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Discover Your Desires | Slowing Down


Now that we’ve worked through some of the resistance around our desires, and learned how they are intertwined with our Core Natures, it’s finally time to recognize our unique dreams! 


Identifying desires should be simple, right? All you need to do is tap into your heart and pick the vision for your life you’re most excited about. 


The problem with this is that as we get older, we often lose connection to our hearts. Instead, we go to our mind in an effort to protect our ego.


We stifle our true dreams under practicality and warp it to align with others’ expectations.


Some of us don’t allow our desires to evolve–we cling to goals that no longer serve us in an attempt to maintain an illusion of stability. It isn’t easy to break old patterns, demystify your actual passions, and have the courage to reveal your gifts to the world.


So, how do we get past all of these blocks and unearth our true desires? 


I believe that the first step is slowing down


 

My Story


I first realized the importance of rest and slowing down at twenty-two. After years of pushing myself past my limits to keep an academic scholarship in college, I began to struggle with a severe hormonal imbalance and anxiety. My fast-paced life had caught up with me.


It wasn’t until I saw a therapist that I found a way of the stressful spiral that had been consuming my life. 


After I told her my story–how I had switched from career path to career path multiple times in the few short years since graduating–she asked me a question.


“Have you ever taken a break?” 


I laughed. A break?! Didn’t this lady know I had a problem that was in desperate need of solving–that I was getting older by the minute and needed to define my path as quickly as possible? 


“No,” I answered. “I don’t think that would help me.” 


“Well,” she said, leaning back in her chair. “The method of obsessing and overworking hasn’t brought you the results you want. Don’t you think you should be open to something different?” 


Even I had to admit that my method of pushing myself until I broke wasn't working. I agreed and we began to discuss what that would look like. We settled on a plan: I would commit to three weeks of rest. I would resist the temptation to apply to jobs, and even try to stop thinking about my career path. 


This challenge brought up a tidal wave of resistance on a daily basis. It made me realize how accustomed I had become to putting all of my emotional and mental energy into a singular pursuit. And how foreign rest felt to me. Moving more slowly through my life brought up feelings of fear and guilt. I was worried I was falling behind and felt guilty for giving myself a break. 



Even though resting was difficult, it is what brought me clarity. 


A few weeks in, I realized that I wanted to use my writing and mentoring skills to help women clarify their identities and paths. For the first time in years, I had a vision for the future that excited me! 


More importantly, I felt aligned. I had finally found an avenue that would allow me to use my gifts in a way that helped others. Taking a break from forcing myself into a box allowed me to reconnect with my heart and identify my desire. 


It was not until I slowed WAY down that I could get honest with myself.


When I was forced to focus on my own thoughts and feelings, it became crystal clear that I had underutilized skills and a passion that I had put on the back burner.


All this to say, that there is immense value in slowing down, especially if it’s something that you’re resistant to do. 


The Gift of Slowness is Clarity


Your situation might be different–maybe you haven’t been obsessively trying to solve a singular issue so you don’t need to create mental space to the same degree. But perhaps busyness has clouded your windshield a bit. You’ve been living in a hurried fog and haven’t felt truly connected to your heart in years. 


Though you may not need to take the drastic measures I did, incorporating more slowness into your life can bring you more clarity and increase your connection to your purpose. 


As I was on my healing journey, I realized that the practice of incorporating silence, stillness, and solitude into my daily life was producing meaningful results. In addition to benefiting my physical and mental health, rest also gave me time to process my identity and my life. 


Folding laundry without listening to a podcast allowed me to think deeply.


Small moments of quiet led to powerful insights about my personality and purpose. 


Though post-college, I had put tremendous amounts of effort towards figuring out my next steps, all of the strategizing had taken place in a pressure cooker of stress, anxiety, and hurry. Cultivating an environment of rest by enforcing boundaries with myself freed me from the mental ruts in which I had been entrenched. I believe that giving myself permission to slow down enabled me to rewire the neural pathways in my brain. (I reccomend checking out this research article if you're interested in this). 


Aside from giving myself a break from trying to solve a problem that had been my sole focus for years, slowing down also allowed me to get to know myself. 


During this time, I was exploring a career in library science. In many ways, librarianship was a great fit but as I learned more about the negative realities of the job and began to sense that it was not a good fit for me, I found myself slipping back into my old ways. I dismissed the signs and forced things to work. 


However, because I was committed to slowing down, my concerns about this path became increasingly evident. Being alone with my thoughts and feelings instead of rushing to the next activity made it clear that a career in librarianship was not aligned with my true desires.  


Before I prioritized slowness, my entire life was a mad rush. Everything felt stressful so it was hard to listen to my intuition and wisely discern the best course of action.


But because I had made conscious efforts everyday to reduce feelings of overwhelm, I was not in hustle mode. As a result, aspects of my life were easeful and life-giving.


Being able to sense the contrast between aligned, energizing challenges and situations that unsettled me clarified the path I should take. 


Restraining the impulse to fill every moment with noise and productivity allowed me to dig beneath my surface desire of having a clear-cut career, down to my deeper longing for a sustainable path that aligned with my true abilities.  


Fighting for Rest


During my “machine” era, I came across a speaker, Jefferson Bethke, who shared about the importance of rest in his podcast and book, “To Hell with the Hustle.” 


He discussed the fact that though the Industrial Revolution warped our view of ourselves–we live as productivity machines, humans were created to rest. He advocated for people, Christians especially to embrace slowness and limitations. He argued that whenever we push ourselves farther than we should go, we are playing God. He says:


"What if in trying to be God, we’ve forgotten how to be human? To actually live within our limits. To believe there’s rhythm in things that can make us more whole again. To believe things like silence are a gift" (90).


Aside from the importance of sleep and proper self-care (e.g. nourishment and exercise), humans also need waking rest. According to studies (2), waking rest improves emotional regulation, quality of sleep, focus and memory, and overall health and longevity. 


Rest is important not only for the human body but also for the soul. By refusing to give into the unrelenting call to work harder and do more, we are teaching ourselves to trust God and open up to all that life has for us. Taking even just a few minutes each day to rest can be a powerful reminder that we are not in control.


However pleasant this may sound, rest can feel unattainable in our culture. The pressure to perform and keep up are all too real. Paradoxically, rest requires work. It can take every ounce of strength we have to resist these cultural messages and rest. 


I’ve found that oftentimes, women can’t access their authentic passions because we refuse to slow down.


It’s counterintuitive to take a pause from overworking and strategizing. We were taught to value productivity over reflection so switching out of that go-getter mentality can feel unnatural. 


For most of us, slowing down is the last thing we want to do. 


It can feel like we are going backwards–especially when we are reflecting on our past and tracing our own footsteps. It can be discouraging to analyze our past because it comes with facing our past failures. Reflecting can even force us to acknowledge which misbeliefs and fears still haunt our present. 


Just the process of doing less, of saying no to things people expect of us, of reducing work hours and thereby, an income can be scary. 


One thing that helped me stop treating myself like a machine was the following realization: if humans should function as machines, we’re ridiculously inefficient. We need to eat, sleep, and groom ourselves. Beyond this, we have emotional and spiritual needs like the need for community. We require a lot more than soil, sunlight, and water to be healthy. Humans need time, grace, and truth to grow. To flourish we need even more–purpose, community, and hobbies just to name a few. We take a lot more effort to maintain than we could ever contribute.


When you reflect on it, humans are less like machines and more like gardens. Each of us is unique. We have different needs in different seasons. And though we do produce fruit in our lives, it’s often not on schedule. 



It takes humility to admit that you can’t do it all, to resist the hustle and trade it for slowness. But living in line with our design is worthwhile. For many of us, rest can be the door to self-honesty and purpose. Finding moments of slowness can be so impactful and clarifying. 


Some practical tips for slowing down include: 


  • Take off your headphones while on your walk, folding laundry, etc. Give yourself space to be with your thoughts

 

  • Take a nap. This one is hard for me but whenever I do, I feel a hundred times better lol!


  • Stop thinking about it. Whatever that thing is that you’ve been stressing about–a job, a relationship, an upcoming event–commit to putting it out of your head for a day! (If you find this unbearable, let yourself jot down your thoughts when it does come to mind and look at them later so that you can live as freely as possible on your “off day.”) 


  • Incorporate the things that bring you joy. Don’t have time for a face mask? Light a candle instead. No time to watch a movie? Rewatch some clips on Youtube of your favorite one. Incorporating joy is a huge part of rest. 


  • Learn to say “no.” If you don’t have energy to give to others, listen to that! Stay home from a party, reschedule a chat with a friend, opt out of service commitments that sound too heavy for your current season. 


  • Journal. Take time to get in touch with yourself. What do you think about when you’re not focused on the task at hand? What sparks curiosity and passion? Maybe it’s a childhood hobby or a new experience.


  • Move more slowly—literally. This seems obvious but it’s such a challenge! Try brushing your hair slowly, walking at a more leisurely pace, holding your body in softness instead of tension. If you’re seeing results from this, consider following an online yoga tutorial. (one of my favorite creators in this realm is Yoga with Adrienne). Our bodies often influence our mindset so take advantage of this!


I hope that this helped you see the value in slowness! Until next time :)



Sources

Bethke, J. (2019). To hell with the hustle: Reclaiming your life in an overworked, overspent, and overconnected world. Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson Publishing.


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