed certainly has its benefits and conveniences for our outer lives, they come at a great cost to our inner world.
For as all of the wisdom traditions teach, well-being can only be cultivated when you take time every day to slow down and turn inward. So as fabulous as it is to click a few buttons on your phone and receive a package at your doorstep two days later, the momentary thrill is quickly tempered by the undercurrent of anxiety and emptiness that pervades most people's lives.
When I talk about slowing down with my clients, many of them draw a blank. They're so addicted to the fast pace of our modern world that they believe they've lost the capacity to develop the inner life so necessary to well-being. I'm not talking about giving up all worldly possessions and retreating to a cave on the top of a mountain; no, I'm talking about making a commitment to yourself to slow down and turn inward each day while still remaining connected to a full and active life.
If you need a jump start reminder for how to do that, experiment with the following simple suggestions.
1. Light a candle.
There's something about the flicker of the flame in a dark room that naturally inspires us to slow turn and inward. Perhaps it's a primal reminder of an earlier time in human history when the lack of electricity required that we follow the natural rhythm of day and night. We can find thousands of ways of skirting time; lighting a candle hearkens back to a time when we lived more organically and less technologically.
2. Sit in nature.
Similarly, one of the beauties of nature is that it's completely unaffected by technology. The seasons still follow the same rhythm that has informed their cycle of shedding and renewal for thousands of years. The leaves of the trees die and reborn at their same pace; animals hibernate and migrate at the same rhythm. When you sit in nature — and I do mean sit, as opposed to hike, run, bike, or drive — you absorb via osmosis the pace of nature and your internal clock is reset to organic time.
3. Read poetry out loud.
Poetry is an aural art and, as such, is meant to be read out loud. When you read it out loud, your voice is more likely to meet the pace of the words as they were written, to savor each symbol, and to allow the imagery to wash over your soul and fill you up. It's like standing barefoot in the grass and allowing the waters of the earth rise up through the bottom of your feet, through the channels of your legs, and into the chambers of your heart.
4. Listen to inspiring speakers and teachers
One of the blessings of technology is that it allows us to access some of the world's greatest thinkers with the click of a button. If your mind is an overactive place and, despite trying to meditate you can't seem to quiet those incessantly loud and often mean voices, try replacing them with kinder ones by listening to inspiring audiobooks and lectures.
5. Read an actual book.
Kindles and iPads are convenient, and for some people they may even be easier on the eyes, but when you only take in information through technology, you're much more likely to jump onto the Internet or quickly check your email instead of staying focused on the book. There's a certain romance to reading an actual paper book that is lost when the information is presented technologically.Curling up with the iPad just doesn't feel quite the same as curling up with a good book.
6. Write an actual letter.
The act of putting pen to paper naturally slows us down. While it's convenient to let your fingers fly across the keyboard and click send, when you take the time to choose stationary, write an actual letter in your own hand, fold it up, address it and stamp it, and put it in the mailbox, you're hearkening another era where time moved at a slower pace, and you will move at that pace as well.
Meditating creates spaciousness and is now widely acknowledged as one of the most effective ways to slow down and turn inward. Thirty to forty minutes several days a week is ideal, but even just ten minutes of sitting down and getting to know your mind will help you fill your inner well.
Journaling is a free and accessible way to enter your inner world. When you take time to reflect on the contents of your thoughts, feelings, and actions, you develop a capacity to make choices regarding how you treat yourself. In other words, if you're operating on a running commentary that says, "I'm not good enough," journaling helps to bring that subtext into the forefront of consciousness where you can then choose either to believe it or seek to replace it with a commentary that's more loving and kind.
9. Take a nap.
When's the last time you took a nap? When's the last time, instead of getting something done, you lay down on the bed or your office floor and just closed your eyes? In our culture that values doing over being, it's hard to set aside the voice that cracks down with the cackling whip of "you're lazy" and remember that in many other cultures, a siesta or rest time is built into the fabric of the day and seen as an essential component to well-being.
10. Pet an animal.
If you're wondering how to cultivate more being and less doing, study your pet, as Eckhart Tolle writes in his beautiful little book, Guardians of Being: Spiritual Teachings from our Dogs and Cats.
There are many other ways, of course. When you orient your compass toward filling the well of Self, you'll discover the ways that are most nourishing for you.