The life-saving practice of stepping away

Image: Joshua Earle

Learning when to hit the stop button

“Going nowhere … isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply.”—Pico Iyer

Today I want to write about the life-saving practice of stepping away. This practice may manifest itself through the spiritual practices of rest, silence, stillness, meditation, or reflection, but these all start with a simple — though often far from easy — decision to step away from something.

Many of us never get to the point of spiritual practices simply because we don’t know how to step back. We don’t know how to stop. We don’t know how to pull away from a situation we find ourselves in.

It might be as simple as a heated conversation on social media, or it could be something as significant as choosing a new career direction. Whether the situation is small or large, we all need to develop this practice of withdrawal.

The here and now quickly becomes all consuming. We get so caught up with what we’re in the middle of that we can no longer see outside of it. The urgent trumps the truly important.

Do we need to reply to that Tweet right now or would we be better to step away and come back to it later?

Does that article that make us so angry require us to rant on Facebook immediately, or would some calm reflection allow for a healthier perspective?

Does that decision that seems so urgent have to actually be made in this moment, or would sleeping on it be the wiser choice?

Do we need to impulse buy that new car/computer/television/etc, or would taking a few days to weigh up whether it’s a wise purchase be advisable?

There are so many circumstances where stepping away will save us from untold numbers of poor choices.

Stepping away allows us the breathing room to find a fresh perspective, to see with new eyes. Stepping away gives us the time to let things settle down before making a hasty decision we later regret.

We need to learn to hit the stop button in life. Nothing will save us from poor choices as much as learning to step away before making significant choices.

Imagine how the tone of politcal debate might be transformed if we all practiced this stepping away. Imagine how our life choices might be transformed if we stopped being consumed by the moment and learnt to hit the stop button more.

I think we should at least give it a shot!

An inspiring friend

What was she thinking?!