Slowing Down: A Fast From Fast.
The hardest part of exercising, for me, is not the exertion or exhaustion. It’s not the perspiration or the pain. It’s the stretching, the warm-up and the cool-down.
It feels like a waste of time, and I go nowhere. I just sit there, and twist and turn and pull and bend. There is no forward motion. I don’t increase my heart rate. There is no Fitbit goal of how much I stretched today. A good warm-up and cool-down can easily take an extra 30 minutes. I hate the delay of game.
Recently, I have been experiencing some lower back and hip pain as I have, recently, taken up running, again. I visited my doctor to see if he had any suggestions, and to make sure I wasn’t doing any damage.
“So, Dr. Davis, what should I do to stop the pain?” I waited for words of wisdom to flow like medicine from a pharmacy. I thought maybe a better pair of shoes or a back support would help.
“My suggestions is to stop running,” he paused for dramatic effect, and then smiled.
“Great advice, doc, I’ll take it,” I said with the same sarcasm with which he offered the advice. Realizing that wasn’t an option, he offered Plan B. “You need to stretch your hamstrings and your glutes more. That will help the back pain.” This time he was serious. I liked the other advice better.
What he was prescribing was that I needed to not just go through the motions, but I needed to take time to really stretch, so that I could adequately prepare myself for the upcoming bodily abuse. You see, I hadn’t been stretching, at all, not before or after or anywhere in between.
I only have so much time in my day. I am a busy guy, with a lot on his plate. Stretching isn’t something I have room for, but if I am going to run, I have to stretch. Period. Doctor’s orders.
The most difficult discipline that I have encountered in my half century on Planet Earth is sharpening the saw. You know the analogy. Sometimes you have to stop cutting so that you can hone the blade. The blade of the saw loses its edge and offset over time, and the cutting action becomes more difficult and ineffective.
Sharpening the saw puts the teeth back in place, and gives it more bite, so less effort is needed to do the work. 15 minutes of sharpening will make hours of cutting so much easier, but you have to stop cutting to get this done. Yeah, not me. I am a doer, a man of action. Dwelling on the sidelines is unappealing to me.
However, the older I get, the more I am faced with the reality that retooling is a necessity of life, and we all need downtime to function better.
In my younger days, I could simply muscle through things — power down on the saw till the job was done. Now, my strength, sight, reflexes, and acuity are not what they used to be. Everything takes longer. I don’t want to slow down. I am not good at slow or down. My nickname, for years, was The Energizer Bunny.
The only slow I do is cooking, but, even there, I am actively preparing other things while the roast, barbecue, or reduction is happening.
I have never been one for meditation, contemplation, or reflection. I like the One Minute Manager, the Express Checkout, and the FastPass.
When the first Macintosh came out in the early 80’s, I was impressed; however, when I was introduced to the x86 PC, I fell in love. The box was bigger and clunkier, the screen was not as pretty, but boy, was it fast — way faster than the Mac. Since then, life has been in the fast lane.
Meditation is something you do while waiting in line at the bank, in between texts, or sitting in traffic.
And yet even God, when He created the universe, stopped to rest. After six days of making stars, planets, water, sky, plants, animals and man, on the seventh day, He rested. I don’t think He did it because He was tired; an all powerful being doesn’t get exhausted. I think He did it because He wanted to set an example for us.
As a pastor, I work six days a week, and, on the seventh day, I preach and counsel people and work some more. There is no resting. This is not healthy. This is unrealistic. This is me realizing that I am not following God’s lead. If He can take the time to rest, shouldn’t I? I wish it were a rhetorical question, but, unfortunately, it is not.
It’s time to take time — time to make time — for slowing down. It’s time to breathe, relax, and unwind that ever tightening spring. The clock will not slow down — only I can. God modeled an unhurried life, and, if anyone has a reason to be urgent, it is God. After all, He has the fate of the world on His shoulders.
So, I am taking His lead. I am actively choosing to go at an unhurried pace. I am going on a fast from fast. It’s time to break fast. The hamster wheel will keep turning on its own. I need to get off once in a while, and take in the view. Play. Relax. Nap. Drive. Read. Write. Explore. Rest (this one should be said slowly to emphasize the point).
May this decision stop the workaholism, prevent burning out too soon, and lead me to taking the time to not only enjoy the beauty all around but add to it as well. Here’s to slowing down. Life is waiting.
Jim Wern is a renaissance man in a modern world; a spiritual traveler, searching for vestiges of the divine in humanity and imparting seeds of hope in a desolate world. He is a husband, father, friend, mentor, creative, tech geek, amateur writer, photographer and chef. His ramblings can be found at his website. He lives in sunny Southern California with his beautiful wife of 31 years.