Slowing Down

by Michael McGinnis

Mayo is a small town, remote from the bustle of big city life, but many of us have the 20th century disease: living too fast, at a speed that is out of balance with our nature. Technology especially modern communications, transportation and computers has contributed to turning up the pressure that we impose on ourselves to do more. The pressure comes from people, rather than the technology. I know about this problem myself and am writing from experience!

Fortunately life sends us messages when we overdo it. We get tired. Trapped in the cycle of too much activity, followed by total physical tiredness (repeat as often as desired), we can go for a long time thinking that this is a natural, or even inevitable, way of life. But then something may happen to jog us out of the cycle of daily activity. For instance I became more active in running. This sounds like a contradiction slowing life down by taking up running. But my daily activity is mostly mental; thoughts chasing each other around all day like hamsters in a cage. What a relief to (almost) stop thinking and cherish the physical effort of running. The improved balance between mental and physical work also gives me more energy for the whole day.

One symptom of living fast is doing two or more things at once. There is a tradeoff between efficiency and overdoing it. For years I have indulged myself by eating out most nights, but at the same time getting some other work done, like reading or writing, at the same time. Lately the balance has shifted again, and I am taking the longer, slower path of cooking for myself and not doing other work while I am eating. Sometimes it seems that eating my own cooking is work enough!

The key to avoiding problems from speeding in life's fast lane is to be alert for the danger signals, and do something about them. Obviously, when your body is very tired, you take a night off and go to bed early. Other times the hints are less clear, but keep your eyes open and there they are. I was driving to Whitehorse last weekend on Friday night. I left after the gas station closed in Mayo, and discovered that the gas station in Stewart Crossing wasn't open either. I had enough gas to get to Pelly, but had never used the card lock gas station, so I didn't know if I had the right credit card for it. A few kilometres south of Stewart, I found I had a flat tire. I pumped it up, but the cold, the gas uncertainty, and my concern about the tire shifted the balance. It made me turn back and not go to Whitehorse until the next morning. Wisely, as it turned out, because the flat tire was ruined for driving.

The best way I have of knowing when to slow down is by paying attention to myself: to see what is happening to me in life, and what I am experiencing within such as dreams, feelings, thoughts and memories. A few minutes at the end of the day is useful to mentally review what I have learned. This too is balancing working in the "outer" world through the day, and then in the "inner" world of thought and feeling for a little while before sleep.

Always look for the balance between active living, at a pace you can handle, and finding the rest you need. The bottom line for me writing this article: I was flat on my back on the couch, with my laptop computer sitting where it was designed to fit. Ain't life wonderful?!

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