Monday, May 5, 2014

What's the Point of Slowing Down?

As I return from a delightful visit with my son and his family in Connecticut, I found in my mail a booklet from a group of spiritual people I knew at the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation. It was lessons from their founder, Eknath Easwaran, that I was led to the practice of the Jesus Prayer. The theme in this issue was "slowing down". They began with the question, "What's the point of slowing down?  

Each time my wife and I visit our children we always comment about how hectic their life seems. My grandkids have no free time. They are off to dance lessons, cheerleading, soccer and other activities leaving barely enough time for home work. Their parents are busy with their own jobs, activities and getting their children from one place to another. They have little time left. It seems it's a very busy world these days. There is no time for prayer, meditation or reflection on why we are doing what we are doing. We act like prisoners of time, acting like slave robots. Have we lost our freedom to make choices? Are we living in automatic control governed by our compulsions? When do we take time to ponder on the deeper questions of life and to examine how we are spending our lives? Do we really enjoy this sped up life?

When our spiritual fathers ask us to slow down, they are not asking us to give up achieving important things. They are asking us to focus on what is really important and to approach them with a positive, focused and reflective attitude with God's will I'm mind. It is only in this way that we are able to do His will. When our lives are in the fast lane our minds are there also. We find our thoughts racing through our minds so fast that we can't even complete them. We are not able to discern which have quality and must do really well.

When we slow our lives down we will slow our minds as well. We will be able to focus on our tasks with quality and discern how to live according the the Gospel virtues. As we slow down we will become more capable of discerning what is important and able to reflect on the best way to do these tasks. We can then choose to do what is important in a moderate pace, one that is not harried or stressful. 

Think about the craziness of our times, we have attained a material well being that is far superior to that of any civilization. Yet, we seem to have less time for what really matters. Our skills are diluted, our efforts are not aimed to create loving relationships, to have strong families, solid relationships at work, or to help our neighbors or community. We are living on the surface unable to dig deep into what truly matters for our salvation.

The key to a better life, to one that is lived in relationship with God, is living in a way that we can slow our mind down so we can become watchful of all our thoughts, providing discernment before we act. Fundamental to this is a sound prayer life. This takes time. To make the time we must do less of something else. As we take time for prayer, our thinking process will slow down and we will gain control over the busyness of our lives. Ask yourself, when was it you had the time to sit quietly and reflect?

What are we to do? To begin with you can make a simple list of all the things you do. Then, go over this list and cross out everything that is not necessary or beneficial. Be willing to accept that you cannot do everything. We all have unique skills and are called to contribute in different ways. We cannot allow ourselves to be trapped by thinking that we will only be valued if we try to do it all. This behavior of trying to do it all will only cause conflict with others and add more stress to life. No one gains by our busyness. It's only a false sense of our ego, our need to make ourselves feel important. But, in truth, the true sense of being valued only comes from our relationship with God. All our activities will not assure us a loving relationship with our Creator and Savior.

As you review this list you can seek input from you spiritual father or trusted friends and begin to create a purposeful list. Make sure your relationship with God is at the top of this new list. This implies that you will make time to be in communication with Him, to have time daily for prayer. I don't mean a quick minute or two, but a half hour or more in the morning and evening.

A life in the slow lane begins early in the morning. You get up early when it's still quiet, you pray. You make time for a leisurely breakfast with family or friends and enjoy the rising sun and the break of the new day. Don't eat standing up, but sit and make it a pleasurable time.

When you are ready to set out for work or errands, make time for a mental check to make sure you have everything you need. Leave early enough so you will get to work or your appointment a little early. This will give you time to speak with others and to get yourself organized for the days activities.

During the day don't forget to continually discern what is important. When it gets going too fast stop, say the Jesus Prayer to yourself, or take a short prayer walk until you have quieted your mind. When stressed, stop and pray! 

When you return home in the evening again allow time to relax, to make a quality dinner and to share with your family your activities of the day and to listen to their needs and experiences. When you are in a hurry you will tend to speak out angrily instead of lovingly when you are interrupted or distracted. It is not possible to love with a mind that is racing at high speed. Check yourself when you are rushing though activities like making a meal and examine your state of mind. I guarantee, you will not like what you find,

In the evening make time for spiritual reading, reading the Gospel, the Psalms and other spiritual works. Then, at the time you have designated for prayer, go to your special place and carry out your prayer rule. Briefly review the activities of the day. Give thanks for what went well. Ask forgiveness for what did not go as you desired. Remember, God is a loving God and will comfort you. He will give you strength for what is to come tomorrow, no matter how difficult it may seem.

A moderate paced life is a spiritual life. It is one that is possible for everyone. It is one when lived will not lead to laziness but to achievement of what is most important. Remember it is a process that involves all the ten points of an Orthodox way of life.


  1. Every time I have found any site giving heart warming comments about my own, unfortunately, flaccid passion my heart warms a bit.

  2. I have used Easwaran's passage meditation for a number of years. It slows me down, and both my wife and I notice a negative change when I don't meditate.

    I enjoy your blog very much. I am Episcopal, but sincerely believe we are all brothers in The Faith, and the Trinity.


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