Slow & Steady Wins The Race

Try to keep your soul always in peace and quiet, always ready for whatever our Lord may wish to work in you. It is certainly a higher virtue of the soul, and a greater grace, to be able to enjoy the Lord in different times and different places than in only one.

Saint Ignatius 

This week marks our last blog in the series following John Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination Of Hurry. If you have missed any from the series, I highly recommend you catch up as the book is a great balance of what we should be doing as disciples of Jesus, while also acknowledging the world we live in and being realistic, for those of us (me!) who find what we should be doing totally impossible.

We have looked at 3 of the 4 ways Comer suggest we use to ‘unhurry’ our lives and this week looks at Slowing. In this chapter Comer shares the practices he has put into place to help him slow down. For the first time these are not Bible or Jesus based, but what he has found to help him over time. They are modern practices based on his attempt to follow Jesus while living in a city, raising a family, having a smartphone and Wi-Fi access etc. All the things the Bible doesn’t and couldn’t account for. The idea being that we work on both slowing down our minds and bodies to slow down our life. So it’s not just about nourishing our minds and working on our mindset but also making sure our physical matches our intention. We are whole people: mind, body and soul, so we need to work on slowing down the first two, to get closer to God and nourish our souls.

So get comfortable ’cause there are 20, yes 20, practices Comer puts in place to help slow down his life. Some of which may come as a shock or at least may evoke an eye roll, but he may well be on to something. To be clear these are what works for him, they for sure don’t all work for my personality/stage of life, but I like the idea of having parameters set to protect the way of life without hurry. So pick and choose what you like or scrap them all and put in a few of your own instead and see how you get on…. I’ve grouped each of Comer’s practices to help make it a bit easier to digest.

Driving

  • Drive at the speed limit. Not below it (obviously!) and not a few mph over it, but actually on the speed limit.
  • Get into the slow lane. Enjoy the drive, feel the wheel, the bumpy road, watch the scenery pass you by, get a conversation going with God. Be present.
  • When you come to a stop sign, actually stop. Or if you’re turning left, don’t just slow down and anticipate no cars coming. Actually stop and look both ways before proceeding, even if you’ve seen from ages back that there are no cars.
  • Don’t text and drive. I mean this really should be a given, it’s so dangerous. Most cars now a days come with Bluetooth and voice command to help stop this, but even still, I see people driving with their phone in their hands! Surely it can wait, whatever it is, it can wait until you get to your destination. And if not, please, for the love of God, pull over.

Time

  • Show up 10 minutes early to an appointment, without your phone. Imagine what you could do with that time! Read a book, read a magazine, talk to the person next to you in the waiting room. Or, simply, pray. Imagine that!
  • Get in the longest check out line in the supermarket. Now this one for me, and I’m sure for many of you too, is a bit much. I like to get in and out of a supermarket as quick as possible. But that doesn’t exactly scream a life without hurry does it…? And that’s exactly why Comer recommends doing it every now and then. To deliberately slow down your life. When you get to the cashier after waiting so long, instead of greeting them with your frustration and irritability, simply smile, say hello and maybe ask how they’re doing. Comer also says it’s good practice to not always get what we want right away, so when someone else denies us of what we’d like our response isn’t anger. We shouldn’t need to get what we want to be happy. We already have so much to be content with.

Technology

  • Turn your smartphone into a dumbphone. Remove notifications, remove your emails, take off social media and only access it as a certain time on a laptop/desktop and remove news alerts (with their depressing headlines). Again, this is a bit much for me, especially as I live off my phone, I do comms so I need socials and alerts 24/7 right? But I guess if I set some parameters and boundaries on the use of my phone, my weekly screen time wouldn’t shock and disgust me every. Single. Week…
  • Get a flip phone. Or get rid of your phone all together. I have no words for this one, but I do suppose it’d help with having a ‘dumbphone’ – there would be no notifications to turn off and therefore zero temptation.
  • Parent your phone: put it to bed before you and make it lie in. I struggle with winging down for bed mainly because even when I’m in bed I spend ages scrolling on Instagram. And I know I’m not the only one! So turn off your phone or at least put it on do not disturb an hour or so before you intend to go to bed. Here’s a novel idea, leave it in any other room in your home, other than your bedroom, overnight. This stops you from being tempted to scroll endlessly and would mean your phone isn’t be the first thing you look at every morning *shock horror!*
  • Keep your phone off until after your morning quiet time. Linked to the above point, rather than waking up and getting immediately anxious about the work day and all the things you should have done/need to get done today. Start your day off right as Comer says: ‘sitting in love, joy and peace, not getting sucked into hurry, anxiety and outrage of the world’.
  • Set times for emails. Most experts recommend we should only be checking our emails twice a day; once at the beginning of the day and then again towards the end of the day. This allows for more productivity and focus for the majority of the day rather than being side-tracked by asks of others. Of course for some, this will be impossible because of the nature of their work, but set certain times for emails and try to stick to them.
  • Set a time and time limit for social media. Social media can be a rabbit hole of constant comparison, friendly ‘stalking’ and pointless scrolling. But if there is a time limit and set time, we could in theory be more purposeful with our time on these apps.
  • Kill your TV. This one is a no from me (I love watching a good drama/thriller/documentary.) But Comer is probably right in that we are getting more and more addicted to entertainment and its the one addiction that is still socially acceptable. But everything we let into our minds has an affect on our souls and Comer is right that there isn’t much soul nourishing programming out there to be watched these days. So why not set a limit on how much you consume each day or week – whatever seems realistic to you.

The Mind

  • Single-task. Multi-tasking is a myth; it’s sleight of hand for switching back and forth between a lot of different tasks so you can do them all poorly, instead of doing well at one. Try and be fully present in all you do: time with God, at work, with friends or with family.
  • Walk slower. In London at rush hour, everyone is head down, marching to get to that next tube in time (that literally comes every two minutes), barging past people; hurry, hurry, hurry. I don’t know about you but I used to be stressed before my work day actually started, but for what reason? The best way to slow down your overall pace of life is to literally slow down your body. Including the pace at which you walk.
  • Take a regular day alone for silence and solitude. A bit like Sabbath but a little bit different, this would be more of a day to check in with yourself, see how your feeling. Journal. Nap. Pray. Read. Reset and recharge.
  • Take up journaling. The slow cathartic act of writing your life down is grounding, a tether for the soul in this modern world. Do it as often or as little as it serves you and in any form you find best: handwritten, as a voice note or a vlog. The point is to slow down long enough to observe your life from the outside.
  • Experiment with mindfulness and meditation. At times when you’re finding it hard to focus, stop and steady your mind. Focus on your breath and pray, breathing in the Holy Spirit (peace, joy, love and patience) and releasing all the negativity (anger, sadness, pain, uncertainty, anxiety and hurry).
  • If you can, take long vacations. Or at least take as long as you can in terms of annual leave allowance and money. As much as I love a good long weekend away, how often do we come back more tired than we were when we left? Mainly because we try and cram so much adventure into such a short period of time. A longer holiday allows for pure rest days in between all the touristy attractions.
  • Cook your own food. And eat it. Real food takes time, so enjoy the process. It doesn’t have to mean slaving away in the kitchen for hours. A quick 20 minute meal is just as nourishing for the body as anything else. You can’t look after the soul without looking after the body, and eating well helps both the mind and the soul.

“Be still and know that I am God”

Psalm 46:10

Again, I acknowledge Comer’s list is a lot and may seem impossible for many of us to take on. There is no judgement in that. But it may well serve us all to put our own boundaries and practices in place to help us slow down our lives and in turn get closer to God.

The goal is practice, not perfection. Of course we’re all going to slip up, even with the best intentions. And that’s ok. The modern world pulls you into hurry automatically. But when it happens, have grace with yourself and repeat:

Slow down.

Breath.

Come back to the moment.

Receive good as my gift.

Accept the hard as a pathway to peace.

Abide.

Just try not to miss the goodness in each day, despite the hard that life throws at you.

When you fail, begin again. This time slowly…

“Come to me….Find rest in your souls.”

Matthew 11:28-30

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