So, admittedly, I am a nerd. Anyone who has seen my desk knows I am a technology whore. I love new innovative systems from Prezi to my Business Manager app to 99 Designs, blue tooth speakers, you name it.
All of these systems and programs allow us to create and communicate our work faster, more efficient, with flashy presentations and flare. The last thirty years has seen technology advance at an accelerated rate unprecedented by any other time in history.
I am a product of what I call the ‘Miami Vice’ generation where we were taught that bigger, brighter, faster was better. And, like many, fell into that trap on a variety of levels both personally and professionally.
Then life happened…as it does, slamming me into a concrete wall of reality. And bigger, brighter, faster suddenly became heavier, vital, exhausting.
Unconsciously being forced to stop, to decelerate in my life and immerse myself in the world which I live and love, left me scared, anxious and full of foreboding.
I was forced to slow down, to breathe and immerse myself within.
I woke up today to a shared article The Power of Patience “teaching students the value of deceleration and immersive attention' by Jennifer L Roberts, an art history professor. I won't get into the entire article, you can read the full article on Harvard Magazine.
What struck me was that while we are developing new technologies and systems to increase the speed in which we work and play and communicate it creates a strong resistance to slowing down, to being purposefully contemplative. We are being propelled to act, think, answer, react, share, engage, buy, sell, build NOW.
Professor Roberts instructs her students to sit for three hours and look at a piece of art they have chosen to write a comprehensive report on. The time is purposefully excessive as is the forced environment for which they must sit and contemplate; a museum, an art gallery.
A year ago even thinking about sitting in front of a piece of art or sculpture for any length of time would have made me twitch!
However, a year and a half later, I relish the opportunity to sit and slowly experience the people and things around me. I had the opportunity this year to work on an organic farm. And while it was hard work, physically demanding ten hour days working in the hot sun or freezing rain, it forces one to decelerate even if you have production demands.
Farming, by its very nature, is a process…takes time. And despite our advances in growing, in accelerating the process, to seed, propigate, grow and harvest real organic food, you have to work with nature. Nature is remarkably decelerated and pays attention to detail.
I would start my morning as the sun popped up on the horizon standing in rows of kale; curly green or dark purple beside the colourful chard. My job was to harvest anywhere between 75 to 100 bunches. It would take a few hours. And in those few hours of methodically cutting leaves and securing them in bunches I could feel my body and mind slow down, and breathe. I would feel the wet dew on my finger tips, hear the birds rustling in the rows next to me, feel the heat of the sun pierce the morning cool and begin to hit my skin.
I would look over and a few acres away would be a co-worker on their knees picking salad greens, another methodically harvesting parsley, all contemplative in their own world, immersed in their own thoughts.
As time went on, I would know which rows I harvested, which plants had the best quality and yield. I began to notice how the kale grew in contrast to the sun or rain, or how the caterpillars would only digest the largest, oldest leaves. Even the chard began to have details I never noticed and I began to harvest in a way that nurtured re growth.
Professor Roberts concludes that “patience itself is a skill” and that we must start teaching "the deliberate engagement of delay" or for many of us, learning it ourselves. She states that the…"very fabric of human understanding was woven to some extent out of delay, belatedness, waiting".
And this is my favorite part of the article:
"Where patience once indicated a lack of control, now it is a form of control over the tempo of contemporary life that otherwise controls us. Patience no longer connotes disempowerment—perhaps now patience is power."
As we continue to utilize technologies, systems and processes in the new millenium, we need to incorporate the practice of deceleration, or this ‘immersive attention’. It could be as Professor Roberts instructs, sitting for three hours in front of a piece of art. Or it could be sitting on a grassy hill somewhere in your neighbourhood watching the leaves fall, maybe listening to the waves hit the shore, taking up a meditative practice, yoga.
One thing I have learned, and am continuing to learn, and I applaud Professor Roberts for stepping out of the norm and pushing this realization to the forefront of learning, is we do need to stop…and not simply smell the roses, but look at the soft flesh of it’s pedals, how the arch of its stem follows the sun, how the stigmas draw in the morning dew and the filament can hold a bumblebee.
What will you do today…to pause and take in the wonder and beauty around you?