I’ve tackled some urgent work lately.
That’s what I thought while I was doing it, anyway.
I sorted paperwork, I replaced the timing belt in my car, I started making Christmas gifts and I repaired the water heater before the temperature dropped below freezing over here in England.
Doing those things gave me a sense of accomplishment, but soon after each was done, some new chore took on the role of ‘must do.’
Does that sound familiar?
I’ll bet it does.
That’s why I’m writing about this today.
You see, I’m worried many of us will race through our lives dealing with one problem after another without giving ourselves time to look around, relax and sort out our thoughts.
That may be the result of having more choices about how to fill our time than our parents and grandparents did, but I think it is both unhealthy and unnatural.
For thousands of years our ancestors had to slow down every evening when the sun set, as they didn’t have enough light to carry on working.
They gazed into the fire and talked or thought about what had happened during the day. We don’t do that anymore.
We just flip on the electric lights and keep going.
The other reason I see our modern way of life as unnatural is because it is totally different from the way things work in nature.
Interestingly, though, I only noticed that after I’d been camping in the bush for several years.
When I first came to Africa, I wanted to see as many animals as I could, so my typical camping day involved covering as much territory as possible in a 4×4 searching for game.
Of course, the nights were spent by the fire, so, like our ancestors, I was forced to slow down for part of each day.
After a while, I realised the quiet bits after dark were my favourite part of camping, so I tried slowing down during the days as well.
I went to a waterhole or bird hide and sat and watched, or stayed in camp while my mates went off to chase the big five.
I didn’t see as many animals as I used to, but I saw more birds and insects and I think I noticed a lot more about the animals I did see… and I realised that both hunters and the hunted spent a lot of time being perfectly still.
Predators lay in ambush waiting for prey to wander into striking distance or they stalked their dinner very slowly, so they would not be seen.
Prey animals, meanwhile, froze and scanned their surroundings whenever they sensed danger, so they would know which way to flee.
In both cases, being still and focusing on the present seemed crucial for survival.
Taking that approach improved my camping experience and made it more relaxing, but it was years before I realised the same approach might improve the rest of my life.
As it turns out, it has, and I suspect it could have a similar impact for you as well.
It may not seem urgent, but I think slowing down was one of the most important things I’ve ever done.