One aspect of today’s world which could benefit from some adjustment, is the pace at which we consume our lives. Faster, faster, ever faster.
Even my dog does it. I give him a piece of scrap from the table. He doesn’t even chew it. His jaw snaps open and shut, only open for the split second that the gravity-powered morsel is exactly in front of his trap. The swallow occurs simultaneously with the jaw snapping shut. He certainly can’t taste it. It doesn’t register in his eyes or his body language that something pleasurable has happened.
He’s like the old sword-swallowers. I don’t even think it hits his tongue.
There is no enjoyment, because there is no savoring. There is no chewing, no tasting, no rolling it around in the mouth. There is no sense of heaviness, richness, or heat. There is only the swallow.
Humans do the same thing. The email bings and we look. Our minds are now distracted, they’re off of whatever they were on before, no matter how important. Someone texts us, we pick up the phone, even in the middle of the conversation we were having with a live human in front of us.
We shop, we buy. We shop some more and buy some more. There is an emptiness to it.
There is no savoring. There is no enjoyment. This is a conditioned response.
Young people are born into a culture, literally bombarded with stimuli. It’s no wonder why people have difficulty concentrating. Info comes in, the mind seems to ask whether or not it’s pertinent to this exact second, and if the answer is no, it is either discarded outright (in one ear and out the other), or it is stockpiled in an overstuffed warehouse in the mind somewhere, unlikely to see the light of day ever again.
We simply cannot assimilate that which is truly important at this speed. The mind’s enormous capacities are spent deciding which pile the ever-increasing stream of new data goes into, its application to this moment only. In this rapid-fire barrage of data, the only trends seen are high-speed, and only come from massive repetition.
I read once that the average person today is presented, neigh assaulted, with more data, more information bits in a day, than during a whole lifetime of an average person in the 1800’s.
What we require is to un-condition ourselves from this way of behaving which is not serving our best interests. It is to consciously decide, over and over, day after day, that you will take some time to decide what you think, for the things that matter.
The human mind needs time to process our experiences. We need “down time” in order for our brains to connect the dots from our history, to give us the conceptual framework of our bigger ideas, to help detect the patterns and bring full realization.
When I was in India (my first time out of the States), my mind was blown daily. Every few days I would seem to naturally lay low, to ruminate and ponder, to wonder and think. If I hadn’t taken that time to process my experiences, I wonder how much would have been lost on a hedonistic appetite to consume rather than savor. Just like my dog.
I realize that it’s not necessarily practical for people to slow down. Everyone has busy jobs and busy families and busy lives. I’m really not talking about what’s practical though. I’m talking about what’s necessary. Either you’re living your own life or you’re not. You’re either conditioned by what you’re hearing on the news (one person murdered last night) or you’re choosing consciously (one million four hundred and ninety-nine thousand people were not murdered last night). You don’t get a free pass on this lesson because you had a busy life.
The only conscious way forward is to slow the pace, to take some deliberate time. Maybe just 5 or 10 seconds here with a quote. A dozen seconds absorbing a photo that touches you. An extra moment or two tacked on to an otherwise brief hug. It’s little bits here and there that we reclaim, when we decide to take back our ability to create our own thoughts and make our own meanings. To savor and enjoy.
I’ll leave you with two quotes, the first from Michael Meade, and the second from Franklin Covey:
“There’s an African proverb: ‘When death finds you, may it find you alive.’ Alive means living your own damn life, not the life that your parents wanted, or the life some cultural group or political party wanted, but the life that your own soul wants to live.”
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
What do you think? Do you agree with what I’ve written or do you think I’m off course? Slow your own pace a bit and let me know in the comments below, by sending me a private message here, or simply replying if you’re reading this via the newsletter. I always look forward to hearing from you.