Originally Written: June 7, 2017
Published: February 9, 2021
This week I’ve been reading the chapter on contemplative prayer in Matt Woodley’s book, The Folly of Prayer, and this chapter has really hit home for me. I have been feeling stressed and unsatisfied for a while because my life is so full of busy and meaningless tasks and I’ve been feeling guilty whenever I haven’t made productive use of my time.
Yet, I’ve been pining for the way my life was as a teenager and in early adulthood. I never realized exactly what I’ve been pining for until reading this chapter on contemplation. My deepest desire over these past few years has been for moments of contemplation, which is something that has been missing from the busy schedule of my everyday life.
My fondest memories, and the moments that are most nostalgic for me, are of times of contemplation, such as lying in bed with my eyes closed while listening to a new CD for the first time; sitting with friends at a campfire while talking and laughing; walking through a park or on a path in the forest and admiring the beauty of the sun shining through the trees; reading a good book; writing a story or journaling; watching a thunderstorm; cuddling with a baby, puppy or kitty; or simply enjoying a cup of coffee or tea on the couch, etc.
I used to enjoy all of these activities before smartphones became popular and before I used a computer for more than just doing my homework. Technology has become faster, smarter and more widely used in the past ten or more years, and life has become faster and busier as a result (the irony is that I originally typed this post on a smartphone).
The act of contemplation has almost entirely been missing from my life over the past five or so years. Who has time to do any of the things I mentioned above? Yet, my life feels meaningless and incomplete without taking the time to smell the roses (pardon the cliché).
Our task-oriented culture has convinced me that all of the above activities are the equivalent of laziness and unproductivity, and that I should only engage in activities that get things done—whether it be tasks at work or chores at home. All other activities, such as having a non-business related conversation with a customer or sitting idle while talking to a friend, are now considered a waste of time.
Since when have relationships become about production and efficiency? What has happened to our culture that it places more emphasis on the end result and its profitability/efficiency than on the relationship with the person? Why are we becoming more and more impatient with everyone and everything in our lives?
The answer is simple: we are far too busy to stop and smell the roses or watch the sun set over the horizon. Our lives are filled with novel-length task lists and often our relationships with others fall down to the bottom of those lists. We become obsessed with “doing” and forget about “being.”
The times in my life when I was happiest were when I was simply enjoying the sights, smells, sounds and feelings of the world around me.
I think it’s time to reintroduce contemplation back into my life—whether it be in prayer or in simply enjoying life. And maybe, by allowing myself to take the time to smell the roses, it will repair much of the damage stress and anxiety have caused to the physical and mental well-being of my body.
This post was originally written prior to the pandemic of 2020 that literally forced the world to stop and rest.
Two years after writing this post in 2017, I finally succumbed to the harmful physical and mental effects that the “busyness” syndrome had on my body (a.k.a. burnout). I had no other choice but to stop and “smell the roses” because my body and mind could no longer handle living in a state of constant productivity.
As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available and the pandemic (hopefully) comes to a close in 2021, I hope that, by publishing this post today, it will serve as a reminder of just how harmful our former “busy busy busy” lifestyles were to our physical, mental, emotional, and relational well-being, and that we will make wiser lifestyle choices going forward.
Can you relate to this post? If yes, tell me in the comments below what changes you made to your own lifestyle to ensure your health and well-being remained a priority.
You are not alone.
You. Are. Loved.
I hope you find love, hope and peace in these words.