When it comes down to crunch time and getting things done, shifting into high gear is no problem for me. High gear is easy, it’s addictive, even—to go fast, to get things done, to have so many external validations for your existence in your wake. You feel strong, maybe even powerful, rising to your full stature and stride.
But high gear isn’t sustainable, and when the season shifts and it’s time for me to downshift and rest, I really struggle to make the transition back to more Clark Kent-esque rhythms and routines. It always reminds me of the way adrenaline doesn’t leave your system all at once, but works its way through in its own time. Except when my adrenaline goes, it often leaves me jonesing for more.
This was meant to be a summer of rest and replenishment for me after an intense year of production, but by early August my flatmate was still telling me to go lay down or to take a book to the coffee shop. I still hadn’t found my way back to a slow and easy pace, I was toting around weariness that wouldn’t lift and it was clear a different kind of break was needed. I went away and offine for about three weeks, and that along with my bumpy re- entry back in this week reminded me of some things I desperately need to keep in view.
How to Be Soulful Online and Off (A Survival Guide)
Slow down. The internet is obsessed with Fast, and for good reason. Fast is sexy. She is the beautiful woman who turns every head when she walks into a room and to have her on your arm makes you feel special, chosen. But what we all forget as we make fools of ourselves courting her is that Fast is a one-night stand that leaves you strung out, wasted and alone come morning.
Speed is no substitute for substance.
Wisdom is not fast, nor is she fashy. She is a mystery that beckons, a cryptic smile over breakfast that leaves us wondering what she’s thinking all day. She’s a partner who always has our best in mind, and when she departs for a vacation in the mountains it’s only because she knows we need, for our own sakes, to follow.
Wisdom knows what we so often forget: that absence, separation and distance are necessary ingredients of fresh perspectives. Wisdom knows that if we do not miss her when she departs and are willing to toil without her, we are undeserving of her treasures.
Remember who you are. As the internet foods with entrepreneurs, it creates an en masse identity crisis for everyone else who is prompted all day long to invest in courses, books, ebooks, designers, and copy writers who have the so-called special knowledge we are lacking to make all the money we could be making online.
But we are not all called to be entrepreneurs. The world still needs some of us to be artists and mystics.
The easiest way for me to remember who I am, honestly, is to remember my mentors. I think of Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright and dissident-turned-president. I think of Joni Mitchell leaving the spotlight behind for a remote home and her painting studio, and how when she came out with a new album after all those years away, it was like the volume knob had been turned up and her social critique was precise and clear. I think of Wendell Berry and Father Richard Rohr, David Whyte and Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I remember that the mystics are my true tribe and that my life should more closely resemble the monastics than the executives.
Curate your online reading. If you are one who likes to wake up and read your RSS feed like the morning paper, choose what inspires and grants permission. Avoid anything that excludes or makes you feel small.
Then stay offine. Read books, go to live shows, walk through exhibitions, have coffee with a friend. Cultivate a spacious and rich life that extends beyond the screen in front of you, beyond your four walls.
Limit your information intake, all around. Find the truth you need and soak in it—reread, re-listen instead of moving along to the the next thing. Exchange information consumption for wisdom integration.
Cultivate face to face and voice to voice friendships. Adding additional dimensions of presence give you a deeper soil to root into. A hundred encouraging tweets on a dark and lonely day are nice, but they are a pale substitute for the friend who can arrive at your door, sit vigil beside you, and hold your hand in through the storm.
Focus more diligently on who you are becoming than what you are producing. When people we love leave this life, we seldom remember everything they told us or all the things they did. It’s the feeling of their presence that stays with us, that changes and shapes us all along the way.
And so it is with us.