Slow down. Relax. Take a deep breath. Enjoy this moment before it flutters away.
It’s beautiful to say; it’s divinely delicious to think about—so, why don’t we actually do it?
We say we will. We totally mean to slow down and take that deep breath and all that lovely-sounding jazz. We consider it, maybe, for a luscious split-second or two before hurtling back into the frantic traffic-jam pace of our days, our moments, our lives.
Everything moves so fast. We move so fast.
Trying to get more done. Trying to accomplish everything on our ever-growing, all-powerful to-do lists.
Be more. Be better.
It’s like the anthem of our lives—and it’s addicting, infectious and instantly gratifying.
We run around like robots, constantly on edge, our poor nervous systems overly alert, as vigilant as guards around a massive castle, collecting praise and achievements like big bouquets of fake flowers, becoming more exhausted by the moment, filled up on the surface, but secretly emptier inside.
Are we, maybe, afraid to relax? Are we afraid that we might see something we don’t want to see if we were to stop rushing through life at a thousand miles an hour?
Are we busy so we can avoid ourselves and simultaneously feel bolstered by society’s approval for our cleverly masked, frantic self-avoidance?
Oh f*ck, I feel like my cover is being blown. And I love it, just as much as I hate it.
Because right now, I’m avoiding the not-doing, the complete and total relaxation my mind, body and spirit truly crave, by writing, by keeping my hands busy and efficient, by doing more, ’cause I’m terrified to face myself.
I’m terrified to not do.
What might rear its ugly head if I’m not super busy? What truths might I meet?
It’s a beautifully terrifying thought.
We think that if we move fast enough, if we do enough, we won’t have to feel those seemingly yucky, quiveringly vulnerable, not-so-pretty places inside. We think we won’t have to feel the secret boxes of pain, anger, teary-eyed past memories. We think we won’t have to feel the sharp edges of heartbreak that linger, the sadness we never quite recovered from, the deep truths we smack away like flies because they would shake up our worlds completely.
But the fact of the matter is, those things are constantly percolating inside of us, whispering, screaming even, trying so hard to get our attention. We can never avoid any of it completely; we can never truly turn our back on truth, no matter how clever we are or how hard we try.
And so, when we do relax—when we stop all the frantic running around bulls*t—we might find that relaxation doesn’t even feel good. Slowing down might feel like sh*t. Breathing deeply might bring intense emotions bubbling to the surface, like eruptions of unwanted lava.
Because underneath our raw, tense muscles, our hurried pace, our golden achievements and two-point-five kids and full schedules—maybe, we feel like sh*t. Maybe we’re sad or scared or overwhelmed. Maybe we’re secretly angry or resentful or hanging onto a disagreement we had two weeks ago.
Why would we want to know that?
Because it’s the goddamn truth.
Maybe it deeply threatens our neat little pretty perfect worlds; maybe it brings us down to our knees and forces us to get real. Good! We need to get shaken up sometimes. We need to get thrown out of our cozy comfort zones, even if it doesn’t feel so nice or pretty.
Because to actually slow down, to actually take that deep breath, to actually spend an entire evening not doing a damn thing, in this crazy, hectic world we live in, is nothing less than a radical act of courage.
Yes, it takes courage to relax.
It takes courage to unwind, to turn gently into this moment without a million glittering distractions and be ballsy enough to be fully present with ourselves, with all of our parts and puzzle pieces—the lovely ones, and not so lovely ones.
It takes courage to relax. To soften. To open.
It’s much easier to do. To be tense and tight and closed and wound-up. It’s all-too-easy to be on the hamster wheel of life and just keep going, going, going until we get so exhausted that we finally collapse. And when we’re utterly exhausted, it’s even easier to conveniently gloss over our truth, our hearts, our authentic feelings.
Let’s stop choosing the sparkly, easy path. Let’s challenge ourselves, deliciously:
Let’s not do. Let’s rest. Let’s breathe.
Let’s sit down with ourselves in a glowing lily pad pool of silence, and actually face ourselves, fully taste where we are now, how we are now. Hell yes, it can absolutely feel like way too much information. It can feel painful, raw and vulnerable as f*ck. But it’s information we so desperately need. It’s truth we need to taste.
And it’s nice to talk about slowing down. It’s lovely to wax romantic about the deep desire to relax.
But talking is not enough. The only way to do it, is to do it.
So, let us slow down so often that it becomes a new pace, a luscious new habit that changes everything. Let us infuse our days with spaciousness, with breath, with intention. Maybe it won’t be comfortable. Maybe it will hurt. Maybe we will have to coax ourselves; maybe we will need to gently drag ourselves kicking and screaming, like two-year-olds throwing temper tantrums.
But let us be breathtakingly brave. Let us interrupt our well-woven patterns of incessant busyness. And let us not force relaxation like we try to force and control everything—but instead, let us allow it to seep into us, like golden honey, like a light misting of rain. Let us embrace it, like warm sunshine steaming on our faces and the gentlest breeze caressing our cheek on a summer day.
Because our natural state isn’t tension. It is relaxation. It is openness. It is softness.
So let us stop.
Stop getting busier and more important, but further away from our truth, our soul, our human heart.
Let us sit slowly down
Like a rose
In all the quivering petal places
That squirm with a secret aching.
And let us
And let us stay there and bravely breathe, for as long as we possibly can.
This is courage.
Author: Sarah Harvey
Editor: Toby Israel