I recently had the opportunity to slow down and spend 5 days in the forest in Oregon at the Spirit Weavers Gathering. This was my third time attending and this year I made a reel so you can get a sense of what my experience looked like.
It takes a little bit of time to settle into the experience. This is a gathering that promotes ancestral arts, reconnecting to oneself, the earth, each other, and more intuitive ways of being. Most everyone camps on the 100-acre forested property situated along a river. The weather is moody, alternating from hot, hot days perfect for naked dips in the river to cold, cold bone chilling rain and dampness. It’s Oregon after all.
I like to attend these gatherings because there is so much freedom in the experience. It doesn’t matter what you look like, what you wear (or don’t), what you do for living, where you are from, or any of the labels we might wear in our lives – businesswoman, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend. You are there to do what interests you, to be with your friends or meet new ones, and to be part of this community for a short while.
The first year I marveled at being at such a large gathering and feeling so safe, realizing that I had never been in the company of so many humans and had them all identify as women. Now I take that for granted because I’m used to it and I can see other things.
What I came away with from this year’s gathering was a loud and clear message to SLOW DOWN.
Slowness to me means I’m not rushing from one thing to the next. Whether that means at work or at home. That I check in with myself often. That I check in with others. That I make sure I’m present when I’m with you. Slowing down means I take less on and that is tough because I really want to do all the things. I focus on doing what I’m committed to really well. It means I make time for creativity. That I look for genuine connection rather than othering or assuming that we are so different that we can’t find common ground. That I foster community while respecting my need for alone time. And that I release the go it alone mentality and I look for opportunities to collaborate and ask for help. It sounds like small stuff, and it’s not new or stuff I haven’t thought of before, but I feel it more in my body than I ever have. Like a sigh of relief or the putting down of something heavy that I don’t want to pick back up again.
Going fast is deeply embedded in our culture and systems. Marissa and I have talked a lot about words like productive, efficient, effective and how they connote machines. It wasn’t until I sat in on a class on embodied racial healing where we talked about dehumanization that I understood. Productivity is important for our current system. The more productive we are, the more we can contribute, the more value we bring to ourselves and to the system.
However, this way of being is not resulting in what we thought it would. The future doesn’t look as bright as it did when we were kids. Our children are coming of age when distrust of financial institutions, government, and technology is at an all time high. People are deeply entrenched in othering and fearful of each other’s ideologies and actions. Our environment is changing and we can see and experience that change regardless of where we live. We have more convenience and yet more disconnection. It’s telling that our children, left to their own devices literally, would prefer to be on screens than actually playing with other kids. And that while we complain about how much everything costs, most of us see the Amazon delivery person more than our own neighbors.
With this as a backdrop, and grief piled on collective grief, I went to this gathering with a tough survivor shell over a tender heart. I knew that going there meant letting down my guard. Putting away my work, my devices, my pretenses and going all in for whatever I was to learn. Slowing down was part of being there. Speeding back up is part of real life…except now my body won’t cooperate.
We are told if we go slow we will miss out, we will not be as productive and therefore not as valuable. And maybe that is true, but it is also true that this way of living disconnects us from ourselves and from each other. And so as I return I want to remind you (and me), that it is okay to slow down. It’s then that we have access to the internal compass that helps us decide what’s important and what a meaningful life looks like. That being connected to ourselves and others will always have infinite value.