If we could share only one piece of advice about caring for your soul, what would it be? Two words: Slow down. That’s it. Slow down. That is the most important lesson we have learned and passed on in our many years of providing spiritual direction.
The cultivation of the interior life cannot be done at the regular pace of our lives. Our internal gauges are set too high to engage effectively with God (or whatever spiritual power inspires you) and with others. We are moving too quickly to pause, to pay attention, to reflect and to connect with the Source of Life. And then we wonder why we feel exhausted, enervated and overwhelmed by the pressures of life. That is simply because we were never designed to handle them alone.
Sometimes when I (the Reverend) speak to a group of young people, I will surprise them by asking one of them to please carry my heavy metal desk to the classroom on the other side of the hallway. The typical response is a look that combines confusion, embarrassment and incredulity followed by some version of “are you serious?” After a few seconds, I will rescue him or her by saying, “What if I asked a couple of your friends to help you?” Signs of relief immediately register on their faces and they say something to the effect of, “Then it would be no problem.”
We were never designed to carry the challenges of this life by ourselves. We were designed to depend on God and each other. For that to happen, we need to slow down to get connected to each other and to the Source of strength, peace, hope and joy.
There’s a wonderful line from a poem in Wendell Berry’s book entitled, The Sabbath Poems (it was later rereleased under the title, A Timbered Choir). This book was born out of Berry’s weekly practice of spending several hours each Sunday taking a slow walk across the property of his Kentucky farm. At the end of each walk he would sit down to write a poem. This one line is so powerful:
“The best song of all is bird song, in the quiet, but first you must have quiet.”
To hear the birds, to smell the roses, to listen to hearts, to savor the taste, to touch with tenderness—we need to slow down.