I’m not sure how it happened, but somewhere in my twenties or thirties, I got drawn into the culture of the urgent. Have you noticed it? Has it invaded your life too? This is the sense that everything is measured by hours or days rather than years. It’s the nagging feeling that if you’re not always busy and productive you’re not a good human being. It’s the need to get everything done in the shortest possible time.
When you think about how our society works now, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that so many of us feel this pressure. Business performance is measured every quarter. Political leaders are measured after only one hundred days in office. And all the ‘on-demand’ shopping and entertainment that the internet provides has made us very impatient when we have to wait. I’m not knocking the convenience of the online world. But I am aware of how it has changed our expectations and experiences.
THE GIFT OF SLOWING DOWN
One way that I have been aware of the impact of the culture of the urgent on my life is that, since I turned thirty, every year has felt like it has passed faster than the last. In the last few years, I have felt a deep sadness over this. I’ve even begun to wonder if what is left of my life will pass me by too quickly for me to truly live it.
And then suddenly—or actually rather gradually, although the realisation was sudden—things have been different this year. I’ve still had lots on my plate and I’ve still felt times of pressure and urgency. But a few weeks ago, I suddenly became aware that this year has felt much slower for me. It hasn’t passed me by. I’m not left wondering where the months have gone or surprised that we’re about to move into the last quarter of the year.
Naturally, when I became aware of this different experience of the passing of time, I started questioning why it happened. And my conclusion is this: in a more intentional and mindful way than ever before, I have connected with the seasons of the natural world this year. Along with family and friends, I have engaged in a regular practice of honouring the specific changes unfolding in my corner of the Earth. And I have welcomed how these seasonal cycles are reflected within my own life and psyche. Connecting with Creation has slowed me down and liberated me from the tyranny of the urgent.
THE SLOW LANGUAGE OF NATURE
As I’ve reflected on this wonderful, surprising new experience, I have been reminded of the Ents in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy (affiliate link). I have long been amused and captivated by the way Tolkien describes the slow movements, language, and decision making of the tree-people. I love the way they are so bemused by the speed with which humans operate, and how the hobbits, Merry and Pippin, are changed by their encounter with the Ents.
Remembering this story has led me to consider that the ‘language’ of Creation is very different from the ‘language’ we have evolved as human beings. Since the industrial revolution, we seem to have lost a lot of our connection with the natural world. We have broken free of the cycles of warmth and cold, light and dark, seedtime and harvest. And we have empowered ourselves to speed up production, delivery, and consumption of all sorts of things. There has been a lot that is good in this. But we have also lost some important facets of vibrant living. In our haste, we have lost our connection with the natural world. We have forgotten how to speak the language of seasons, repeating cycles, waiting, nurturing, and slow unfolding. And that is what I discovered this year as I reconnected with the Earth—how to speak the language of Nature.
I have been far more connected to the birds outside the window of my studio where I work each day. I have noticed the leaves changing colour, falling from the branches, and being replaced by new buds. I have seen subtle changes that I would have missed before. And I have felt myself slow down, develop a healthier rhythm, and begin to trust, a little more, the various ‘unfoldings’ in my life.
WHAT LANGUAGE DO YOU SPEAK?
What is your experience of the ‘culture of the urgent’? How fluent are you in the language of haste, constant productivity, and impatience? What impact is that way of living having on your well-being?
And how much of the language of Nature have you learned? How do you express the vocabulary of waiting, evolving, and embracing cycles and seasons? What impact is this way of living having on your soul?
Feel free to share your own stories of learning to speak Nature’s language in the comments below. I’d love to know how you connect with the Earth and what practices have helped you to slow down and be more mindful. And wherever you are, I hope you’ll take time to notice the changing of the seasons at this time of year. And allow Creation to speak peace and life to your heart and spirit.
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