Doing Less to Discover More

By Ken Wells - 04/19/2021


Series Two: Blog Twenty-Two

Slowing down and sitting in solitude can be a scary idea for many. Most addicts I know live a pretty busy life—at least in their head if not outwardly. Slowing the inward negative chatter demands that we sit still and lean into the itch of discomfort without scratching. Slowing down often requires embracing the reality of feeling and thoughts that are uncomfortable, irritating, annoying, or even menacing. Why would anyone sign up to do that?

Ever since the measure of time, moving through the Industrial Age and beyond, we have quantified life by the clock. We have burgeoned into a culture that has become obsessed with filling up time with endless busyness. In his book, Space, Time and Medicine, Dr. Larry Dossey coined the term “time sickness” to describe the obsessive belief that time is getting away, there is not enough of it, and you must pedal faster and faster in order to keep up with it. It has germinated the disease of “more” which rivets the mind with incessant thoughts that we have to do more to keep from being less. This is a perfect rendezvous in thought that fits most addicts like a glove. Respectively, you can never do enough to keep from being less. This crazed thought becomes the necessary fuel to numb out with the various cocktail of addictions that our mind creates…and we create many!

Why is slowing down so important:

We live life with a tightening scrutiny looking for ways to squeeze more productivity from every waking second. It simply is not sustainable. Job stress contributes to untold numbers of Americans missing work. City life causes people to mistakenly believe that somehow doing more means being more.

The rush to be the best lessens quality control. Accidents all over the world like Chernobyl and the space shuttle Challenger demonstrate that driven rush and fatigue negatively affect quality control.

Many people skim the surface in human interaction and fail to make real connections with others. We lose touch with ourselves and others through our frenzy and fear of emotions and our unwillingness to stop numbing it all out. 

People feel judged if described as slow and very uncomfortable about other people’s perceptions of them. Rather, they want to be thought of as a mover and a doer who gets things done. So we tend to prefer the hamster wheel of doing, doing and more doing. There is rhythm to the course of life. There is ebb and flow. There are cycles and seasons, which we ignore by rushing around. For those in a rush there is one season and it is always defined as putting the pedal to the metal—all-out speed.

 We think we need the busy, the commotion of activity and the interaction so we don’t feel lonely or empty. Yet, only when we turn inward to lonely and empty are we able to transform them into peace, solitude and meaningfulness.

Stumbling Blocks to Slowing Down:

< Multi tasking—There is a false perception that people can become successful through cultivating the capacity to multi-task. In the article  “The Science is Clear: Why Multi-tasking Doesn’t Work,” authors Cynthia Kubu and Andre Machado cite one study that found just 2.5 percent of people are able to multitask effectively.[1] And when the rest of us attempt to do two complex activities simultaneously, it is simply an illusion. We are unable to do more than one thing at a time. Essentially, trying to complete two things at once is only a distraction and prevents you from being present in the here and now.

<Fear—There is a fear of facing emptiness. Many people race on with hectic schedules and overwhelm themselves with activity to avoid feeling what might come up if they quieted their souls. This style of living fuels deprivation. Ultimately, deprivation fosters entitlement to act out in self-absorbed behavior. Often the fear of emptiness is at the core of addictive behavior. Writer, speaker and activist Jean Kilbourne reflected in her book, Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel that “addiction begins with the hope that something out there can instantly fill up the emptiness inside.”

 Obscurity is something that people fear the most. We all want to matter and be important to someone. Many conclude that importance is derived from being busy with things to do and people to see. People fear the loneliness that obscurity can trigger. To become emotionally mature you must face the experience of obscurity.

<More to Keep from Being Less—For many, there seems to never be enough money, a big enough house, or material possessions to achieve satisfaction. They seem unable to answer the question, “When is there ever enough?” In some ways, it’s as if there is a mentality to gather up more and more out of a fear of having less. For some, the drive to achieve, succeed and accumulate is driven from the fear of failure, not having enough, and being left out. It is abundance driven by scarcity.

How Do I Slow Down?

To be centered and focused demands incorporating a sense of slow within the context of each day and season in life. Recovery requires the creation of a spirituality through connection. Being in a hurry fuels impatience. In a world of rush, spirituality can become reduced to using prayer as a fast-food religious faith whereby considering the concept of God becomes like a vending machine—for example, praying to God for stuff that I think I need. Spirituality becomes more of a pragmatic insurance during hard times. Yet, slowing down is a spiritual process of evaluating what matters and how to ground self in the presence of turbulence. The Tao de Ching observes, “Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?”

Mentally slowing down is a way to gather my thoughts, faculties, and senses in order to proceed with appropriate caution. It’s a way of providing safety for the soul. In the midst of a rushed existence, slowing down to make way for solitude is helpful towards grounding and centering the soul. Meditation is key. It is the practice of emptying distractions that move us away from centered living. It creates a place of paradox where our own innate brilliance begins to surface naturally. In the practice of embracing emptiness, we can become more attentive to the still small voice of personal brilliance that exists within us all. Solitude promotes the sacred ground of emptiness that becomes the creation of all things authentic from within. It is common and concerning that addicts struggle with the exercise of meditation. Practice will increase depth of experience. Going slow melts impatience through the practice of meditation.

The practice of humility is fostered in a spirit of slow. Humility quiets the competing voices in the heart that grapple for position, power and prestige. It helps selfish egotism shrink. Humility is an ongoing practice that complements the spirit of slowing down. Humility helps to put clamor for activity in perspective. Mother Teresa underscored that we do no great things, only small things with great love. This is who we are and how we find ourselves in a spirit of humility.

Solitude is fostered by slowing the pace of life through embracing an intentional reflective life. Mindfulness meditation, guided imageries and times when you eliminate the distractions in life all cultivate solitude. It’s not scratching the itch, but sitting with the irritation with a plan of allowing your irritations to yield meaningful wisdom and understanding about yourself and others. This is the way to discover more by doing less.


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