Slow Down. Productivity is Overrated.

March 18, 2013

I just returned from a 30 day solo retreat in the mountains. My time there was deliciously tranquil. I removed batteries from ticking clocks. Refused internet service. Kept my phone in a drawer. I woke up twice to deep snowfall slathered across the entire landscape, fresh, romping coyote tracks circling my cabin. I went hiking alone through rugged mountain lion territory – my neighbors have taken nighttime “trail cam” pictures of them (don’t tell my mother).

I wrote and I napped and I read and I cooked and I meditated and I visioned and I went to bed whenever and sat on my cute little sun-splashed porch every morning in silence and invited the sun’s heat to massage my skin while the forest danced all around me: squirrels chirping, chattering, and shaking thick snowy evergreen branches as they scurried and leapt about; clumps of warming, powdery snow collapsing in mushy staccato rhythms throughout the forest canopy; crystal serene icicles on the sunny side of my cabin faintly popping and crackling; the babbling brook of bird song floating from every tree. I could hear the wind whirrrrrrr through frantically flapping wings as tiny sparrows darted from this tree to that one.

I had all the time in the world. I had silence.

I’ve never been one for meditating much. I’m usually up and ready to jump into things immediately! But in these 30 days, I particularly began to cherish the quiet moments I spent just sitting and listening.

I had nowhere to go. No schedule to keep to. I was there to write my first book. But even more so I was there to reconnect with stillness.

Then I came back to the city.

Now, I once again hear the incessant rush of traffic close by, countless human beings zooming about in every direction. I sense that anxious drive to be productive, to obey the clock, to contribute … to get busy!

I can literally feel the frenetic energy of the city in my body, the drive to just do something … anything!! 

Fortunately, that cabin stillness lingers with me like a lover’s perfume on my clothing. I can hear the city. I can feel it pressing into me. But I can also hear the silence beneath it. I can feel the stillness of the mountains present even in the midst of all this chaos. It’s here. I only need bring my attention to it.

Now, every morning, I’ve found a little spot in the sun to sit in just across the street from my house – I go in my slippers.

I remind myself that the relentless hustle buzzing all around me isn’t true.

The story that I have to “get to work”, “be productive”, “make a difference ASAP!”, “get shit done!” … that I must be constantly part of the frenetic, churning river of restless humanity all around me … it’s just not true.

I’ll get done what I’m truly called to get done. I have my projects and my work. I once again have appointments and meetings and deadlines and goals and all that. I also now have the tranquil stillness of the mountains softly breathing through me … everywhere I go.

It waits patiently, silently, smiling, content, just underneath the cacophony of this human society hustling for validation in every direction, waiting for me to simply notice that it’s still here. Literally. It’s stillright here.

Can you feel it?

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  • Beautiful. Meaningful. Thoughtful. Inspiring. Thank you. I think of several friends with whom I would like to share this. A friend posted it on Facebook and that is why I am reading it. I am up too early. Hungry. Had something to eat and will shortly go back to bed. Thanks again. PS I also love the mountains. One of my favorite places is Mt. Rainier National Park.
    Whether it is high in the sub-alpine or alpine zone or in the verdant lowlands, it IS very peaceful – especially, as you say, when away from the crowds. PPS Like the Joseph Campbell quote! Does being who you are require knowing who you are? : )

    • One thing I learned in the mountains is that, prior to this modern technological age, it was common – and accepted – for us humans to awaken in the middle of the night for a bit before going back for a “second sleep”. We would wake up literally in the middle of the night, spend 30 minutes to 2 hours reading, eating, socializing, whatever, and then go back to sleep. It was known as “first sleep” and “second sleep”. Now we take pills to enforce constant sleep throughout the night to live in accordance with this mechanic modern world we’ve designed.

      pps … the Joseph Campbell quote. That’s a really great question you ask. It’s also the subject of my coming book, “Tell The Truth, Let The Peace Fall Where It May” … we live very disconnected from “the truth of who we are”. For now I’ll just answer with words by Carl Jung: “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart … Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”

      I’m honored you enjoyed this post!

  • Just what I needed to hear today after work Bruce craziness. :). Thanks. (Also reminds me of that great quote. “The Mountains are calling and I must go”

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