In Praise of Slowing Down
That best portion of a man’s life, his little, nameless,
unremembered acts of kindness and love
~ William Wordsworth
By Dave Clinton
As 2015 draws to a close, it is difficult to avoid an unending barrage of bad news; terror attacks close to home, economic insecurity, a global refugee crisis, climate change…and on it goes.
Realizing that I have little control over these events can often trigger powerful feelings of anxiety and fear. Furthermore, that overwhelm can leave me carrying a negative emotional load, feeling powerless to do anything about it. Perhaps as a response, I like many others have become consumed by busyness. Having worked long hours, many of us fill much of our spare time with activities designed to distract or provide instant gratification – like binging on Netflix box sets or social media.
My busyness often results in being more emotionally disconnected from family, friends or work colleagues. And I suspect that I’m not alone.
The rich messiness of face to face communication frequently takes a back seat to the efficiency of social media, email or messaging apps. Why meet up for coffee with a friend when I can update all my friends simultaneously on Facebook?
Through our overuse of these communication channels we risk losing part of our humanity and our connectedness as we are often shielded from the other person’s emotional responses. With technology, we can easily move on to the next item on our to-do list when we’ve ‘had enough’ without having to engage further.
The internet allows us to easily seek out those whose values we share, and I frequently find myself in an echo chamber of sorts, surrounded by those with whom I agree and who agree with me. We quickly discover the places we can find kindred spirits & feel comforted ‘hanging out’ there.
Disagreement online has become vicious and nasty and the risk is that by congregating primarily with those with whom we agree, we will lose to ability to gracefully disagree both online and off.
Is there a broader collective impact for us to consider here?
We’re discovering that the root of much of the violence & tragedy we’re seeing throughout the world today is fundamentally based in fear, mistrust, isolation and alienation. Too many are feeling so disconnected from society that they’ve decided to lessen their pain or make a statement in often violent ways. Often, those closest don’t notice until it’s too late or feel so overwhelmed with their own challenges that they don’t have the resources available to make a positive difference.
One of the skills I encourage my coaching clients to embrace and develop is that of Mindfulness. This helps them to improve awareness of the present moment and increases their ability to notice the world around us more consistently.
We get better at noticing the beauty of the here and now as well as the struggles (& successes) of those around us and in time we can feel more able to choose more of our responses rather than by being held hostage by long-established patterns.
In my own experience, I’ve noticed that when I choose to slow down and pay more attention to the present moment, my need for distraction diminishes. I’m able to experience greater enjoyment of whatever task is at hand and my levels of thoughtfulness and kindness towards others naturally increases. This can translate into simple actions like expressing genuine thanks to a colleague, surprising a loved-one with a thoughtful gesture, buying a coffee for the person behind you in the coffee shop.
With so much that feels out of our control in our world today, it is easy to forget the power that each of us has to change our own experience of the world and the experience of those around us.
I’m comforted by this realisation during these challenging times as we bid farewell to 2015 and greet the challenge of the New Year.