Total Pageviews

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

On the Joys of Slowing Down (and on Philosophy, Nature and Poetry)

Recently I have been very busy. I will spare you the details of how and why, but I have felt rushed off of my feet. Over the last few weeks there has hardly been a time when I could take more than 5 minutes out and I have found myself eating my lunch as quickly as possible or even not taking a proper one at all. We all have periods like this in our lives and that’s fine. I am certainly not going to argue against achieving important targets. It’s only when fast-paced doing becomes an ingrained habit, when we let work and tasks take over, that we start to miss out on life. Socrates counselled against this when he said: “beware the barrenness of a busy life.” He was a pretty busy man and no one could ever have accused him of laziness, but he did take his time to enjoy things or to think them through. He was not the sort to rush and was much more of a human being than a human doing – perhaps that is part of the reason why he is often described as “the wisest man who ever lived.”

Another person whom I greatly admire was the poet Robert Frost. He said, “by working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day. “ Again, Frost was no shirker, labouring long and hard on each of his poems till he got them just right - but he understood the value of noticing, of watching things.

And so, a day or two ago, I decided that enough was enough and took an hour and a half out to go for a walk and to sit and read and write. This is something I have been starved of recently, but it is one of my chief joys to walk in nature and just feel at peace. However much I have achieved in these last few weeks, that was my favourite moment and that was the time when I achieved something much more precious than hitting targets and completing tasks – the feeling of being fully alive. I often urge my busy clients to do something similar. I have several who work between 12 and 17 hour days on a regular basis. Unsurprisingly, when I ask them if “they have any joy in their life?” the answer nearly always comes back “no.” And that answer often shocks them or causes an outpouring of tears. They simply stopped considering whether they had any joy. Yet they have had it and they normally know where to find it, and with a little encouragement they normally do just that. And it is amazing how much a little joy can do for us, even if the rest of your life is fraught, stressful or unbearably busy. As Anne Morrow Lindbergh said: “for happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.” Joy is in the simple things. No amount of money will bring you it, but a walk in the sunshine or the snow can, as can a close relationship or music or a poem. Joy is largely about feeling a deep connection to something that feels uplifting.

I wrote the following poem a few years back, when I can remember a similar feeling of needing some space. It was printed in Poetry in the Waiting Room, and the feedback I got was that quite a few people had written in to say that it inspired them. I have always been good at connecting to joy and I hope this poem will help you to think of how you most connect to it:

I’d Soonest Sit and Seldom Run

If we could live our lives for best
We’d let our sun, a sluggard, rest
And gently turn our lives from speed
And find in nature all we need,
For what’s the point of mighty act
Or counting minutes so exact
When we could measure precious things
Like honeycombs and swallow’s wings?
Such cleverness that man deploys
To keep himself from simple joys:
To choose the life of treadmill rat
I cannot say I follow that.

To laze upon the meadow grass
And let the empty moments pass,
To lie with mayflower by its stream
And idle banks of wind and beam,
To breeze with hoverflies in flight
And gasp at lace-wings with delight,
To roll with beetle to its grub
And whirl with twirling, curling bug:
It’s where I’ll find my happiness
And endless peace and thankfulness,
To choose a life that sings the sun
I’d soonest sit and seldom run.

David is a fully qualified and BACP registered Person Centred Counsellor. You can book a face to face or skype session with him by ringing 07578 100256 or emailing him at
You can follow him on Twitter as Contented Counsellor:!/SeddonDavid

1 comment: