“In the circumstances of modern life, with its acceleration of pace, the practice of silence is admittedly not so simple as it was in the days of our forefathers. A vast number of noise-producing gadgets exist that they did not know, and our daily program is more hectic. Space has been annihilated in the modern world, and apparently we are also attempting to annihilate the factor of time. It is only rarely possible for an individual to walk in deep woods or sit by the sea or meditate on a mountaintop or on the deck of a vessel in the midst of the ocean.”
The year is not 2014, or 2000, or even 1990. The year is 1952, and Norman Vincent Peale is writing The Power of Positive Thinking. He goes on:
“Over-stimulation produces toxic poisons in the body and creates emotional illness. It produces fatigue and a sense of frustration so that we fume and fret about everything from our personal troubles to the state of the nation and the world.”
Sound familiar? The hectic-ness of today – with smartphones and social networking – may take a different form, but it appears that the affliction of feeling hurried is universal. Some of us don’t know what to do with ourselves unless we are rushing.
But the answer is simple: slow down. “Muddied water let stand, will become clear,” said philosopher Lao Tzu.
I’ve always had a self-imposed sense of hurriedness. Even though I work remotely – which means my hours are flexible, especially now that I’m halfway across the globe – I still used to set exact hours for myself and feel antsy if lunch ran over or I started late. Lately, I’ve tried to remind myself that things (read: lines that I’m standing in) don’t always move as fast as I want. And the point is to enjoy life – not get everything done as fast as possible.
I love the concept of rhythm that Peale talks about. Everything has a rhythm, he says. Listen to nature, and you’ll hear its rhythm. A stove, a car, a job all have a rhythm. “To avoid tiredness and to have energy, feel your way into [their] essential rhythm,” he writes. I’m currently feeling my way into the essential rhythm of Bali, which operates on “island time” – in other words, meals take a while to make their way to your table.
Imagined that way, slowing down is like falling into pace with the things around you instead of feeling disjointed and blurry.
“Slow down, for whatever you really want will be there when you get there if you work toward it without stress, without pressing,” Peale writes. “Practice being peaceful . . . Then note the quiet power sense that wells up within you.”
And there is no secret in how to do this, he admits. “The only way to stop is stop.”