Imagine you're looking for something in a large pond. As you stand on the edge of the water, you can see clearly to the bottom as the water is still.

At the first sight of a glimmer you could dive in to grab what you're looking for, but if you're wrong, you will have to return to the edge of the water and wait for the mud and water to settle. Or you'll have to feel around blindly.

We can consider this metaphor whenever we sense that something is "off" for us. This may be a subtle agitation, a tension in our neck, or a stream of harsh judgements. Typically the impulse here is to DO something about it, to dive in and fix what we think needs to be fixed. Or distract ourselves from it with some mindless activity.

It's important to be able to create a space where we can rest in the middle of things. To allow the mud to settle and the water to become still. From this place, we can look around and sense what our situation is needing in this moment.

Freedom exists in the space between stimulus and response. Or as Viktor Frankl famously put it, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

At first this non-doing can seem like a problem, "Something needs to be done!", we feel instinctively. However, if we act from a calm and clear internal state, we are much more likely to act skillfully and in ways that don't produce unintended consequences.

In the external world we often don’t have the luxury of waiting for the water to settle before we must act. We learn to move confidently amidst the turbulence and fog.

Thankfully, we have much more ability to influence our internal world, and are quite capable of creating a place of calm and clarity regardless of what is happening around us.

By slowing down enough to get clear, we can act with much greater precision and internal alignment, and also avoid pitfalls and resistance around us. We learn to swim with the currents, to move in ways that require the least energy and get us where we want to go most efficiently.

This is why we can progress more quickly by slowing down. [1]


Notes
[1] Like all great truths, the opposite is also true. Sometimes we just need to act, and sitting back trying to get clear will lead to us becoming stuck. This is what discernment is about...knowing which direction to go in. In this piece I'm emphasizing the importance of slowing down because most of us tend to err in the direction of reactive, ill-considered action.