The Beauty of Slowing Down
You know… I was never a slow person.
As a kid I bubbled with energy and teachers marked me down on report cards for not “sitting still” in class. I would shake with excitement in my seat and it wasn’t uncommon for me to be accused of having ADHD. In middle school most of the boys told me I was super hot and pretty cool but also “a total spaz.”
I talked fast. So fast people could hardly understand me and I’d exhaust myself telling a story. The speed was further enhanced by the valley girl accent that I still seem to have. I don’t know if I had ever taken a slow deep breath.
I walked fast. My highschool boyfriend nicknamed me “turbo.” I’d be ten feet ahead of him while he called out “slow down turbo!” He also told me that he loved me… but he wished I would just smoke a bowl and chill the fuck out.
I didn’t have any white on my fingernails. I bit them so low that they hurt when I tried to sleep at night or stuck my hand into a salty bag of chips. In school I went through phases of wearing these little white gloves to break the habit, even in the summer months, looking like Michael Jackson.
As an adult I always needed stimulation. A distraction. Something to eat. Something to work on. Something to buy. Someone to talk to. Something to listen to. Something to do. I had like seventeen jobs at the same time and would get confused and then embarrassed when people asked me what my “hobbies” were.
My anxiety at times felt out of control. I’d get overwhelmed with emotion and not know how to process or release it. I’d spend literally hours sitting in my car in the parking lot or on the floor of the shower sobbing crying. I’d argue with the voice in my mind, tell it to shut up, to leave me alone, then freak out that if it did stop, I would no longer be alive. Cause I was that voice in my mind… right?
The only time I ever felt relaxed was during a rare Seattle Indian Summer when I spent hours laying in the sunshine by the lake. Or brief moments when I felt intimacy and connection spooning with someone I loved. The fleeting but so sweet tastes of life when I slowed down enough to actually see its beauty.
But… most of the time I really wasn’t happy. I was bored and busy at the same time. How good I was at multi-tasking seemed to be how good I thought I was at life. And at my ever increasing speed, I was constantly motivated by the reward system around me. The taste of food. The validation of male attention. The praise over my accomplishments. The excitement of buying more and more things. This dictated my happiness entirely.
Then Costa Rica happened.
Legitimately I went there because I wanted to learn how to relax. I mean, I didn’t actually know WTF that meant, I just knew that every person I was ever close to was constantly asking me to do it. I actually had this book called “Learn to Relax” filled with mindfulness meditations but it sat on my shelf in the blue color coded section and never really made it to my bedside table.
Going to Costa Rica to relax was kind of a joke. People would ask me why I was going. Was it to study? Travel around? To DO something? “Nope,” I’d reply “I’m gonna go learn to relax.” I say it was a joke cause again… I had no idea what “relax” even meant.
So, I used some reference points. Ok, relaxation must look like a travel agency brochure. Ya know, where the people are laying on beach recliners holding cocktails decorated with colorful umbrellas and the water is like a swimming pool and there’s no skyscraper hotels or poor people selling them souvenirs. Like… an absolute escape from reality. And Costa Rica was a tropical vacation place so… ya… it must be a place to relax.
I now know that relaxation is exactly like that and nothing like that at all.
Relaxation can liberate us from reality… but that only happens when we completely surrender to reality. No matter what our reality may look feel or taste like.
Which is why my experience in Costa Rica was not like those brochures. I was living in the middle of the jungle about fourteen miles outside of town with no transportation. No internet. No bars. No shopping. Plain bland food. No beach loungers with umbrellas. All I had was the speed of nature. A whole lot slower than mine.
At first I resisted the shit out of it. But eventually my nervous system regulated. I slowed down. I synced up with the vibration of nature. That’s when I started to heal. I started to feel happy. I started to love life. I started to love myself.
Recently I had this thought while laying in stillness meditation…
Relaxation is the precursor to love.
Back then I didn’t know that consciously, but I do believe that part of me knew that relaxing, slowing down, was the only way I was going to get my life on track. It was the absolutely undeniably necessary step in consciously choosing how was I going to show up in the world. It was the gateway I needed to open, to learn how to love.
How do I see this so clearly now?
I can only say that on my personal journey, seasick sailing across the ocean for days, stuck at border control in developing countries, nauseous on way too many bathroom floors, heartbroken beyond the point of wanting to live, giving up every ounce of security with the hope that I could create a life as beautiful as I know we all deserve, opening beyond my every layer of resistance for the sake of personal growth, and facing everything that has asked me to slow down along the way, I have learned that to relax is to simply trust life.
Fortunately for me, when I fail to trust life, and I start to speed up, life has a way of surrounding me with obstacles until I slow down.
Lately I needed this reminder, because I don’t live the way I lived on that first trip to Costa Rica anymore.
I’m closer to town. There’s more development now. I have a lot more money. I spend a lot more money. I have a lot of friends to visit. I have an online business that I could work on 46 hours a day if I wanted to. I bring a huge suitcase full of supplements and raw nuts and quinoa and new clothes I know are going to get ruined, instead of the one little backpack I used to live out of.
And all of that is beautiful.
Nothing wrong with any of it.
As long as I keep remembering, what’s essential.
Which I think is the reason why recently I had everything I thought I needed taken from me. I plan to write the whole story in a lot more detail when the time feels right… but for now I will simply share, that being confined to my house for two weeks with an infected second degree burn covering my entire right hip and thigh, having my brand new Macbook Pro, professional camera and lenses, all of my cash, all of my credit cards, and every single pair of underwear, stolen, locking my replacement laptop in my safe with no way to get back in, my entire website crashing and not being able to recover it for days, and tragically losing two very young people who I loved, has been the most awakening, transformational opportunity to trust life and remember how to love.
Everything in life lately has told me… slow down. Take a break from work. Exercise less. Meditate. Go within. Get clear. Clear your body. Clear your mind. Clear space to make more room for your heart.
Which as a Westerner born to highly educated parents, one who is no stranger to the 80 hour work week and the other who manages to still do five hundred things at once, this sometimes makes me feel unbelievably guilty.
Recently, after spending half the day just resting, journaling, and meditating, I found myself crying. So overcome with guilt. I asked myself… “Why? Why me?” So much shame over the privilege I have to even be logistically able to do nothing. “Why do I deserve this?” I asked. Then, a little voice said to me, “Everyone deserves this Camille. So why not start with you?”
While it has been a slow blossoming and unveiling over years of deep self inquiry in yoga, dance, meditation, reiki, astrology, psychic channeling, tantra, breathwork, women’s circles, ceremonies, you name the healing modality, and years of traveling, exploring, learning, unlearning, meeting, parting, for the first time in my life, slowed down to an absolute halt, not working or learning or exploring… for the first time in six years just BEING again in my jungle home of Costa Rica…
I can honestly say that while I don’t always understand it
I trust life.
Because frankly, I finally realize that I have no other choice.
And since I don’t have to fight against life anymore, or make anything happen that’s not already divinely planned, I can just love myself. I can just love.
No world to explore, just my own body to cherish.
No camera to take photos, just my eyes to take it in.
No blogging to be done or book to be written, just scribbling down the wisdom from my heart.
No online community to build for success, just my local community to support in a time of death.
This year, this lifetime, there has been so much that I want to do. But I know that it’s only worth doing it, if I can do it with my whole heart. If I can do it with love. And that is the beauty of slowing down.
May we all have that privilege. That permission. That space.
Nature photos are by me, photos of me are by Devon Gabhart