“I’m alright with a slow burn
Taking my time, let the world turn
I’m gonna do it my way, it’ll be alright”
— Kacey Musgraves “Slow Burn”
At our first two 2018 Intentional Life Planning workshops, a theme emerged: People crave quiet. They need white space. They need time to play and to just be. They want less in their lives.
“I don’t want to feel like I have to check off something and have to be busy,” said one participant. “I don’t want to fall into the ‘have-to’ trap. I sometimes want the opposite of driving purpose.”
Another person expressed fear that, “Once the destination is reached, will there be a lack of contentment?”
An attendee in Walla Walla talked about being helicoptered into a remote area near Banff National Park to camp, fish and be alone. This person’s life goal was all about time, quiet and introspection.
We’ve always had time for white space in human history—in our caves, tepees, candle-lit sod houses and pre-electrified lives. Today we’re finding it harder and harder to find this space in our 24-7, urban, screen-based lives.
The need for quiet and just being is essential in our human lives. In the world of visual arts, white space is an incredibly important design element. As “Hurry Slowly” podcaster and author Jocelyn K. Glei writes, “In design, ‘white space’ is negative space. It’s not blank space because it has a purpose. It is balancing the rest of the design by throwing what is on the page (or the screen) into relief. The white space helps focus your visual attention.”
The second annual Modern Wealth Index from Charles Schwab, released in May 2018, asked respondents what made them feel ”wealthy” in their daily lives, finding that 62 percent said “spending time with family” and 55 percent said “taking time for myself.”
Building in time for oneself might be a lifestyle wish—something you start building into a daily practice. Maybe once a week or month you head out on a hike. Or you start a meditation practice. Or it could be that every Sunday you sit outside and just listen for 10 minutes. Go look at art. Lie outside and watch the clouds. Grab a sea kayak and head to the river. Read a book for an hour. Sit in the bathtub with wonderful salts or oils.
Sometimes the goal to “just be” is a larger life goal. We met a wonderful couple in Dufur who had sold everything and bought a Sprinter van. They were headed across Canada and the U.S. for a year, partially to ”just be.”
In her 2018 album “Golden Hour,” Kacey Musgraves sings she’s “alright with a slow burn, taking my time, let the world turn.” Musgraves told Billboard, “It was inspired by an acid trip … it centers around the idea of taking your time with something, whether it is a drink or a conversation with a friend.”
Acid trips aside, we do need to slow down and take a look at our lives from time to time—setting aside all our busy-ness and to-do lists—and ask ourselves: How much slow burn time have I given myself?
Our Intentional Life Planning process isn’t meant to add more to-dos to your list. It is meant to have you consider how you want your life to be. What are the big life goals you want to accomplish during the limited time we have on this planet?
As I look ahead this year, my goal is to be outside more and to listen and watch. I want to continue to use the meditation practice my friend Ruth Luban suggested, meditating while focusing on each of my five senses. I’m looking for ways to be less digital and more analog—not looking at my smartphone on the Sabbath, and listening to LPs rather than MP3s.
I’m paying attention to synchronicities and life lessons that have resonated with me in my life. There’s the story about my friend Anne who quit her high-pressure job to move to a small town on the Oregon Coast to become a teller. One day she was asked to become the branch manager, to which she retorted, ”No thanks. I just want to count the money and go home.” Or there’s my friend Og who would walk three miles into town to visit with friends over coffee, picking up trash along the roadside. Or there’s the interaction I had with two Hawaiian children parked in their car who just struck up a conversation with me. “Hey mister …” it began. These stories inspire me and lead me to intentionally build in time to just be … or perhaps to build in some time alone like our workshop attendee did in British Columbia. (This idea slightly terrifies me—which means it’s something to pay attention to!)
Or maybe I’ll try what Dave Hayfer did: winter caretaking for several months alone at the Minam River Lodge in Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness area. Dave recounts, “At first the silence was overwhelming. Then I started hearing what I’d been missing. There really is no such thing as silence. My hearing, my sense of smell and connection to my surroundings have all sharpened. I did a lot of reading and wrote some poetry. I also drew and airbrushed a few art pieces. For exercise, I did push-ups, crunches, pull-ups, and stretches.”
Sounds like slow burn heaven!