After posting last week’s blog entry, I went back and reread it and realized I didn’t agree completely with one statement I made. When discussing contemplative silence, I said, “We are living in a world where silence is harder and harder to come by.” Digging a little deeper, I am not sure if I believe that silence (or in general a more simple, slow-paced way of living) is harder and harder to come by. Five years ago I would have said I absolutely agreed with that, but lately I am starting to feel a shift in our culture, as subtle as it is. I have no scientific evidence to back it up, but I sense it in the energy of the people around me.
I watched people for years being sick and tired of being sick and tired, and now I am seeing people all around me, not everyone of course, but many, make small changes every day to add spaciousness to their life, to balance work with play, to truly experience the joy of living.
In Wayne Dyer’s book The Shift he describes this phenomenon, which he explains as moving from the morning of your life (accomplishments, achievements, and what I call “to-do list living”) to the afternoon of your life (meaning and authenticity). He was speaking in terms of individuals, but I think this applies to our culture as a whole.
Ever so slowly I feel our culture is beginning to nurture this idea of having meaningful experiences. Our former culture encouraged us to ask, “What have I accomplished? What have I acquired?” But now we are asking ourselves, “Why am I here? What brings my life meaning?” I am feeling hopeful. Am I the only one who feels this subtle shift?
I have been on a mission for years to help people in our culture move away from the constant busyness and chronic stress we have succumbed to for decades. First, I had to start with myself.
Less than a decade ago I experienced my own shift. I had a million great things happening in my life. I had a fulfilling non-stop job. I was very involved in my church and community events and outreach. I had great family and friends and an active social life. However, what I didn’t have was time to breathe. I felt like every day was a race to get from one appointment/ meeting/practice/errand to the other, to scratch as many things off my perpetual to-do list as possible before 20 more items showed up.
When people asked me how I was doing, my answer was always the same, “Busy!” I was exhausted, quite literally, and completely overwhelmed. I felt like my life was a beautiful sturdy desk covered in the most exquisite knick-knacks of many shapes, sizes, and colors. Each item alone was precious (with the exception of a few lumps of coal), but there were so many stacks upon stacks of them that all I could see was a pile of clutter.
So I did something drastic, I took my arm and cleared everything off my desk in one swoop. Then I took a deep breath and slowly decided what I wanted to put back and what I needed to let go. I created some emptiness on my desk to think and dream and create. I assure you my desk has far fewer items on it, but I can see them now; I can fully enjoy each one.
I am not proposing that you shove all the contents of your life on the floor, but I would suggest that you look closely at the activities and busyness of your life and ask yourself, “Does this bring my life meaning? Do I have enough spaciousness in my day? Am I taking enough time to nurture my spirit?”
If you begin walking this path of a simpler, more contemplative life, you are going to find a lot more people walking with you than you may have imagined. And who knows, someone who still is caught up in the chronic stress and busyness may see your slower pace and decide to join you. Subtle changes are happening in our culture. Your personal shift impacts the world.