Doing less.

Once, when I was a new runner I ran a local 5K and accidentally PR’d. It was my third ever race and I improved my time by about 5 minutes over three miles. Accidentally.

What had happened was, it was a much larger race than I had done either of the previous times. And I didn’t like the feeling of starting in the scrum. So I started out a quicker pace than I would normally run to break free of the larger part of the crowd. The problem was, once I got into a more open space, I couldn’t figure out how to slow my pace. I couldn’t downshift. I was at maximum output, bordering on outrunning my ability level, but couldn’t figure out how to slow back down.

I’ve thought of that race a lot this summer. A few years ago, I underwent a pretty extensive life upheaval. In the aftermath, I got busy. Very busy. Teaching classes. Constantly doing. It was a way to distract from the reality I was experiencing. There were also financial considerations to take into account. I worked, a lot. I was in near constant motion.

Once I got settled into that pace, I couldn’t downshift. I couldn’t slow back down. And I definitely couldn’t find a way to be still.

More recently, I’ve found myself in a place that does not necessitate so much moving, working, doing. I’m in a place where rest is available, but it has taken some mindful effort to downshift.

Maybe this has happened in your life, too. Some people call it the rat race. Some people feel it in the so-called “Mommy wars”. For some individuals the Church of the Holy Busy-ness is entrenched in esteem and accomplishment, and for others it is a protective distraction from the pain or hurt or frustration occurring in their lives. For some, it may be both.

This summer presented me another opportunity for profound transition, and I have found myself in the oxymoronic state of working on not doing. Not being tethered to an 8:00am - 4:00pm schedule Monday through Friday opened up a lot of space in my life. The meditation and mindfulness practices that I’ve been writing about have been the cornerstones of coming to rest.

I got back to yoga, though. And running easy miles. And hiking. And writing. I found a few afternoons to just sit on my couch and pet the dog. I implemented changes in my use of social media. I’ve read books that aren’t for classes. I played in the pool with my kids.

Summer is nearly over (at least for those of us employed in academia) and I return to teaching next week. I’m hoping that this summer’s purpose has been achieved and that as I enter back into a busier schedule, I can still use what I’ve learned to keep myself still among the process.

When you look at your life, where can you address your too-quick pace? What tools do you have available to slow down a bit? To be still?