Slowing Down & Letting Go

23 Aug
WRITEOUS CHICKS Newsletter – Summer 2008

“Sometimes I think there are only two instructions we need to follow to develop and deepen our spiritual life:  slow down and let go.”

   – Oriah, “The Dance:  Moving to the Deep Rhythms of Your Life”


Last week I went on vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, and I always learn something when I am away from my daily routine.  This time I learned that, Type A workaholic that I am, I really, REALLY, like doing…nothing.  This is what my days there looked like:  I’d wake up at around 8am, have breakfast on the porch of the B&B overlooking the water, walk into town to my favorite bakery where I’d sip an ice coffee and write in my journal, and then spend the rest of the day doing whatever I felt like at any given moment in a totally unplanned way – take a leisurely stroll, get an ice cream, lie out on the beach, check out the shops, read, eat, sleep.  This is what I did not do:  turn on a computer, check email, write items down on a To Do list and check them off, have racing thoughts, accomplish things.


The pace of New York City is way too fast for me (or maybe it’s just the pace of life today in general, but I feel like how fast people move in NYC exacerbates this).  I am always running to keep up and I often wake up in the morning already feeling behind.  But it’s exhausting and doesn’t leave me feeling any happier.  I loved not having to be any place or do anything by a certain time, and my happiest moments frequently appear on agenda-less days when I am lost in a book or taking a stroll to nowhere in particular.


It took me a little while to transition from harried workaholic New Yorker to relaxed vacationer, though.  My sister and I had a long bus ride from New York City to Cape Cod to catch a ferry to the Vineyard, and I started the day feeling rushed to get to Port Authority Bus Terminal in the morning, haunted by memories of my travels last year, when I missed the bus, and the next bus got to the dock after the last ferry to the town I was staying in had already departed, so I had to take a ferry to another town, and got in late at night thereby “losing” the day.  This year, I did not want to miss that bus and wanted to maximize Vacation Day #1.  We made our bus, but then there was an unexpected layover in Cape Cod and the bus we had to transfer to to take us to the ferry was late, so we stood in a parking lot waiting for an hour and a half and missed our intended ferry.  We arrived in Martha’s Vineyard after dark, tired and hungry, and I was annoyed that once again I missed the daylight hours of my first vacation day.


The next morning I woke up to rain, which irritated me because I had not been to the beach this summer yet and this trip was my only chance to maximize my tan.  So far this vacation was disappointing and not going according to my plan!  I only had very limited time to relax and I was determined to make the most of it, dammit!  Grumbling, I trudged off to my beloved bakery/coffee shop for my morning journaling, but since I had gotten a later start to my day than I had wanted to, the place was packed and loud and just another annoyance, rather than the peaceful sanctuary I craved.  Trying to talk myself down from my cranky ledge and focus on my writing, I heard a familiar whistling in the background, which turned out to be the intro to the Guns N’ Roses song “Patience” on the radio.  Snapped out of my irritation by Axl Rose, I made a note in my notebook to remind myself to let go and have patience, and stop trying to impose my will on my vacation and use my drive to accomplish the goal of relaxation.  I went for a walk in town, bought a new book, and by the time I finished lunch, the sun was out, and I slathered on the SPF 30 and plunked myself down on the beach for some prime sunning.


The message of letting go was further reinforced when I was sitting on the porch of the B&B talking to a couple from Virginia about white water rafting.  The husband explained that if you fell in the water you could get caught in a current that was like a washing machine, and it would just take you around and around and around.  The more you fought it, the more you would get pulled into it, and eventually drown.  One of the only ways to escape was to make your body totally limp, and then the current would spit you out to safety.


Letting go is one of the hardest lessons to learn and I come up against the obstacle of pushing too hard and struggling too much to make things happen all the time.  I see that living this way doesn’t work, let go for a little while, and then get antsy and agitated and sucked into the washing machine whirl of old patterns once again.  It is something I may have to practice 1,000,000 times before it becomes second nature, if it ever becomes second nature, but I think all that practice ingrains an awareness that enables me to catch myself earlier, and let go a little bit sooner each time.


The last day of my vacation my alarm went off at 5:40am so I could catch the 7am ferry, in order to get back home on time for a commitment I had that night.  Normally, the least favorite part of my day is when my alarm goes off and the rush-hour commute that follows shortly thereafter, but once I was at the dock, I saw that the Black Dog Bakery was right there, and treated myself to my morning coffee and bagel.  Sitting on the boat at 7am sipping my coffee, my vacation-self was in full effect and the Type A workaholic was nowhere to be found – I felt relaxed, peaceful, energized, and fully present as I watched the shore drift quietly away. 


I remained relaxed on the bus ride, until I felt some agitation surface when the bus pulled into New York City and got stuck in traffic.  When I emerged at Port Authority, the masses of people racing every which way assaulted my sense of calm, and after asking for directions to the ladies room multiple times from multiple people and walking around and around and around in what seemed like an endless loop still unable to find it, I felt all the remaining calm of my vacation-self get flushed down the toilet, and thought, “I just have to get out of here right now!” and headed home, hoping that my bladder would hold out for the subway ride back to Brooklyn.


The next few days I let myself ease back into life post-vacation by not doing anything that would be too jarring to my delicate, relaxed equilibrium, taking naps, and postponing tackling my To Do list until after the weekend.  As simple as it sounds, there is so much to be found in just slowing down and letting go, and I want to incorporate my lessons from vacation into my daily life.  But how do you slow down when the rest of the world is moving so fast?  How do you stay immune to people pushing and shoving in rush hour commute?  How do you let go of your agenda enough to be someone with nothing to do and nowhere to go, even if just for one afternoon?  And I mean, obviously, you do not get a paycheck for sleeping in, lounging around, and then taking a nap, but I am determined to maintain some sense of relaxation while I tend to my responsibilities and obligations and not let all my vacation-bliss go down the drain.


I don’t want to get absorbed in the rush to get somewhere else, to be someone else, to ever-strive to do more, more, more.  I don’t want to over-schedule my days and miss out on doing nothing.  I want to carve out time and space, whether I am on a quiet beach in Martha’s Vineyard or amidst the busyness of New York City, for slowing down, and letting go.  And if that means that other commuters are going to bump into me as I leisurely stroll on the subway platform in the morning on my way to work, so be it.  ‘Cause I’m taking my own sweet time.


Here’s to enjoying the rest of the summer at a slow, decadent pace, and welcoming the unfolding of new beginnings in the gorgeous fall! 


Stay tuned for updates on fall workshops!


Lots of love!


Jen xoxo


Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Garam

One Response to “Slowing Down & Letting Go”

  1. angela August 30, 2008 at 1:13 pm #

    As usual your article is great, it deals with daily life. As I read this article in particular it made me realize how everyone is always in a rush trying to get things done, going from one place to another. We as a society work too hard and don’t take time to enjoy life, our family and friends. How do we make this change as a society?

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