In general, I’m not great at slowing down.
Interesting, though, the moment I typed that sentence it felt… off somehow.
Because I don’t necessarily see myself as a “high energy guy.” I’m not super active, nor do I operate at what could be described as a frenetic pace. So when I think of the types of people who say things like, “I need to slow down,” my mind goes to a type of person that doesn’t really resemble me.
And yet, on some level it is still true that I’m not great at slowing down. I think, though, this is more true for me in terms of my mind, as opposed to my body or energy. In other words, my mind is always running—even if my body has not ran in months. Which it hasn’t.
Practices like meditation and prayer (for longer than, say, a minute) elude me. I know they’re out there, and I know know they would be good for me, but I just can’t seem to figure them out. I can’t get my mind to shut up. There is always movement in there.
My friends Larry and Cory own a gorgeous villa on a hill with a vineyard just outside San Diego. I went out there every Monday for six months to work on my book, UnClobber. It’s a peaceful and relaxing home with no Starbucks soundtrack or bus airbrakes to muddle my concentration.
One afternoon I took a stroll (because at a place like theirs you don’t walk, you “stroll”) down a path and noticed a large portion of the hill was majestically covered by a shiny green succulent plant, boasting tiny, perfectly rounded pink flowers. At first, this was all I noticed. A green sea with pink spots.
But then I stopped for a moment, in the middle of the path, and my eyes focused on a singular location of the succulent clothed hillside. After a couple seconds of holding my gaze suddenly I became aware of a reality all around me that just moments before I hadn’t noticed.
There were little black and yellow honey bees darting from pink circle to pink circle. Everywhere.
Hundreds of them. Swarming the sprawling succulents.
My movement had not allowed my eyes to notice their presence, but the moment I stopped they were revealed to me in overwhelming fashion.
I’m pretty confident there are hundreds of bees swarming around me at any given moment. But my inability (refusal?) to slow my mind keeps me blind to them. In some ways this has served me well: I’m always thinking about our Church and how to shepherd our people as best I can, I’m always thinking about sermons I’m writing or want to write, I’m always thinking about songs or drum beats, I’m always thinking about what I don’t have or wish I had, I’m always thinking about a blog or book to write, I’m just always thinking….
In other ways, though, I feel at a great disadvantage. I envy those who practice quieting their mind. Slowing down. Becoming aware of what is swirling around them instead of blocking those things out.
I wonder if part of my not-slowing-down long enough to notice the swarm has to do with my struggle for feeling feelings. Or maybe my struggle to feel feelings has contributed to my over-active mind? Probably a chicken and egg thing.
(Sidenote: I also imagine my religious tradition—which over-valued the mind in its prioritization of “belief”, and which held a general mistrust of emotions—has played a part in all this. But that’s a discussion for another day.)
Growing up, for me, “feelings” did not serve me very well. If at all. Whereas “thinking” has more or less led me toward all my successes in life. So to consider slowing my mind down (ie, try to “think” less) and open myself up to the bees all around (ie, try to “feel” more) is not only counterintuitive, but it also seems counterproductive.
As I consider all this, I think it comes down to this: I fear the bees.
I fear slowing down enough to notice my surroundings, to pay attention to my feelings, because that all seems harder for me to control. To navigate. To understand.
Maybe, rather than saying, “I’m not great at slowing down,” it’s more accurate to say…
Slowing down scares me.