It’s part of the colloquial speak now. It’s a good thing, well, most of the time. Before your finger pulls the trigger on the type keys and you hit “send” on the emotionally heightened email or message, pause and take a few mindful breaths. And, then what? You may feel your bliss until your head gets dizzy from all the magic fairy dust. Well, perhaps. But, then again, in our data-driven world, once we chillax the angry finger pointer we can all be better, bigger, and brighter.
We slow down to speed back up. But, the great yogis said slow down and stay there for a while. It is in that space where we slow down that bliss comes knocking on our door and we can easily get sidetracked with the white stallion effect. No worries, I’m about to explain exactly what that is.
The white stallion effect is taking the spark of change we may have felt within and carrying forth in the world to change everyone else in it for the greater good of humanity. The “It changed me, now let me change you!” persona may look more subtle than this, but it manifests itself in all things better, bigger, and brighter for the sake of more, more, more. Quite the opposite of what the great spiritual teachers had in mind.
Certainly there’s nothing inherently wrong with being better, bigger, and brighter, but those aspirations can easily become out of balance when they are only measured by data-crunching formulas promising the next great result, which starts the cycle all over again. Slowing down is good. But, slowing down to do more, more, and more, and I think the great yogis may be on my side with this one, is not so good.
And, all this slowing down stuff doesn’t necessarily compromise the very real benefits of efficiency, in the sense of how effective we can be with our time, not inevitably for the sake of being productive only to produce more numbers that don’t really mean very much to our internal landscapes. Let’s slow down and be efficient, meaning using our time with heart discernment and using it wisely. Let’s question slowing down and producing more numbers. Some data is good, but let’s get the formula right before we go data wild.
I’m not questioning multi-tasking, I’m suggesting we eliminate it. Yet, in our post-modern life there’s a real tug-of-war going on. With such great access to information, we feel overwhelmed, and then we retract. When our soul has boosted from the chillax launch pad, we crave more information again, only to get hung up in this multi-tasking madness. Retreat may call again and somewhere in this crazy process we are still all yearning to push the wave back and keep afloat a little bit longer.
I don’t walk and text and I prefer to take phone calls while sitting down only instead of while doing something else like typing up an e-mail. When I talk to you, I prefer to look at you in the eyes and feel your story wholeheartedly instead of kind of listen while I’m doing other things. It takes people by surprise. Presence can be frightening when we aren’t used to it. But, the tug-of-war with presence and the fast forward fury is exhausting. There’s a lot of modulating going on in that context and it’s taxing on our brains. We miss a whole lot in the mix of the multi-tasking mess.
That stuff we are always seeking – the joy, the happiness, the bliss – well, it’s usually somewhere in the space of the phone call and the e-mail, but if we aren’t attuned to each activity with presence, we miss the very thing we are longing to experience. And, the cycle repeats itself.
Yet, we must be of this world to evolve with awareness in this world. In plain English, this means that we still have jobs to perform, families to care for, and other commitments to fulfill. Most of us desire to figure out ways to keep our commitments and grow with more presence.
The Dhammapada, in the chapter on The Saint & Thousands, discusses phases a spiritual aspirant must pass through to attain nirvana, the full realization of the Buddhist ideal, where one can say they have no attachments and are truly free. The initial phase the aspirant travels is the “stream-winner” (srotapanna). The stream-winner dives into the stream, not to travel with the current, but in the words of Eknath Easwaran, the translator of the Dhammapada published by Nilgiri Press, to swim “against all the normal urges of human conditioning.” This is an arduous process and in the Buddhist tradition can take many life times to pass through this phase.
While we make strides to slow down and leave lighter and brighter footprints in the world, let’s remember to not get stuck with the current of lackadaisical living, but to keep pushing upstream despite the fatigue and illusory luminous pull of staying afloat in the flow of the institionalized structure of society. It’s true that sometimes it may be necessary to set our anchor in the flow as a reminder that quality drives good data and, for the most part, the road to quality is a long arduous process, but data is only as good as the quality effort that was put into the formula.
It takes time to keep swimming upstream. It’s not a sprint and it’s not really a marathon either. It’s more like an ultra run. Pace is everything. It’s efficient. And, it’s where I hear my heart the loudest.
Om Shanti Om ~ Athea