Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Subtle Seduction of Speeding Up

Last week I had a “cardiac incident.” I want to write “little” or “minor” as qualifier and reassurance but one doctor called it “major,” and I admit the pain, duration and lack of any discernable warning did not feel minor. In the last few years it’s been determined that my heart has intermittent “electrical” problems. It’s as if too much current is moving through too small a wire. The risk is that these energy surges could harm the heart muscle- ie.- burn out my motor.

Apologies for the mechanical metaphor- we are not machines- but energetically this is at least an approximation. Physical factors are being investigated, holistic solutions sought, and sound advice will be followed. I am feeling good, just very tired since the "incident."

But my question is: What is my heart telling me?

The obvious answer would be to slow down- but, in part because I have a chronic illness (CFS/ME,) I lead one of the slowest-paced lives I know. Really! I have not travelled in years, I rarely go out after 6 pm, I begin my days with my practise of prayer, meditation and gentle yoga. I have slowed down!

Or have I?

How am I seduced into speediness? I speed up when I become over-stimulated by input, over-engaged in often enjoyable interactions, external or internal. (Yes, monkey mind can interact with itself endlessly!) I know this- it’s why I do not have television, socialize infrequently and avoid shopping malls and large convention centres. But I underestimate how little it sometimes takes to speed me up. This week, having announced I may not be on Facebook as frequently, I’ve posted small in-the-moment observations. I’ve discovered I can follow my own slow rhythm IF I do not read and respond (immediately) to all the comments, do not follow the newsfeed or visit other pages.

Something in this points to why I allow/create overstimulation- I have an overblown sense of responsibility (if not, at times, an outright compulsion) to engage with and respond to everything/ everyone that crosses my path. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a choice. But it is. And right now I choose to offer what I can, minimize what I take in and where I will respond, defaulting to less-is-more.

The second and not unrelated thing I notice is how often I feel compelled to hand over hand my way up out of a pit of weariness to meet (mostly my own) expectations of how and when something needs to be done. And guess what I use to pull myself away from the desire to simply sit or follow the impulse of the moment? Yep- external stimuli- reading blogs or perusing posts on FB, listening to the news, or talking with a friend on the phone. . . .

My heart is not happy about this, not happy with the over-stimulation, not happy about my semi-conscious reaching and racing and pushing and prodding riding roughshod over conscious decisions to slow down.

This isn’t the whole story- there are deeper narratives my heart is telling, but I’ll allow those to unfold over time. For now I surrender to slowing down on a deeper level- consciously limiting input and engagement; cultivating awareness of using stimuli to mask uncomfortable weariness; enjoying slow walks, classical music, the scent of lavender. . . .

So, that’s how my new year is unfolding. . . . . slowly. And for this, I am grateful.

Oriah (c) 2012


  1. Now this touches me. So many people talk about the new year in a very active way. Not one have I heard say: I am going to slow down. Seems like I´m a bit like you, for other reasons though, having to live a slow-paced life. I simply cannot take too much stimuli, input etc, it´s as if I cannot digest it, I need lots of time on my own. When I read what you write here it hits me that this, slow-living, is in itself a message to others, to the world. I´m not happy about your cardiac problems, but this message, slowing-down, tells me that I´m not "wrong" not being able to pace with "normal" people, maybe I, with my life, is a message too. Touches me deeply. Thanks!

  2. Your name is new to me as I listened to Wayne Dyer today, but your writing The Invitation is very familiar indeed. My heart is telling me to open and ask questions. I need some advice. you are the first person I am asking about this. I am an incest survivor, now in my mid fifties. I have much psychosynthesis therapy and have studied the program as well. I am ready to share my story in hopes that other women and men will find some validation and know that there can be a wonderful life free of PTSD and triggers on the other side of trauma.This is what I wish to leave in the story. My sister and I are talking now at this late stage in our life. We missed out on being sisters in our childhood and our teen years, only now in our fifties are we discussing and validating each other's experience. We are like adopted children finding one another for the first time. What really amazes us both, is how we four sisters never talked about what was happening to us in childhood or as adults. We all maintained relationships with the brothers who abused us, yet our relationship with each other has been almost non-existent in some respects. I am searching for a mentor. I am a student with lots of will but I have no money, as I am now living my dream of attending university. I was taken out of school in grade 7 and I left home the first time when I was 14. I am on the other side of a wounded beginning on this planet.I have night and day dreams of going around speaking in junior and senior high schools, and at universities. I hear young people talking in the cafeteria and in some of the women's study classes about being on medication for anxiety. I will continue to meditate and find my way.

  3. Oriah, I know this probably sounds stupid but while I read your post the melody of Roxette's "Listen to your heart" came into my mind. Don't know if the lyrics make any sense to you, you can google them if you want.
    Interesting is that at the end of your post you wrote Oriah (c) 2001. But we have 2012. Maybe something profound happened in 2001 that connects your heart to this year in some interesting important way? Just my two cents.

    Consider yourself hugged! Take good care of YOU and your heart and screw what other people may think about it.

    Lotsa Love & Hugs, Sabine

  4. A blessing! At this special soulfull time of the year your book, The Invitaion, fell off my shelf for me to read again. And how i have lapped it up - perfect for where I am right now. Deepening my buddhist path your wisdom is totally aligned. Like you my truth is about slowing down, being very present to what is and staying honest to that even when I feel others judgements about my already slow life. Thanks for the inspiration to keep true to my unique soul path. Ah ho!

  5. Sabine, I noticed the 2001 date on the FB post- how strange is that! Will mull possible connections. :-)

  6. Oriah, it is a challenge to slow down in a world where the collective energy is racing at top speed. Especially at this time of year when the earth is bathed in the stillness, those of us who are sensitive to the energies around us struggle the most. Be gentle with yourself. xo

  7. Oriah, for many years now your words have resonated deeply for me. I work in a similar way to you, covering similar ground, and with similar issues (I so nearly sent you a copy of my book Riding the Dragon in relation to something you wrote in your book The Invitation, but held off because I know how even gifts can be a pressure for response! - and sharing my book doesn't matter; what matters is being aware of the resonance of like-hearted people in the world). The Invitation (book, not just poem) is not only one I know nearly by heart (no pun on your posting intended) but one I have given to many friends. I love your work and reach out to you from across the Atlantic. So so often your words have clarified for me a process that is also going on for me - and once again with this new blog you are there exactly. I live similarly and am seduced in exactly the same way, at the cost of my health. Thank you so much, and I was sad and concerned to hear that you have had such an 'incident'. And - btw - YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED IN ANY WAY TO RESPOND TO THIS POST!:-) Stay well, look after that heart that gives so much to us all. With love and a bow of gratitude.

  8. PS Oriah, you probably know this and it may not in any case be useful. I too have a very over-stressed heart, energetically speaking (yes high voltage energy squeezed through small conduit), for similar reasons (plus recent big family bereavements and losses). In the last couple of decades I've been very conscious of what shamanism (and maybe acupuncture - can't remember) calls the 'heart protector', which I experience as an energetic centre just where my left breast meets my chest. I often, in relaxation, pay attention to drawing down energy to that spot. I feel ambiguous about the crystal cult in the Western world for many reasons, but nonetheless have found that placing a crystal wand of rose quartz, given by a dear friend, on that spot does seem to help me, esp when coupled with visualisation and a dab of rose oil. There we are. Same applies - no need to respond.

  9. sorry - damn - I think I wrote 'ambiguity' and meant 'ambivalence'... I like to get it 'right'! :-)

  10. Dear Oriah
    Thank you for your post. It's an interesting dilemma as to whether to respond or not - wishing to say things to you and knowing that at the same time this exactly adds into your doing which you are needing to retreat from. In the end I felt the desire to write and trust that you will only read this if you have enough energy.
    You already know what is causing your heart problems, both at an intuitive level and also from the teachings you have learned in this lifetime. Take time to go within and look to your healing. Listen to your body and work with it not against it: if it is time to rest, it is time to rest. You know this already, I know.
    Sending you much love from a Medicine sister

  11. Oriah, what you have written here touches me deeply, as your words often do.
    Even after many years of having M.E., I have difficult feelings about slowing down, surrendering. I imagine that others might be critical of me -'she should be contributing more' - but really I think it is something in me that nags away about that. Yet when I am slowed, when I pause, allow myself to breathe easier, my heart is much more open and I feel gratitude for the grace and beauty in my own life, and in the world.

    I don't know where my feelings of embarrassment, shame and guilt come from...

    As 2012 comes in, I would really like to thank you for your words, which so often bring me comfort, clarity and inspiration.

    May your own best dreams come true, may your beautiful heart thrive, spiritually and physically. And here's to pausing, slowing, - even stilling, at times!

    Yours with affection and gratitude, and if I could, I would send you a bunch of early spring flowers from here in the heart of London.
    From Pat Mary in London

  12. As I read your blog today it made me think about a sense of coming full circle in the world. We have speeded up to the point of cross-over, so that we that are conscious to our choices see that the extreme pace is toxic. It is becoming a matter of survival to learn to find peace inside. I hope this awareness, sent out to others, gives permission to those who need it to slow down. Our human system wasn't meant to function at the speed of the internet. And for this we can be grateful. How sweet it is to enjoy quiet - and nothing. A gift that can only be given to self.