Sitting on our back porch in the late afternoon, the sun casts oblong shadows upon the ground. The wind gently blows as noise from a nearby highway fills the air. In the trees above, birds sing with unambivalent joy. The sounds of life are abundant on this quiet afternoon as I reflect upon the natural slow pace of nature and the manufactured illusion of human productivity. Our relentless need to constantly be productive is actually counterproductive to our overall wellbeing.
This past year, so many of us have experienced a shattering of what was once a “normal” way of life. Yet, upon reflection, was it really normal, or was it simply habitual, familiar, and predictable routines that filled our days and nights?
My Roller Coaster Life
When COVID-19 restrictions were put in place and we went into lockdown, I felt like the roller coaster life I had created up to that point suddenly stopped; and yet the momentum was still swirling inside of me, driving me to keep moving forward even though there was nowhere to go.
This internal momentum, this swirling energy, took up residence in my thoughts and feelings; and a new roller coaster ride began. Questions of who, what, when, where, and how long were pervasive and persistent. My habitual, familiar, and predictable world had shattered. What remained felt like sharp, jagged shards of a mirror I used to hold up to see my reflection. In every fragment I could see myself, knowing the pieces would never form the same mirror again. I was forever changed.
Unexpected thoughts and feelings emerged as the entire world stopped:
- “Wow, I didn’t realize I was so exhausted.”
- “I don’t know what to do. Everything has changed. How and where do I fit in now?”
- “How can I stay positive and hopeful when I feel broken on the inside?”
Familiar voices in my head echoing stories and ideas from the past encountered emerging voices gaining strength and courage to question my true beliefs, dreams, and desires.
What’s the Rush?
I’ve always loved Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” It’s an ideal worth striving for, yet somehow, I always get pulled back into the rush. This time, there was no outer rush, so the questions continued:
What’s the rush? Perhaps I feel someone will get something I want or need first and there’s not enough to go around.
Why do I feel this constant need to be productive? Perhaps I feel being busy equates to being worthy, which is connected to being adopted, which triggers my subconscious fear of being abandoned.
Asking probing questions opens an internal dialogue where we can gain insight into what really motivates us. I’ve been asking these types of questions for years and have discovered some amazing connections.
Life is Like Music
For me, life is like music. When we play too fast, it can create feelings of anxiousness and uncertainty. When we slow down a bit, we can feel the space between the notes; the space between our thoughts; the pause, the rest, the silence. Within this silence all of our dreams, fears, and memories remain. This silence is a natural pathway connecting our conscious and subconscious awareness. As the whole world stopped, this deafening silence was amplified, allowing everyone the choice to either listen or ignore this inner pathway of self-discovery.
Exploring the unknown can be very scary because we:
- are afraid of what we will find
- know what we will find and want to forget it
- feel shame, guilt, or judgment about things we have done in the past
There are many reasons people resist the journey of self-discovery, and they are all valid. Personally, what I have discovered is a treasure of old beliefs, fears, and dreams that were waiting to be embraced into the wholeness of who I am.
Staying Positive is Exhausting
We are this wonderful instrument, full of a range of feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and dreams.
I love using the metaphor that we are like a harp, with all the resonate strings—high notes and low notes—creating the fullness of this beautiful instrument. We are this wonderful instrument, full of a range of feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and dreams. Living in the middle to upper registers, where the higher notes are, often feels comfortable and familiar. This is what many people encourage when they express the idea to “keep your vibration high” and “only think positive thoughts.” Personally, I feel this is exhausting because it continues the illusion and repression of the bass notes, those lower feelings that many are afraid of addressing. However, as with a harp, those lower frequencies create the richness of the sound and increase the resonance of the whole instrument.
Same Action, Different Core
I enjoy the feeling of being productive, creative, and helping others. We have a saying in our family, “Same action, different core,” which means an action can look the same on the outside, but it’s being motivated by a different energy on the inside. For example: When I appear to be very busy and productive, it could be that I’m loving what I’m doing, or it could be that I’m trying to prove my worthiness to others. The first motivation is healthy and based in love while the second motivation is based in fear.
Staying productive is healthy when it’s motivated from a loving space within ourselves. Staying busy to avoid exploring our inner selves is not necessarily a healthy choice for our well-being. Slowing down can be difficult because it’s a different feeling—like coming to an abrupt stop after driving 70 miles per hour. There’s momentum in our body that wants to keep moving forward, and it takes a little while to readjust to a slower pace.
Nature is everywhere, quietly inviting us to slow down, trust, and be present within the moment; to feel the space, pause, and rest between the notes, between our thoughts. Slowing down creates the time and space for compassionate self-reflection, gentle self-discovery, and nurturing self-love. On this quiet afternoon, the traffic is still moving, the birds are still singing, the shadows are slowing disappearing, and my mind is at peace.
Originally appeared on well defined and featured here with author permission.
The start of your reflection, Amy, made me think of why three weeks of vacation over the summer is the norm in many European countries – and in some even mandated by law: One week for gearing into a different rhythm, a week to relax, and then we can’t help but getting a bit antsy before going back to work so that is what the last week is for. (It drives American clients bonkers that whole companies are closed down most of July and shipments just can’t be made.)
I think you are spot on that pace is a way to stay distant from ourselves. Reflections may require that to move on we have to forgive somebody – perhaps ourselves among them – and that can be a really hard task in some cases.
Wonderful insights, Charlotte ~ and I was totally unaware of the three week vacation mandate – love that!!! Yes, slowing down often creates the space for those difficult memories to surface. That’s why I love the metaphor of the harp – seeing ourselves as this beautiful instrument full of low notes and high notes – each creating the fullness of who we are. My hope is this expanded perception may awaken a sense of compassion within those who are finding it difficult to explore their depths. It’s not an easy journey – but what I’ve found is, it’s worth it. 💞
Thank you Amy for bringing this empowering and inspiring reflection, connecting the beauty of harp music with living life fully from your core of who you are. When I stay in touch with my body and emotions I am able to heal from the wounds within. Might not look productive or positive in any given moment (or it may!). As I move from this moment to the next, I create value in teeny tiny ways that allow me to lead myself to turn dreams to reality.
I love feeling your compassionate intention to stay focused on your body and emotions as a way to heal from the wounds within. Yes, this is a sacred journey inward, one moment at a time, one conscious awareness at a time. No one can know the depths another travels into themselves for it is not an external process someone else can witness from the outside. Thank you for living your truth and turning your dreams into reality. 🙏