Early this year, I read a powerful article by Rebekah Toh on the courage to stop, and stop properly. Here’s what she wrote:
…it’s good to stop. Not just taking in less, but taking in none. Even one day of stopping works wonders for the soul. Three days are better. A week even better.
…When we stop consuming so much new information and new content, we have time to look through our backlog of things we really want to look at. Books that are collecting dust on our bookshelf, an essay that we want to read again, an album that deserves our full listening attention, and so on. We stop consuming new stuff so we can have the capacity to digest the old stuff.
It’s endlessly tempting to always be drawn to the next new thing. Instead of giving ourselves time to process and embed learned lessons from the last book we read, we plough straight onto the next book. The same goes for the articles we read and the podcasts we listen to. It leads us into a state of alway learning but never growing.
I’m am very guilty of this. I set myself arbitrary reading goals that shift my attention onto quantity rather than quality and impact. Is it better that I read fifty books quickly, or five books slowly, stopping after each, allowing myself to digest what I’m learning, and integrate steps towards living a richer, fuller life?
We don’t give our brains time nowadays to just be. We’re constantly consuming. And often it’s even more superficial than books. We fill all the gaps in our days with non-stop scrolling of social media, relentless engagement with messaging apps, and ever present following of news. It’s all consuming. And sometimes it’s not enough to slow down, or do less. We will benefit from, as Rebekah points out, days, multiple days, even whole weeks where we simply stop. We switch off. We give our hearts and minds a chance to heal, and restore, and grow.
This isn’t easy though. In a world where everyone else is permanently connected, the choice to disconnect creates an oh-so-real fear of missing out.
A few years ago, I made the decision to delete my Facebook account. After years of vowing to use it less, I decided to just stop. Permanently. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve missed it.
Thinking about stopping will face real resistance from our false self. We’ll find all manor of fears and worries surfacing. It’ll take courage, it’ll be a step into the unknown, but it will open the door to a deeper, more meaningful existence.
Be bold: don’t just slow down, stop!
Thanks for reading,