The Discipline of Slowing

19 Jun

slowing down for summer

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, June marks the beginning of summer, the season of vacations, sunny beaches, and warm weather. Summer can mean gatherings with neighbors, family picnics, and little league. It’s a season that calls us back to a place of peace and connection — with ourselves, with God, and with the world.

But getting that peace into our souls doesn’t always happen easily. Slowing down or stopping activity can show us just how tired, stressed, or dependent on work we have become. Vacation can be hard when your soul is trained to be doing all the time.

In our crazy and chaotic lives, we have to take special care to create an environment where God can get through to us — an environment where prayer is possible, where God’s peace can live. This environment doesn’t just happen. It takes practice.

So this is your official invitation to get your soul ready for summer by practicing something different. In the same way people train to run a marathon, train your soul to rest. Consider this the “beach body workout - soul edition”.

The something I am suggesting we practice is called slowing.

Stop the Doer in its Tracks

I’m a doer. I love the bubbling energy of multi-tasking, of checking one thing off of my list and launching immediately into another. When I have a lot on my plate, adrenaline pushes me forward, and at day’s end I know I’ve really accomplished something.

It feels good. But it can push my peace out the window.

Today during a short break for lunch I caught myself in this condition. My mind was so stressed over what needed to be done that I was barely sitting in my chair. I was forking lettuce at break-neck speed as if my life depended on it. In this “break” there was no space to rest or be still.

There was no space for God. It was time to practice.

I resisted my urge to hurry to the next thing. Instead, I took a deep breath in and out, noticing what was happening inside of me. In therapeutic language, I took a “moment to pause.” I was practicing slowing.

The Gift of Slowing Down

Slowing in daily life is like taking mini Sabbaths or vacations. It teaches our souls to notice and embrace life. Through it, we learn how to rest.

Dallas Willard, who wrote and taught extensively on living a life connected to Jesus, stated, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our world today.”

Slowing is counter-cultural. In order to do it, I have to get off the doing-too-much treadmill. I have to acknowledge that I have physical, human limitations that are very real. Slowing may require that I do less. And it certainly requires that I trust God with what I cannot get done.

Knowing our limits, being still, and choosing to trust God all nurture our souls for prayer. The greatest gift of slowing is not rest, but a heart experiencing the presence of God.

Choose Your Practice

There are many ways we hurry and many ways we can practice slowing down. Anything that draws you away from a frantic pace of life and towards embracing your human limits can be considered slowing. For example:

- Drive in the slow lane
- Get enough rest
- Speak more slowly
- Let others finish before jumping in
- Look people in the eyes
- Chew slowly
- Eat alone or in silence
- Put down your utensils and resting between bites
- Sit longer at the table
- Cook food from scratch
- Plan buffer time between meetings

One of the ways I like to slow on especially chaotic days is through a breath prayer. This is simply repeating a one-sentence prayer silently while breathing deeply in and out. For example, (breathe in) “Lord Jesus Christ,” (breathe out) “have mercy on me, a sinner,” or “Abba,” (in), “I belong to you” (out)*.

Summer vacations aside, there’s nothing better than living a life at peace, connected to God and to the world. And slowing is a beautiful way to start living there. So consider spending your summer in the slow lane and see where it takes you. No beach chair required!

*Brennan Manning

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Megan Beehler lives in Long Beach, California, where she recently completed an apprenticeship with :Beta: Communities. Megan writes often for CRM and her own personal blog.