The importance of slowing down

It’s wild to me to think that it’s almost March 2021. It’s nearly been a year since I desperately fled the New York City winter to find refuge at my parents’ home in South Florida for what was supposed to be five days. Fast forward a year, and I’m still here. And what a year it has been. Yes, it has been a year of great struggle, uncertainty, loss, and fear for many of us. We’ve all heard or read somewhere that with great difficulty comes great growth. As cliché as it sounds, in recent years, and mostly in retrospect, I’ve found it to be true. What I’m trying to get at is that this past year, as agonizing as it has been for most of us, has also provided exquisitely fertile ground for personal and spiritual development. Overall, there has been an ocean of lessons that I’ve gathered from this year, but one, in particular, that has stuck with me the most, one that allowed for all the others to come through, that being the importance of slowing down.

"before the pandemic hit, life was running in fast-motion"

Is it just me, or does everyone else also feel like before the pandemic hit, life was running in fast-motion? It wasn’t so much about the days going by fast, about timing, really, as much as it was about the content of those days feeling hurried and about a constant feeling of non-stop. It wasn’t long ago that I concluded that I was addicted to the rush of going here and getting there and doing this and doing that. My life’s schedule was constantly booked with a long laundry list of to-dos. I feel like I even had a scheduled time to relax which involved either taking a nap, taking a bath, meditating, or spending time with myself at a park; and please note that that was only penciled in when truly necessary, when my body could no longer move.

During my last year in New York City, a dear friend once told me that I needed to slow down, to take time to do nothing. I don’t exactly remember what context, but I believe it was in relation to me figuring out why I felt so dissatisfied and essentially miserable even though I had a seemingly filled life with excitement and proactivity. I remember feeling undigested resentment towards his suggestion. I didn’t understand or want to understand what he was relaying. Now, after practically a year of being forced to slow down and take time for myself, do I realize that my friend was right.

The anger I felt towards his advice was resistance and the effect of my subconsciously not wanting to slow down and take time to do nothing. There was fear that I would uncover or re-cover the remnants of certain traumas hidden deep within my psyche that I either thought I had healed or that I had yet to heal. I also absolutely did not want to accept that I was not satisfied. I had chased my dreams and hustled hard to build this life in New York that I had always wanted, and had, before my relocation, spent a year in Venezuela focusing intently on my physical and spiritual health, practicing Chi Kung and Zen Meditation with a Sifu, learning auto-reiki, and enrolling in cooking school – was that not enough to find contentment?

"I wasn’t really going anywhere and found myself quarantining in quiet suburbia"

Predictably, once the pandemic hit, and I had all of this time on my hands – not only because I wasn’t really going anywhere and found myself quarantining in quiet suburbia surrounded by basically only trees, gargoyle-faced ducks, man-made lakes, and the occasional alligator passerby, but also because work had been dying down and eventually fizzled out – I found myself gripped by old monster friends I hadn’t sat within a long time. I call them friends because although they were superficially terrifying, they intrinsically held the keys to my freedom. We can call the Past Toxic Romantic Relationships monster, another the Need to Cut the Energetic Cord with Dad monster, and the last the What Is My Life Purpose monster. In the midst of my involuntary repose, they came to me and harassed me, and demanded that I give them the attention they deserved. And although they terrorized me for some months, I am ultimately so grateful that they visited me. If they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to get to know them, to forgive them, and to befriend them.

I remember there was a time when, while I was mostly excited, a part of me would feel anxious about coming to visit my parents forty minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Miami for no reason other than I didn’t know what I would do with myself on the days where I would stay put in the suburbs to spend ambiguous time with my parents – meaning I’d be doing my own thing. In contrast, they did their own thing in the immediate vicinity of our household. I would admit almost proudly that I didn’t know how to do anything and that I loved always to be doing something. I hadn’t yet truly understood the importance of being able to not have anything on your schedule, no to-do list for a day, and spending uninterrupted and spontaneous time with yourself. Only then, in that quiet and mystical space-bound between personal commitments and external responsibilities, will you be able to learn what is truly important to you and your development.