In our increasingly fast-paced world, many of us are struggling to keep up, maintain our health, and find time and energy to connect well with one another. And though we often feel that we cannot sustain the ongoing pressures of modern life, we’re not sure how to break free.
In this week’s episode of the EvoFaith Podcast, we explore how the power of the pause can lead us into slow living—a more sustainable quality of life that nourishes our health and empowers us to show up fully, authentically and courageously in our lives and relationships.
WHEN NEW RHYTHMS ARE FORCED UPON US
Last Tuesday night, a lightning bolt struck the electrical substation in my street, plunging a small section of our suburb into darkness. The power was finally restored, after installing an entirely new substation, in the small hours of Tuesday morning. For almost a week, my wife and I, along with our neighbours, lived without a reliable power source.
Fortunately, because of the reality of load shedding (scheduled times when power is switched off in different areas to deal with the huge shortage of power supply in South Africa), we have a number of back systems in place. We have an inverter which can store enough power to keep computers and televisions going for a few hours and we have lots of power banks to keep our devices charged. And for cooking, we have a small gas-powered stove.
But even with all of these resources, we were not really equipped for such a long power outage. We knew we were going to have to change our rhythms to survive, especially because we had no idea how long it would be before our power would be restored. Thankfully a friend who was not affected by the power outage allowed us to charge batteries and power banks at her house. But we needed to establish a whole rhythm of changing batteries, rotating power banks, and shuttling back and forth between our homes. Without these rhythms, the last week would have been far worse than it was.
THE RHYTHMIC LIFE
Human life is meant to be lived according to rhythms. We have evolved in sync with the world around us and we have learned instinctively to cooperate with the rhythms of the seasons, the weather, and the daily cycles of light and darkness. We also know that we thrive when we live with rhythms of work and play, activity and rest, solitude and connection, and exertion and recovery.
These rhythms keep us healthy—not over- or under-stimulated—and they are different for everyone. A significant facet of our spiritual, emotional, and mental work in relationships is learning to navigate the dance between our personal rhythms and those of our partners, families, colleagues, and society as a whole. We all have different strategies for how we adapt to these outside rhythms while simultaneously following our internal rhythm. And it’s important work because without it we fall into burnout, poor mental health, and relational friction.
WHEN OUR RHYTHMS ARE LOST
One of the big challenges we face as we try to do the dance is that our world moves increasingly fast. As Dee Hock, founder and CEO emeritus of the Visa credit card association explained in his book The Birth of the Chaordic Age:
This endless compression of time between major change whether of life forms, money, information, technology, time, space, or anything else, can be combined and thought of as tremendous acceleration of change—the time between what was and what is to be—between past and future. Only a few generations ago, the present stretched relatively unaltered from a distant past into a dim future. Today, the past is ever less predictive, the future ever less predictable, and the present scarcely exists at all.
The result of this acceleration of change is that many of us feel out of sync. Our rhythms are disrupted and the dance has become too fast and complex for us to sustain for long. As a result, we are tired, burned out, and our relationships are dealing with more stress than they need. We cannot sustain rhythms that are too fast and too constant—because in the end, they aren’t really rhythms at all. When life is experienced at a single, breakneck pace, we cease to think well, care for ourselves well, or connect deeply with others. And we cease to live. We barely manage to exist.
So how do we respond to the loss of our rhythms? How do we get back to a healthy rhythm personally, relationally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually? The key is to tap into the power of the pause to lead us into slow living.
HOW THE PAUSE SLOWS US DOWN
We cannot live our fullest, most authentic and most courageous lives at high speed. Certainly, we can enjoy fast-paced thrills some of the time. But we also need the slow, low-energy moments of rest and recovery.
As we have seen over the last few weeks, the pause teaches us to be mindful and aware of what is happening within us and around us. It empowers us to hear the voice of our inner wisdom, intuition and guidance. And it helps us to stretch the space between what happens to us and how we react—to stop the domino run effect in our lives.
As we integrate the practice of pausing into our lives, all of these benefits grow beyond a few disconnected moments and begin to permeate our whole way of being. We begin to pause more automatically and consistently. And that, quite simply, slows us down. We live at a slower pace, with more margin. We stop cramming our lives to the brim with thoughts, activities, and goals and we make space for creativity, spontaneity, deep awareness, and intentionality.
And then we are able to begin creating the life that fits us. We can give time and attention to things we really care about. We can follow unexpected flashes of inspiration. We can listen to our bodies and respond more quickly to a need for rest, excitement, exercise, or play. And then we find that we have the energy to show up and be present in our lives and relationships more fully, authentically and courageously.
USING THE PAUSE TO FIND OUR RHYTHM
Although slow living may have been the norm sometime way back in our history, it certainly isn’t the case for most of us now. The society we have created for ourselves requires that we hustle! And that’s why so many people—particularly in younger generations—are starting to opt out. The call for a change in what is required to live a sustainable and meaningful life is growing louder. And the more of us that learn to pause in some way, the better it will be for all of us.
But how do we use the pause to find our rhythm? Well, to be honest, I still have a lot to learn here, but this is what I’ve experienced.
Considering what we take on
Firstly, I’m learning to be more mindful and careful about what I take on in my life. In the last few years, I’ve realised that I have a natural tendency to try and be whatever people need from me. Not in the sense of being a chameleon and changing who I am all the time—although there is an element of trying to fit myself into other people’s expectations—but in the sense of wanting to be as helpful as I can. But I fall into the trap of taking on too much and failing to consider my own needs and health.
So I’m learning to slow down before saying yes to things. I’m learning to consider what I take on more holistically and to measure the cost against my resources. And I’m also learning that everything does not have to be all or nothing. Sometimes I can’t do everything I’m asked, but I can do some, and so I can offer that and be satisfied with it. But of course, all of this means creating a pause as part of my process of saying yes—even to things I want to do for myself.
Considering what we need to release
And then, secondly, I’m learning that sometimes finding my rhythm means cutting things away. Rhythms change over time. Commitments change in how they fit into our lives and rhythms. So, sometimes things that fitted well into a previous season in our lives no longer serve us as we enter a new one. That’s when we need to learn to let go.
Many of us struggle to let go of things that we have taken on. There is a lot of shame around ‘failure’ or ‘not finishing what you started’. And sometimes we can continue to find joy in things even though they no longer serve us. And so we may cling to aspects of our lives that have stopped helping us find our groove, possibly even a long time ago.
This is why we need the pause. When we can slow down, we can look more carefully and objectively at what is filling our lives. We can balance the energy our various endeavours require against the energy they bring into our lives. And then we can identify the things that are too much, that are messing with our rhythms and that need to be released.
Now, practising the pause can seem like a simple thing—and in many ways it is. But it isn’t always easy. And that’s why I consider it a spiritual practice. We’ve already seen how we can train ourselves through intentional spiritual practice to create the habits that build the lives we long for. Well, simply making time on a regular basis to pause in some way can teach us the habit of pausing regularly in all of life’s experiences and challenges. And then we can begin to build a slower, more intentional, more meaningful and more connected life. Isn’t that worth pausing for?
PAUSING THROUGH LENT
Today is Ash Wednesday—the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. It is common to speak of giving things up for Lent and that can be a really helpful practice—although I prefer to think of it as fasting (which isn’t only about food). But Lent can also be a wonderful time to take things up that enrich our lives and help us to be more mindful.
In a strange way, the pause is a combination of both. There is a sense of letting go when we pause. We release our thoughtlessness and knee-jerk reactivity. And, as we were saying just now, we may find ourselves releasing some aspects of our lives that aren’t helpful. But when we pause we are also taking on a greater sense of intentionality and mindfulness. We are taking on a new deeper awareness of ourselves, others, and our world. And we are taking on responsibility for showing up fully, authentically and courageously in our lives and relationships.
So maybe this Lent, instead of giving something up, why not choose to take up the pause?
SPEAKING OF THE PAUSE…
And speaking of the pause, I have found that I need to take up the pause more intentionally in my own life this Lent too. While I love the work I do through EvoFaith, it is taking up more time, energy and resources than I am able to give right now. And it is keeping me from other projects that are urgently needing my attention in this season.
This all means that, in its current form, EvoFaith has become unsustainable for me and so I have decided to take a sabbatical from my EvoFaith work. I’m not shutting anything down. The website, podcast, and YouTube channel will remain. I just won’t be adding any new content and I won’t be posting on social media. I don’t know how long the sabbatical will be, but I’m guessing at least a few months. And then, when I have slowed down a little, I’ll take a look at it again and see what form it should take in the future, if any.
Thank you for giving me your time and attention. I hope you have found this series on the power of the pause helpful. And I hope you’ll maybe use my sabbatical season to go back and catch up on any EvoFaith content that you may have missed.
And finally, as always, stay connected to the Sacred!
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