Slowing Down In a Chaotic World: 11 Shots of Soul Rest

Originally published Monday, 10 February 2014.

{Even in the midst of Silicon Valley city lights, the beauty of a melting sunset cannot be eclipsed.}

I live in Silicon Valley. 

I can bike to the headquarters of Google and LinkedIn in fifteen minutes, drive to Apple, HP and Evernote in twenty.  Easy.

One of my first college internships was at IBM and I worked at Sun Microsystems for eight years.

There is nothing but pure energy for entrepreneurs.  Everyone here is incubating an innovation -- some awesome new idea -- and there are startups springing up out of the ground like kids going nuts with sidewalk chalk art on a hot summer day.

I love the diversity and there's an easy, open respect everyone has for all kinds of cultures and backgrounds.  It's literally like a global marketplace here.  There is someone here from every country from around the world.  No one is ordinary.  And there is no set mold for "normal".

I can't imagine living anywhere else. I love it here.  I feel I belong.

But, there are side-effects to all this innovation.


Overloaded with stress.  Busyness.  Loneliness.

Over-scheduled lives.  Trying to do all, be all.

We're relationship starved.

I don't think anyone talks about it much.  Because everyone is very good at figuring things out.  We are self-reliant, resourceful and everyone is always networking.  With all the innovation of technology and digital power, everyone is super at multi-tasking, getting things done at work and simplifying for the purpose of productivity.

Even things like fitness, parenting, ministry and family life easily becomes a treadmill of checking the boxes to show you've living the "good life".

I don't think this pressure of innovation -- the pressure to produce and be someone of importance -- is limited to high-tech Silicon Valley.

I guess the simple way to put is -- wherever we value performance and our self-worth is attached to what we can accomplish, who we know and who knows us -- well, our world becomes chaotic.

Underneath It All

It definitely doesn't look that way on the outside.

Everyone is always working on improving themselves and there's always some new goal to achieve.  And things are definitely happening.  Places to go and people to see.

But underneath it all, there is something we can never gain by what we accomplish.

Relationships. Real, soul-filling, deep connection.

Friendships where we can really be known.

So much innovation, yet we feel so disconnected.

With our bodies. Our emotions. Our desires.  Our time.

Working long hours.  Struggling with private thoughts, doubts and fears.

People are lonely. Stressed. Burned out. Just plain old exhausted. Tired.

So much speed but how do we slow down?

Something Beautiful: Counterculture

My season through panic attacks and anxiety has forced me to slow down.

It's been painful not being able to do and be all I used to do and be. I haven't been able to connect in circles I used to be a part of.  I can't multi-task like I used to.

Since I need to single-task, I've begun a soul-searching process to choose only the things that feed my soul.

But, something beautiful has emerged out of my slower and quieter life. My recovery from anxiety does not allow me to say "yes" to people please or avoid conflict. I've had to learn to say no. Not just think it, but to really do it.

I've had to nurture my soul first. And that is very countercultural.

It's countercultural because you don't have much to visibly show for results.

The results are not quantifiable and they don't gain you popularity. But, the results are real.

The effects of choosing to nurture the soul are beautiful. Because they create an inner quality. That is life-giving. And soul satisfying.

A New Palette

Even though there has been a lot of pain and brokenness involved in switching to a soul-centered lifestyle, my husband and my children have really flourished and thrived in this season of chaos. My friend Tsh Oxenreider, author of Notes From a Blue Bike, says something I resonate with: "living with intention requires a blueprint."

But my blueprint for slowing down isn't a set of rules.  And there is no goal to achieve this blueprint. My blueprint is a blueprint for values I want to shape my life around.

Like the way an artist uses colors and texture to guide her art, I'm using a new palette of colors and they are all yeses for my soul.

Yes to a new lifestyle -- yes to new set of choices and values -- that align with the deepest core of who I am. I've learned that slowing down isn't just about saying no.

I've created a mental menu I've named Shots of {Soul Rest}.

Just like coffee caffeinated, Shots of {Soul Rest} brings the beautiful fragrance of a life brewed with slow.

11 Shots of {Soul Rest}:  Slowing Down By Saying Yes

Slowing down is learning to say "yes" to new priorities:

1. Yes to nurturing my soul first. Enjoying spiritual whitespace.

2. Yes to relationship over productivity. Simplifying to invest in relationships.

3. Yes to doing one thing at a time so I can be fully present. Even if it means failing to meet people's expectations or cause others to think I'm failing at what I'm giving up doing.

4. Yes to regular coffee and dinner dates with friends.

5. Yes to meandering walks outside in nature over checking something done off my list.

6. Yes to simple hikes and park time on the weekends and playing tourist with hubby and the kids, even if it means foregoing other activities that seem cooler to "report" back to the echo chamber of social popularity.

7. Yes to authenticity. Giving myself permission to be the real me.

8. Yes to sipping tea.

9. Yes to date nights.

10. Yes to wasting time, being happy over being functional.

11. Yes to beauty.  Fresh flowers every week or two.

Whenever I find myself stressed, anxious and feeling lonely among the chaos of life in our digitized, fast-paced world of wonderful technology and innovation -- which I enjoy being a part of -- I know I need a shot of soul rest.

I need slowing down.

I need some countercultural soul rest.  


How about you?

How do you slow down in your world?

Pull up a chair. Share a comment.


Written by Bonnie Gray, the Faith Barista, author of upcoming book release Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest. (Revell Books. Release date: June 3, 2014.)   

Finding Spiritual Whitespace guides readers on a journey to create space in their hearts and schedules to slow down, feed their souls, draw closer to God and enjoy soul rest.  Through heart-breaking honesty and practical insight, Bonnie chronicles her personal search through overwhelming anxiety and stress to find beauty in brokenness, discovering a more restful life, right in the midst of the stress-frayed stories in every season of life. 

Today's post was inspired by Tsh Oxenreider's new book Notes From a Blue Bike, her journey to living intentionally in a chaotic world.

Bonnie Gray is the soulful writer behind serving up shots of faith in everyday life and author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest. She is a regular contributor at DaySpring (in)courage and her writing has been spotighted by Christianity Today and nationally syndicated through McClatchy-Tribune News Services. After graduating from UCLA, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons, writing to keep faith hot and fresh in the daily grind.

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