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To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns,

To surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects,

To want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to the violence of our times.

—Thomas Merton 

As we move through our days and our lives, how often do we pause to get a sense of where we’re going and where we’ve been? The transition to summer can be an ideal time to reflect on what the first half of the year has been like, to re-commit to promises you’ve made to yourself, in your work, to friends and family. How is it that we affect others—in our regular routines, in the course of work which is so often dedicated to long-term change? What small victories have you experienced this year? And do you have a way of measuring them? 

The teacher and cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien talks about change taking place “in the slow lane” and at nature’s pace. So often, we’re anxious to see change from the fast lane, as we charge through our days, passing people en route to the next thing. Trust me, I speak from personal experience. But what happens when we slow down; when we take the time to reflect and then take that reflection into our lives and work? What would your days be like if you were able to move at half the speed? One of the challenges is that our culture doesn’t allow this. The evolution from pack mule to telegraph to telephone to e-mail has created a whirlwind of communication and information that is often hard to manage—even with training in “time management”.

I’ve been reading James Gleick’s Faster and Jeremy Rifkin’s Time Wars lately, and they both offer new perspectives on the impact of acceleration on human anatomy, culture and relationship. Gleick comments that “lived time is different from clock time. Our experience of time changes with our moods, with our age, with our level of busy-ness, with the complexity of our culture.” What would living more in line with nature’s pace be like? If we stopped moving and trying to do so much, would we fall down, like the small child learning to ride a bike and being told to ride faster, faster? As most know, the real trick to mastering the bicycle is balance rather than speed. How can we avoid “the violence of our times” and increase the impact of our work by slowing down, finding balance and enjoying the ride? 

June 2005