I would love to live like a river flows Carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.
~ John O’Donohue
AIMS: 1. To clear what may be holding us back and to cheer on what is calling us forward. 2. To invite more energy, inspiration, freedom of spirit, and mystery into our lives.
For the next five months we will be looking at five steps that are at the heart of this journey. They are essential practices that make it possible for us to replace unnecessary effort with ease, clutter with clarity, irritating drama with inspirational dreams.
The first of the five steps is Slowing down. The purpose of attempting to slow down is to cultivate ease. Notice what happens to old habits and feeling overwhelmed when we stop rushing and make time for what matters.
The days and weeks seem to fly by at a frenetic pace. Why do we think it’s necessary to rush and what would happen if we slowed down, even just a tiny bit? It may not be obvious, dependent on our lifestyle, but there seems to be an imperceptible pressure to go through our days on autopilot. We don’t always stop to smell the roses, or slow down enough to notice the beauty in the smaller things that surround us.
As we know, scientifically, everything is comprised of energy and has energy. The foods we eat, our physical environment, and our physical bodies all emit a certain frequency depending on what we experience and how we are caring for ourselves. Even our thoughts and emotions are charged with a certain frequency. We need to be moving at a slower pace to have the awareness to notice and acknowledge how we truly feel and are reacting in the moment. Especially in our interactions with others, we need to practice taking a 5 second pause between an action or occurrence and our response. It helps to remember to take a slow, deep breath, notice how you are feeling [e.g., angry, confused, happy, impatient]. Have compassion for that feeling and then make a conscious effort to react positively.
This doesn’t mean trying to talk yourself into a certain reaction, or an unreal positivity. The aim is to notice and acknowledge the repetitive things we do and any negative thoughts or feelings we have accompanying them. Then to recognize that we have the ability to choose to be healthy, confident, and joyful. We are worth the time and energy it takes to make new choices in our thought patterns and in how we respond and act to them. To do this, we need to turn down the pace of our lives a notch in order to simplify, to be aware, and to focus on self care, which is our aim for the next five months.
As we enter into Nissan with this purpose in mind, consider the following practices:
1. Slow down. Notice the ways you run through your day on autopilot. Take five minutes longer to hang the laundry, for example. Or give yourself five extra minutes to enjoy your morning coffee. If you drive, drive a bit slower (safely of course): move to the slow lane and stay within the speed limit.
2. Be open and allow silence. Enter into each month with the mind of a beginner. Realize we don’t know everything and remain eager to learn and grow. Silence brings peace and creates space for thought and opportunities for feelings.
3. Set a quiet, alone time each day, preferably in a specific comfortable place, when you can simply be, breathe, and meditate on slowing down. Start with at least 5 minutes of quiet. Then, according to your available time, maybe play a beautiful piece of music, look over your Nissan notes, and focus on what is relevant to your life particularly. Jot down anything that is important to you. This daily practice of slowing down will cause the entire flow of the day to change.
4. Explore. Take some time to eflect on what it would take (and feel like) in your situation, to replace: (a) effort with ease, (b) clutter with clarity, (c) irritating drama with inspirational dreams. Notice what thoughts get in your way.
5. Write things down! Keep a personal notebook and write down any significant thoughts, dreams, ideas, verses…anything that shines light on your learning. You’ll be surprised how meaningful this will be whenever you look back at what you’ve noted.
“How can I cultivate more ease, flow, and stillness in my life?”
The Mussar work we do in order to be aware and to grow and to become more of our true self is not always easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard either. It can be soft. It can be gentle. It can be slow! Daily exercise, conscious baby steps, and compassionate self-care are potent means of growth.
Just as John O’Donohue so beautifully expressed, the greatest sensation of peace is to feel that one is gliding through life like a river without friction or resistance. Of course life has challenges and there are often daily hurdles to overcome. The “peace like a river,” however, is the inner peace one can attain. It’s like watching the ocean waves ebb and flow, sitting by a crackling fire, or hearing the splashing of a fountain, or the gurgling of a mountain stream…all images which bring a certain peace to the soul.
Our purpose in ‘slowing down’ is to bring to light and allow to surface those things that cause friction within and disturb the flow of peace. Simply pose the above question to yourself at your quiet times and allow the answers to emerge. Don’t work mentally at trying to figure it out. If there are any blocks or things that are causing friction they will gradually surface. It takes time to soften and release patterns of resistance that are deeply embedded in our physical, mental, and emotional attachments. The patterns cause unnecessary fight-or-flight reactions that cause friction and disturb the flow of our lives. Interestingly, it’s when we simply rest back, and suspend judgment, without taking it too seriously, that the “blocks” that might be keeping us stuck in certain areas will begin to emerge. Being less focussed on the outcome helps to increase awareness, expands perspective and is less stressful.
An important characteristic, too, is curiosity. When we suspend judgment and enter into an experience with innocent curiosity we are open to discover the beauty, the surprise and simplicity, to see the light and the dark, and we can gain fresh perspectives. The less you purpose to know the more spacious and revealing your observations will be. The wonder and joy happen in that place of curiosity and ‘not-knowing.’
5 Thoughts to possibly jot down in your Notebook!
May we enter this our next cycle of learning without any preconceived expectations and simply and joyfully dig deeper to find the treasures in our hearts and souls.