My favorite way to end a week is to pack my dog into my Jeep on Sunday evenings just before sunset and drive thirty minutes south to the bottommost tip of Los Angeles. The area is called Palos Verdes and it sits high above cliffs that yield to beach coves down below, the whole city splayed out like a puzzle in front of you.
I always park at a spot called Terranea. It’s one of those high-end destination resorts, it overlooks the Pacific all the way out to Catalina and it is wildly nice.
It’s not so much that the place is perfect that draws me to it, though it undeniably is: the grass is a shade of green that Southern California’s dry heat doesn’t usually allow for and breezy restaurants with wedding cake white curtains perch next to the water.
What makes the place so lovely and mesmerizing to me is how peaceful the energy of it is. Couples walk along the brick paths slowly and hand in hand, smiling and calm; two families play soccer barefoot on a lawn, their kids squealing and laughing; a big open bag of M&Ms sits next to a cigar on a hotel room’s patio.
Something about this place is life at its most pure. Something about it draws out the good in the people who go there. And something about that kind of good is enchanting and makes you want to be a part of it too.
I think everyone has the capacity to be deeply good. It’s all our shit that gets in the way and makes us hard – our jam-packed schedules, our over-thinking, our default habits, our me-centric worldviews.
We live in an era that moves fast, and faster now than ever before. With so many things grabbing for our attention all of the time – our inbox, Facebook notifications, texts, Snapchats, ads on the side of our Internet screens and ads on the side of the road – we’re constantly encouraged to speed up, or at the very least keep up with everyone else. And so rarely do we find ourselves willing to slow down.
I think we have a lot of reasons for not wanting to slow down. Slowing down can be painful. It forces us to confront and sit with things that we’d rather not shine a light on, that we’ve kept hidden so well. It puts us squarely in the present, the exact here and now, the only place where life is ever truly happening, and sometimes that clarity is more kindness and compassion than we’re comfortable giving to ourselves.
But the thing about slowing down is that it’s the only way to tap into who we really are, and thus the only way to tap into that goodness, the kind that feels rare and incandescent when we encounter it in others, the kind that we might secretly wonder if we could ever truly possess ourselves.
I think there are tangible places in the world that help us slow down – that teach us of our own goodness – and that these places are the ones that we most need to carve out time to visit, that it becomes our sort of moral duty.
Because these are the places that help us experience an almost child-like awe and wonder, and really, fully breathe, and shed our egoic mind, the part of us that’s on overdrive and self-absorbed, that constantly worries and dwells.
Because these are the places that make us kinder and more forgiving. They make us softer with the people we care about and with ourselves. We emerge from them more gentle.
Because the alternative, as we race through our days on overdrive, is that we isolate ourselves more and more, creating a belief of perceived difference between “us” and every “them” we encounter.
To me, the gentleness we experience when we slow down is our most authentic, most truthful state, and when we remind ourselves of our own goodness, we allow ourselves to see it more and more in others. We give ourselves the space to experience the so palpable and so simple realization that we’re all more similar than we are different, more connected than separate, yielding a far more powerful belief in oneness.
But what’s perhaps most magical and most important is how much more we tend to like ourselves when we’re this version of ourselves.
We’re closest to the people we want to be when we operate from this state.
We smile and say hi to people more; we give out love more freely; and we notice all the beauty around us that we typically sprint straight by.
Because in this space, it’s safe to be open and kind and patient. It’s safe to feel love instead of criticism and fear.
And isn’t that what we all want most, to know that it’s safe to not have to walk around with our heavy armor?
To know that inside us, at our innermost core, we are truly and profoundly good, and that we have the choice to access that part of ourselves every day?
All we have to do is slow down.