September 12, 2010

Put The Brakes On And Stop


In my past rushed life I enjoyed how productive I was... to a point. Sure I got a lot done, and perhaps was paid well for doing it, but it was quickly sucking the life out of my life. I had less and less time to do the things I wanted to do. Since then life has slowed down rather dramatically. But even the slow life is too fast at times. Occasionally, we need to stop.

North America, so driven to prove something to the rest of the world, has no culture of stopping (or even slowing down). No siesta, no mid-day cafe conversations stretching into evening, no joyous lolly-gagging. Loafing is generally seen as a sin, regardless of how regenerating its benefits may be.

The over-used phrase about time being money trains us to be active at all times. To burn the candle at both ends. If you get tired, well, there is a pill for that. Or wait a few months till your next vacation. Do NOT slow down. And if you stop you may get run over. But we do need to stop.

I remember a camping trip to an October Fest celebration during which I and my friends were all going hard. After lots of beer, sausage, and dancing, we returned to our camp site and continued partying. Early in the morning a woman emerged from the tent next door in her housecoat. As she approached our campfire she screamed, "When do you people stop?" The poor woman was near hysterical, and we couldn't really blame her.

We all paused quietly, looking at each other and shrugging our shoulders. Finally, one of our group looked at the sleepy, angry woman and said, "I am afraid, ma'am, that we don't stop". Now when I think of that I chuckle and figure it is pretty accurate for our whole culture.

When do we stop? I am afraid that we don't. And we pay the price. But this is not the natural state of being human. This is far from the ebb and flow of life that all humans experienced until industrialization and money came to rule our days.

We should take lessons from other cultures that still enjoy a reasonable pace of life. We have something to learn from those who stop for the siesta. We have something to learn from our pets. Why not take a chapter from simpler living, slower living, people and creatures? Wouldn't you like to curl up in a sunbeam and nap for a few hours?

Buddhists believe that there are three doors of liberation: Emptiness, Signlessness and Aimlessness.
"Aimlessness basically means that there is nothing to attain, nothing to strive for, nothing that we are compelled to do. This enables us to be happy in the present moment, to live, to do the experiencing of life." - Source
This is what freedom is. This is what slowing down, and yes, stopping does for us - it liberates us from the destructive ways our pro-activity culture cajoles us into. Aimlessness allows us to be spontaneous and truly engaged in life now. It unleashes creativity and positive energy. It gives us time to just be.

Take some time this week to slow down, and to stop. Take a moment to do nothing. Or to stop and really experience something, like a thousand tide pool creatures in a pool on the rocks. Or stop and practice active listening when someone speaks to you. Nap in a sunbeam. Swing in a hammock. Look at clouds.

Take up Slackerism for a moment and say, "No" to The Man... or Woman. Stop and be free.

2 comments:

  1. Well said young man. How did we ever forget these happy living ways?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mountain KatieSeptember 15, 2010

    I remember spending time in Granada, Nicaragua years ago. Each day on our way to the plaza principal (the central park or meeting area), we would pass the same sleeping dog,lying in the middle of the same sidewalk. And every day we would step over him, turn to each other and say, `HE`S got the right idea!` My travels in Central and South America were a wonderful lesson in slowing down. Siestas, plazas that were full in the middle of the day with people from all walks of life chatting, people pulling their rockers out into the streets in the warm evenings to visit and watch life go by. I agree that we seem to have forgotten, in our unquenchable thirst for the almighty dollar, to slow down, breathe, and practice aimlessness. Slackerism...man, I like how that sounds.

    ReplyDelete

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