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Some Things Take Time: Slow Down and Stop Pushing

Silence and Stillness

“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

As life speeds up, as we check our phones and Twitter feeds for instant gratification, as we seek out another spiritual practice in the promise of evolving even faster, we have lost sight of something quite fundamental.

Some things just take time. This can apply to relationships, business, and, in my experience, it especially applies to spiritual awakening.

Yes, our practices such as meditation, dance, service, and energy work can support us on our soul journey. But rushing our development can even result in us taking one step forward and two steps back.

And, most importantly, it will likely just happen anyway—if we get out of the way and allow it.

I know this firsthand.

When I felt the call to start developing my spiritual practice, the quirks of my overachieving personality took center stage. I quickly found out that there were sankharas to pluck out, energy centers to unblock, past life traumas to heal, and old soul contracts to wrap up.

And I wanted this all sorted out ASAP, thanks.

So I went from an occasional meditation practice to spending upward of two hours on the cushion every day, and chanted several times a week.

I spent every single spare moment practicing and developing my newfound energetic skills. I declined social invitations so that I could concentrate totally on the latest text that had fallen into my hands.

I don’t regret any of this. I learned a lot and it was my path.

But after a couple of years, I realized that my approach to my practice was perhaps a bit obsessive; that it could just be another manifestation of the way that I had been living before “waking up,” as I had termed it.

I thought that if I threw all my might at my spiritual evolution, then I might master this new way of being more quickly, and more effectively. Yet under the guise of spirituality, I was just playing out my old patterns.

The result? I was increasingly ungrounded. I spent days feeling totally knocked around by major energetic “clearings.”

I was slowing myself down, or at least not really assisting the flow of what wanted to move through me. And I was just as over-the-top about succeeding as ever, this time, at my practice rather than in my career.

I eventually realized that spiritual evolution is not like a report or book that you can write faster if you stay up late. You can’t force this type of evolution. It’s not the type of thing that you can control.

This type of evolution is perfect. It's like a delicate flower, which unfolds at its own pace, to the rhythm of its own internal clock.

I came to this gradual realization, surprisingly, while pursuing a doctorate in women’s well-being and justice after violence.

This involved deconstructing everything I knew—being prepared to ask the hard questions and receive the answers; asking some big questions of myself, too, and being prepared to hear the answers.

It really involved a deepening of my understanding of myself and my spiritual practice. I started to appreciate which of my old patterns I had been inadvertently repeating, and which of my tendencies were actually not serving me.

The doctoral process also taught me how to play the long game and how to let go—working alone every day and inching along with my ideas; waiting for months, sometimes, to receive any feedback from my supervisors; spending months and months writing thousands of beautifully edited, referenced words that never made it into the final product.

Now, there are much less resource-intensive ways to learn this than through pursuing an advanced degree. Just bringing your awareness and being honest about whether you are playing out your existing patterns is the first step.

And if you notice that you have a tendency to rush your process, make the decision to slow down. Once you realize that the timing of your expansion, or growth, or awareness is perfect, you will relax.

When you fully internalize that the journey is just as important as the destination, you’ll know that you’re on the right path.

In relaxing, and in getting out of my own way, I’m much more receptive. I don't worry about how long things will take. I trust that it will all happen perfectly.

I don’t push as hard now, and yet more opportunities seem to fall into my lap. My creativity flows. My life is much more fun. And my experiential understanding and my practices continue to deepen.

It's actually quite magical.

Life becomes easier and far more fulfilling when we slow down and let things happen instead of pushing ourselves to make things happen.

Photo by Lisa Omarali

About Ezzie Spencer

Ezzie Spencer PhD muses on her blog about what lunar rhythms can teach us about life and spiritual practice. You can receive her complimentary lunar advice by clicking here. You can also find Ezzie on Facebook.

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  • parul

    Hi. I loved this article.. Well said. I truely relate to this but so hard to manage at times with people around you. Our world just wants you to keep going.. I am on a spiritual journey and feeling defeated these days as I feel I can’t control my anger at times… But I guess need to be more patient…

  • yesudas

    Very nice read Ezzie… Thanks!

  • sarthaki

    Can I please get some blogs on how to know yourself. ..It has become the toughest task for me.

  • Ezzie, really interesting. I think as we get older experience can teach us that many things have a natural time. There are limits to the speed of growth; no matter how much watering we do plants bear fruit when the seaon is right. The problem is that we live in a very mechanical world where the factory model dominates our thinking – effciency, productivity and service to the machine. A more naturalistic view of time and living I believe will help where keeping in touch with the seasons, natural light and other natural rhythms will help us know better how long things best need.

  • Lori Piper

    Great article. Hehe…it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who used the most labor and resource-intensive method around to begin to learn these lessons (advanced degree). I really did think I was the only one who took my spiritual spanking that way. Thank you, Ezzie, for sharing!

  • Heidi B.

    Thanks for the article, Ezzie, I find myself trying to rush things so often to get to some result that i’m not even sure of, it’s a good reminder that it’s ok to just ‘be’, too.

  • I am the queen of trying to rush things. I made the decision to slow down a few months ago when I started my new site which has helped me tremendously (enjoying the process, not focusing on the result)… but I will admit that I do get antsy every now and again 🙂

  • Hi Parul, thank you! Yes it’s definitely challenging to buck the trend, especially when you have commitments, dependents and/or naysayers in your life. But the more that you commit to slowing down, and making adjustments in your life to allow that to happen, you may be surprised how many choices you do have even in your situation, and what support you may find on your personal path (controlling anger is tricky – but learning to feel it, drop it, and not react to the intensity is learn-able).

    I’ve found this in my own life. Trusting my own intuition, even when those close to me doubted my choices and path, has led me to discover so many other options for work, play and support – in my own city and online – often where I least expected.

  • Thanks for commenting, Peter. There’s certainly opportunity to re-connect with the natural rhythms of our environment. My personal practice is to follow lunar rhythms – very empowering (and revealing).

  • Ah yes, the journey, Rosanna! We often think we’re ‘fixed’ when we decide to slow down, but the real beauty and practice is in the process. Definitely layers to explore.

  • Yes, totally, Sarthaki. I write about this on my personal blog – the moon represents our feelings and subconscious, so working with lunar rhythms is a way to come into a much deeper understanding of (and loving relationship with) yourself.

  • Jing Lam

    Amen @ezziespencer:disqus! We just need to be patient and surrender everything to the highest power.

  • Jing Lam

    Great attitude @rosanna_casper:disqus. It’s about enjoying the process and big result will soon overflow!

  • Jing Lam

    That’s right!

  • sarthaki

    Where can I find that Ezzie?

  • sarthaki

    I have already this blog ezzie

  • It takes courage to change your path, but it takes more courage to say the initial change was also wrong. As you said, you were stuck in the same obsession under a different term. You’re being truthful to yourself and that’s what matters the most.

    My friend has a problem with making impulsive decisions on a daily basis. He’s usually thinking like “I should quit my job” then goes home and calls his boss. I suggested him that whenever he gets the sudden idea, that he waits 24h before doing anything about it. If he still feels the same way, he should do it. He usually calms down and sees that his idea doesn’t make sense.

  • It’s important to work harder at the beginning, but success can easily be confused with excess.

  • Hey Sarthaki, I’m not her to promote my site but I really think it will be of benefit to you. I suggest reading “Worst advice you’ve ever received” on my blog and then deciding for yourself. Good luck!

  • Makayla

    This speaks to me.. I’m always rushing, stressing, feeling pushed to succeed. I know I’m doing this to myself, although I feel that there is no other way to get what you really want. I’m going to start changing my thought process, allowing myself to slow down, and enjoy the journey.

  • Kathy www.yinyangmother.com

    I try to look at things through a yin yang lens. There are times when we need to be decisive, take strong action etc and there are times when we need to slow down, be receptive and open to things happening in their own time. We can only ever find our flow by going with the universal flow rather than fighting it. Good on you for recognising your past patterns of over-achievement and allowing things more and great article. I have to say my problem feels a bit the other way at the moment – procrastination being the downside of too much reflection and slow time and the fear of action (in case I stuff up) that breeds there.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    FEAR OF ACTION is been one of my biggest demons as well; these past few years… Btw; love the analogy of Yin/Yang…I have a necklace of it that I consider to be one of my main good luck charms & recently got a bracelet of it as well…hahah!

  • Couldn’t agree more, Ezzie. The journey is probably much more important than the destination. we get to the destination but once and we are on the journey most of our lives:) so why not slow it down, take it in and enjoy it! somehow when we slow down and create space and time in our lives, the universe tends to deliver whatever else is needed.

  • The first step towards happiness is commitment. We have to commit to something + not just hope for a quickfix. For me this comes with kundalini yoga + meditation. It’s a slow process. But I show up every day. I commit. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Hi Sartaki, do you mean where can you find my personal blog? It’s at http://www.ezziespencer.com 🙂

  • Oh I know this feel, Ezzie, of pushing, and I’ve been working on that by trying the complete opposite of what I’ve always done. Sitting with the discomfort. Doing nothing sometimes. Embracing the uncertainty and just getting in a flow.

    Love this post, thanks for sharing x

  • This was a really lovely reminder that we all need to just appreciate the Now, and live as best a life we can in every moment. There’s no point in missing the now if you’re always chasing a better tomorrow.

  • Mahesh Sahu

    This is nice article. Thank you. I have also learned this thing during my doctoral work (PhD). I realize that being slow and being aware at each tiny time interval is important for getting quality product in any field of material world also. For this purpose, mindful techniques are very effective. One will be able to see the beauty of nature, sensation of body and may tiny detail of science also.

  • Beautiful post Ezzie. My word for this year was “trust”, and to surrender to the natural flow of life, without force has been one of my biggest and most beautiful lessons this year. xx

  • I definitely needed to read this today. I started my business a few months ago (well, its most recent iteration anyway) and have made a ton of growth and progress, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. Especially when people keep asking me how it’s going, and I don’t have any great figures to give them. I know i need to just slow down, but it’s time to actually do it.

  • thanks for sharing this article, it teaches me how to slow down on my carreer. i am a struggling interior designer and really aim to become successful as fast as i can just like some other people who make their way to succeed. as a result i don’t enjoy my work and my creativity didn’t flow. From this moment i will take things slow because everything has the process to go through.

  • tasha

    this is great. thanks for writing 🙂 I love the last sentence of the article. I am very impatient and want things to happen now. Sometimes I get so caught up in results and dont slow down to enjoy the process. I need help with that.