Go slow

We used to joke that one of our daughters had only one speed in the morning: SLOTH. It was painful to watch as she struggled out of bed, dawdled her way through breakfast and the morning jobs, and then scrabbled to pull it all together as we headed out the door to school. No matter if she was first up, she was always the last to be ready to leave. It used to drive me nuts when we were in a hurry to go somewhere.

But these days, courtesy of the COVID-19 lockdown, we’re not in a hurry, and we’re not going anywhere.

I’ve recently finished John Mark Comer’s book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, which is all about “how to stay emotionally healthy and spiritually alive in the chaos of the modern world” (find the book here, or listen to his teaching on the topic here). And it was like a prescription from heaven for my heart.

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We have everything we need

Air rage – I’ve never experienced it, only read about it thankfully. Angry people make me uncomfortable, so the thought of being trapped with an angry person while 30,000 feet in the air sounds terrible. But it happens. And it happens a whole lot more on planes with first class cabins.

It’s not the pampered rich up front who are kicking up a stink, it’s the act of walking through the first class cabin on your way to cramped economy that significantly increases the incidence of air rage. If you enter the plane from the middle or rear, skipping that envy-inducing walk, the incidence of air rage is the same as if everyone was seated in economy (read the paper here).

As humans we’re wired to make comparisons with others, and usually it’s upwards to those who have more and are more than us. (I enjoyed this podcast from NPR’s Hidden Brain on the subject). While it mightn’t make you mad enough to act out on a plane, it can be demoralising and discontenting. And it’s so darn pervasive.

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Checking in, not checking out

For the longest time I’ve had the same New Years’ resolution: to floss daily. The fact that it’s playing on repeat, says something about how well I’m going with that. This year though, I’m changing it up. I’m still hoping to floss more often than I currently do, but this year instead of focusing on a habit of action, I’m pushing to shift a habit of mind.

Instead of checking out, I want to check in.

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Pay attention to what you’re paying attention to

We all think we’re seeing the world as it is, but actually our brain is playing tricks on us. Helpful tricks, yes, but tricks nonetheless.

When I look out in the view in front of me, I think I’m seeing one big seamless picture: that tree next to this tree, alongside that tree over there, sky above and grass below. But actually my brain is taking little snapshots as my eyes rest on different objects and then joining them together in what only seems like a seamless vista. (Yes, really). The big picture is made up of little fixations of focus. Usually it works well, but sometimes it means you miss seeing things that your brain wasn’t trained to focus on.

As with the eyes, so with the mind.

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Getting what you want won’t get you what you want

Last night in a moment of self-awareness I decided to scroll through my Instagram. Now normally I turn to Instagram to dull any flashes of self-awareness–I find it to be a pleasant and effective distraction from any nudges towards personal growth. But in this case, instead of flicking through my feed, I looked through my own posts, the beautiful highlights of my life, to remind myself how much I love it.

I did it because I’d realised that I’d gotten stuck briefly into a mindset that just focussed on the things I didn’t like about the stage of life I’m in – I was viewing everything through a narrative of constraint: the things I can’t do because of the little children I have, the freedom I don’t have to determine my own schedule etc etc. If you’ve been there, I bet it’s familiar.

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