Newsletter #524 – Slowing Down and Building Wisdom

Psychotherapy Networker magazine (March/April 2013) focuses on Clinical Wisdom. Even the editor admits that this is unlikely to grab attention, but the articles make for fascinating reading even if you aren’t a counselor.

Our entire culture is in a rush. We know that. There is no time to pause, to think, to reflect. Networker editor Richard Simon suggests that “we keep busy just to avoid thinking seriously about where we are, what we’re about, and—most dreadful of questions—why we’re doing whatever we’re doing.” Often we seem to have no alternative. Therapists are “consumed by hurry and distractions, shallow questions and quick answers, short attention spans and chronic restlessness,” wrapped in a focus on evidence-based techniques that aim to eliminate symptoms and move us on to the next client. Many have referral sources to cultivate, website traffic and email messages to handle, paper work to meet insurance requirements, marketing plans to revise, tax and licensure standards to fulfill and professional obligations to meet. It’s worse with students swamped with busywork from professors, writing standards to master, papers to write, finding internship sites, meeting the requirements from academia, accrediting agencies and sometimes too-busy professors or supervisors. Shift to leadership and business and we see a leading magazine titled Fast Company. Even churches become activity mills; the same for families. Gone is the “capacity for insight, compassion, reflection, and full presence that’s the real source of healing” and wisdom.calmness 5

Where do we find wisdom, genuine sensitivity, rest and the human interaction that builds quality into our lives? How do believers find time to be still and know God? (Psalm 46:10.)  Too often we push until our bodies scream for quiet and sometimes shut down. How can we be genuine people-builders in the midst of such chaos?

Issues like this are easier to describe than to resolve. Calming down is rarely automatic in a hyperactive, stimulus-saturated environment. We need quiet places and deliberate time away to reflect, pray, seek God’s guidance and experience divine peace. Many of us must determine to eliminate hurry from our lives, learn to set limits, cultivate concern for others, find support from friends, and  reflect on experiences that build calmness and wisdom.

This is difficult for me. How do you do this? Please comment.

21 Comments

  1. I would term this as slowing down in the midst of busyness. It is so popular to be busy these days. Then the focus is on being productive. What you are referring to is being very caring and personal in the midst of it all.
    The key for me is to be all present with what I am engaged in at the time. Fully present with those around me. Let the busyness wait until its time has come.

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  2. Too often I dip into the reservoir of wisdom attained through prior education and experience – stopping, being still has become increasingly more difficult …

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  3. Hi Gary – I enjoy reading your blogs! As part of my recovery from the PhD process, I have been seeking ways to “restore my soul.” The spiritual disciplines of meditating on and memorizing scripture have been such a help to this harried soul. Here is a wonderful translation of the 23rd Psalm that has been my focus for the last month:

    The Lord is my pace-setter:
    I shall not rush.
    He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals
    He provides me with images of stillness.
    Which restores my serenity.
    He leads me in the way of efficiency
    through calmness of mind
    And his guidance is peace.

    Even though I have a great many things
    to accomplish each day.
    I will not fret
    For his presence is here.
    His timelessness,
    His all-importance
    will keep me in balance.

    He prepares me refreshment and renewal
    in the midst of my activity
    By anointing my mind with the oil of tranquility
    my cup of joyous energy overflows.

    Surely harmony and effectiveness
    shall be the fruit of my hours,
    for I shall walk in the pace of my Lord
    and dwell in His house forever.

    — Toki Miyashina,

    Blessings to you!
    Chris

    Reply

    1. Great translation of Psalm 23! I spent about six months studying this Psalm last year and am particularly moved by the revelation that He provides “refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity.” The Lord showed me how some of my everyday encounters, which I had not recognized in the past, were the restorative sources I desperately needed. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. When I was young I had a busy church religious/social life. When I became a pastor I saw this from a church perspective and decided to change this for my busy people.
    I said to my people – Make it your aim to come to Sunday service. Then where possible be involved in a mid-week Bible study /Prayer group. Finally either make it your aim to be involved in a church outreach activity or invite someone home for a meal who isn’t a Christian, with this in mind.
    The rest of the time dedicate it to your family and self refreshment.

    It not only shocked my people, but made them more willing and productive in outreach.

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  5. For me, it seems that contemplation comes more naturally than for others. I find it difficult to relate to the person that merely races through life with no consideration for “why.” As a therapist, I am bombarded with people seeking quick fixes and remedies to take away the pain. Rarely do I encounter the individual who is wiling to do the hard work of finding meaning and value in the suffering. I can attest that those who don’t take the shortcuts, who are willing to go deeper than the surface coping strategies, become far more stable and fulfilled.

    Focus on insight and reflection never happens by accident. I have attempted to spend time on meditation each morning, even when I don’t feel like it. There are mornings that I seriously don’t think that I’ve gotten anything from the effort, but sometimes years later a valuable scripture or concept that I studied will come back to mind. I encourage all to make the time and develop the disciplines of daily meditation.

    That said, as Dr. Buckingham mentioned above, recognize that the Lord provides refreshment along the pathway and “in the midst of my activity.” There are times that we are simply bound to certain obligations. Ask Him to help you recognize those golden nuggets of renewal along the way.

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    1. Thank you June. Ditto. I have found that morning devotion/meditation, i.e., time with the great counselor has provided me with an experience with the world that I just unfortunately don’t have words for. I have more energy than ever before, and my peers can’t understand why I am not suffering from “burnout.” I try to explain, but they don’t get it. It’s like my first psychology professor that told me it was impossible for me to feel Maslow’s ultimate feeling at the top of the pyramid on a fairly regular basis. That was 25 years ago. The Holy Spirit is alive and active. amd He will provide those golden nuggets of renewal along the way.

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      1. My philosophy is that Maslow’s Hierarchy has it upside down. Only when we have “self-actualization” (what I define as true meaning in life through the power and knowledge of the Holy Spirit), do we find or adequately pursue the rest of the hierarchy layers – self-esteem, love and belonging, safety and security, food/water/shelter. If you think about it, even homeless people generally have the basics of life, yet it is not until true life meaning is breathed into them that any other elements become realized or pursued with purpose.

        Thank you for your encouragement of admitting that you have not burned out in 25 years. So many of my colleagues carry an assumption that we will all eventually end up with cynical defeatist attitudes. That type of thinking is very discouraging and leaves me, at times, wondering if I must be delusional to continue to carry on with hope, compassion, and passion. Thank you for running this race in the same direction with me!

    1. June, Your thoughtful response, especially in the first paragraph is what the Networker was trying to say but without the Christian perspective.
      Dan, June, Rich, I think a lot of us (me included) are running with you too.

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  6. Two things surprise me so far in this thread: that a good number of people have responded and that no one has specifically mentioned taking a regular day’s rest out of seven. God created our world with a special rhythm, six days of work, then one of rest. Following this pattern gives us the space to demonstrate His holiness and our dependance on Him. Try keeping your computer, TV, iPod, etc. off one whole day per week to set aside time for rest, meditation, quiet conversation at home or with friends. It’s not so easy – but well worth it!

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  7. ONCE AGAIN EVERYBODY – THANKS FOR YOUR POSTS. And once again I have read them all but will not be able to respond to everyone – crazy but this past week has been one where slowing down has been especially a challenge for me. At least you know that usually I write about the things that apply to me. everally of the comments have been personally helpful.

    Reply

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