Thursday, July 17, 2008

Slow Down

Many of us living modern society live life at a frenetic pace. The measured lifestyle and close contact with nature that characterizes more traditional societies is being lost. People today gobble up experiences, swallow them whole, and then stuff more in. As these undigested experiences accumulate, existence becomes more superficial. Watching television has become a substitute for real experience and even that rarely holds our attention for long –we click to the next channel. Vicariously living through the stimulus overload of television has dulled the senses to the magic of real life. The rapid pace of technological advances creates a sense of urgency while the high-speed transfer of data through the internet and telephone systems brings an immediacy to everything. When we finally do go out and do something, we often feel driven by an urge to get through it as fast as possible. There is a compulsion for instant satisfaction, a pervasive “been there, done that” attitude. Completion has become the goal. Actually experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells has become secondary to the result. All of this leaves people with little time for themselves, or more exactly, for discovering the self.

Things such as fast food, newsbreaks, email and text messaging all contribute to this to a sense of urgency. We cannot escape it. We only slow down to pay attention when something we think extraordinary appears, and even then it rarely holds our attention for very long. Eventually we hurry on to something we think is more important. But when we get there we rush through that as well, since we feel compelled to get to the next experience and the next after that. Our attention span has been narrowed drastically, laying a deadly trap, because we begin to sacrifice the present to the future – which never comes. Unless we are able to fully experience the present, the future is merely an illusion. Without fully living in the present, we will never know just who we are. We will only continue to chase things into the future in the vain hope something will finally satisfy us.

This trap was set long ago by our parents and our schooling and our culture. The striving toward an undefined goal – success – always lies in the future and calls for planning. Thus, when we actually do reach some sort of success, it turns out not to be as satisfying as we thought it would be and we get caught up in planning for the next success. For vast numbers of people the future never arrives while, at the same time, they take little notice or enjoyment in what they have accomplished in the present. In the end, however, it is in the present, not the future, that life is deeply experienced and where one discovers one’s true self.

Of course there are things we all need to do to secure our future, but if we sacrifice the present for some obscure future success, chances are that when we get there we will still be no closer to what we are searching for. If we can slow the pace at which we live and enjoy what we are doing in the present, then no matter what the future brings we will be prepared to experience it fully. We need to bring a sense of peace to daily life by becoming aware of time, of the need to slow down.

By slowing the pace of life and quieting the noise of the world, we can let a little more peace and serenity into our lives.


Phil said...

What you have written here is so correct and right on track. Thanks for taking the time and effort to make these important issues known.

Anonymous said...

it's so true!

P.A. GIbbons said...

Thank you for the well wishes in my spiritual journey--on my blog. Much nicer than being told I am going to hell, and had better start repenting. lol.

I am going to my first Buddhist Retreat at Blue Cliff Monastary in Pine Bush NY. Mindfulness, creativity (I am an artist)meditation etc. I am excited.

What an unexpected journey this has all been.

I am reading a book titled The Last Child in the Woods..about the separation of children from nature..One of my new goals in going back to school (I teach art to at risk teens) is to bring them back to nature and to use their all their senses. No Ipods on those trips! patti

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