1.11.24 New Moon
My first impulse going into this year was, How can I do more?
How could this not be my question, I thought, in a time of genocide, climate devastation, and strengthening facism?
But, taking a breath, I became aware of how that first impulse felt in my body: I felt the gnarl in my stomach and the constriction in my shoulders. I noticed that I was holding my breath. Words that go with these sensations include anxiety, fear, shame.
Thanks to my body, I remembered – from experience – that my moving from anxiety, fear, and shame would be exhausting, unpleasant, and probably harmful to me and anyone I interacted with. (“Unproductive” would be a familiar word to use here.) Ultimately, my moving from anxiety, fear, and shame would only generate more anxiety, fear, and shame, and do the world no lasting good.
I remembered a lesson I learned from Zen teacher and strategist Norma Wong years ago, that I re-learn each year, which is to start not by doing, but by attending to the quality of my presence.
That first time I heard “quality of my presence” I felt overwhelmed. What the heck does that mean? I thought. I’ve got skills to do things. But now I have to work on the quality of my presence?
I laugh now, seeing how I could only hear Norma’s words as a mandate to “do more.” Thankfully, through practice and community, I grew to understand what was being offered, and what was at stake. At this point in our world’s chaos, how could doing more of the same be the cure?
Last week, as I willed myself away from doing more, I wrote out my new year’s intention: to practice slowerness. Not just in my “work”, but in my daily moments. That first week of 2024 I’d be washing dishes or pushing the grocery cart or just walking across the room, then whisper to myself, “Slow down.” And, in seconds, I could feel a nourishing energy come alive in my stomach and shoulders and heart. Often a smile would emerge on my face as I felt the quality of my presence become more buoyant, more open, more energized.
As I was practicing my slowerness, a message came right on time from artist and cultural organizer Favianna Rodriguez, who posted her beautiful new art on social media. What Faviana shared was a poster that says, “Slow down to create something different.”
Favianna’s message was a strong affirmation of my slowerness intention and practice. And, her addition of “create something different” underscored how crucial slowing down is right now. Slowing down is about creating space for awareness, connection, creativity. It’s about re-centering the practices and worldview of abundance and relationship held by present day Indigenous cultures and by Indigenous ancestors to which all of us have lineage. It’s about undoing what has brought our world into so much pain.
As Black feminist Alexis Pauline Gumbs writes in Undrowned,
Where do you think you are going so fast? [Marine mammals] offer slowing down as a strategic intervention in a world on speed, and an appropriate response to the exact urgencies that made us feel we cannot slow down. It is the speed, the speed boats, the momentum of capitalism, the expediency of pollution that threatens the ocean, our marine mammal mentors, and our own lives. What if we could release ourselves from an internalized time clock and remember that slow is efficient, slow is effective, slow is beautiful?
2024 is going to be hard. Probably harder than we even know.
Let’s honor and transform the world’s pain with the quality of our presence.
Let’s be effective.
Let’s create something different.
Let’s slow down.
Purchase Favianna’s “SLOW DOWN to create something differing” poster